The New England Revolution are making a cross-country trip to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. It's the Revs' first road trip since their 2-0 victory over Houston back in the middle of May, nearly a month of home cooking.
Vancouver's had a bit of an up-and-down season so far, dealing with some consistency issues throughout. A porous defense has probably been their greatest weakness this season, which is something that the Revs could be in pole position to exploit given their newfound offensive prowess. They also shipped out Alain Rochat recently, a key member of their defense who also had the capacity to contribute in the attack.
Today's Q&A is with Jon Szekeres of Eighty-six Forever, SB Nation's Vancouver Whitecaps blog.
TBM: 13 games in, the 'Caps are 4-5-4 and four points out of a playoff spot. It's perhaps not the comfortable position you may have hoped for in the beginning of the season, but it's certainly not a bad spot to be in at all. What do you think has been the key to the Whitecaps' successes this season, and what has been the most glaring weakness?
JS: It took a while for Martin Rennie to find a capable group of attackers to work with, but he sure has one now. Russell Teibert has emerged as a great set-up man, and has shown unbelievable chemistry with Camilo, who's having a great bounce back year. Kenny Miller has looked good as well since his return from injury, and the 'Caps just look to have far more confidence on the pitch, especially in the goal scoring department.
As for their struggles, injuries have played a big part. Jay Demerit was gone 8 minutes into the first match of the season, and is still a ways off from returning. Andy O'Brien, a rock at CB, will miss Saturday's match with a hamstring injury, and Kenny Miller missed a large part of the season. Apart from that, the 'Caps have shown to be incredibly incompetent in two categories; 1) holding a lead and 2) defending set pieces.
TBM: The Alain Rochat trade last week really took me by surprise, but I wonder if it had the same effect on people close to the situation. Did you see it coming, and how does the 'Caps squad now cope with his absence?
JS: No one saw it coming. It was, in my opinion, a horrible trade that weakened the 'Caps at a position they don't have a lot of depth at. The club confirmed today it was a salary dump to bring in someone else, which doesn't make sense considering what Rochat brings to the table. Anyways, what's done is done though, and the 'Caps need to move on. How do they cope? They've recalled Carlyle Mitchell from FC Edmonton as a band-aid solution, and they've said they will be signing a European player in a week's time. So in short, they're not coping well, and the backline could struggle mightily on Saturday.
TBM: A lot of us might have thought that Kenny Miller was a dead man walking after an underwhelming 2012 and a long run out of the team this season, but he's been productive when used this year. He's now had two consecutive starts in the league and scored a goal in one of them - his third in five MLS appearances. Is Kenny Miller a key factor in the 'Caps success this season, or do you think his days here remain numbered, despite the goals?
JS: I would have more nice things to say about Miller if he wasn't injured for so much of the season. His first two matches of the season were brilliant, and he was easily the 'Caps best attacker. Now with Camilo and Teibert showing what they can do, Miller has found himself in more of a complementary role, something he appears to be comfortable in. Is he safe? Well, he makes a whole whack of cash and there's rumblings he wants to go back to Scotland after this season. Let me put it this way; if I'm a fan, I wouldn't invest in a Kenny Miller kit.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for in this game.
JS: Have I said Russell Teibert too much? The entire city of Vancouver loves this kid. He's Canadian, he rocks a ridiculous mohawk, and he can set the ball up like no other. Despite being such a young kid, he's got unshakable confidence and has shown he can not only handle what the MLS has, but he can excel. He makes a mistake now and then, but Teibert is a rising star in this league, and a cornerstone for the Whitecaps franchise.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a score line prediction.
JS: KNIGHTON, LEE, MITCHELL, LEVERON, HARVEY, KOBAYASHI, REO-COKER, WATSON, TEIBERT, MILLER, CAMILO. Predicted score; NER 2, Whitecaps 1. The inexperience of the backline does the Whitecaps in.