One Canadian team is making a big splash to start out the 2015 campaign, and it’s not Toronto. After getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Vancouver Whitecaps have flown out of the gate winning three of their first four games. Despite a disappointing 3-1 loss against the aforementioned Toronto to start the year, Vancouver has rallied and ground out three straight one-goal victories.
The highlight of the team has been their stout defense. After the wakeup call against Jozy Altidore and Co., the Whitecap defense has only allowed one goal in the previous three matches, including clean sheets against Chicago and Kaká’s Orlando City. Before the lone goal scored by Portland, the Canadian side had a 262-minute shutout streak. Veteran goalkeeper David Ousted has been relatively unused this season as the superb play of Kendall Waston and Pa-Modou Kah in the heart of defense has limited shots on target. Ousted has come up big for Vancouver when called upon, however, as his key save against Portland in the dying minutes kept the score level for an eventual 2-1 victory.
On the offensive side of the ball, Octavio Rivero has been the star of the show. The new designated player has immediately endeared himself to the Vancouver faithful with three goals in just four games. Other than the Portland victory, the 23-year-old Uruguayan striker has scored in every match, including the game-winners against Orlando and Chicago. The combined form of Rivero and the backline make LA’s road trip to BC Place a very tough task.
It has been a rough start for Landon Donovan-less Galaxy. Los Angeles has only registered one victory this season, coming against a weak Fire team, along with two draws and a defeat. The goals have been flowing, other than the scoreless effort against DC United, with five goals in three matches. Robbie Keane, as usual, has set the pace with two strikes to start the season. Gyasi Zardes has elevated himself on both the club and international stage as a spark plug in attack with his pace and flair. The young American has only notched one goal so far, but if last year is any indicator, Zardes will score some vital goals in the upcoming matches.
The main problem for Bruce Arena’s men has been conceding late goals. A 93rd minute strike from Chris Pontius cost the Galaxy a vital point last week, and the Timbers Fanendo Adi scored in the 90th minute to almost sink LA the week before; if it wasn’t for an even later Alan Gordon goal to salvage a result. If Los Angeles is unable to grind out these one-goal victories, like Vancouver has done, it will be a very long season for fans at the Stubhub Center.
A victory for the visitors would lift them to one point of Vancouver and possibly third place in the Western Conference. An FC Dallas loss and/or draw paired with a victory for the Whitecaps will move the Canadians to the top of the table not only in the conference, but also in the league. Based on form, I have to assume an American loss and a Canadian triumph, as the Whitecaps will defeat the Galaxy by a score of 2-1.