evening preview

Vancouver Whitecaps – San Jose

KEY PLAYERS :

ATTACKING

After going through a rough patch of performances, most of them coming as a sub, Camilo Sanvezzo is starting to find the form that made him team MVP last season. He is looking more dangerous coming off the left wing but still needs to show more confidence in his shot as it seems like he is a little gun shy. He has added an impressive defensive side of his game, if Wednesday’s game is anything to go by.

Acquired in the offseason from FC Dallas, Marvin Chavez is a dynamic player with pace who can whip a nice cross in. Playing on the right side of the midfield, he is leading the Quakes in assists with eight and even contributed with his first goal on Wednesday.

DEFENCE

After completing his one game suspension for yellow card accumulation, Alain Rochat returns to lineup against the Earthquakes. It has also been a while since he has played on the backline, five games, but his return there will benefit the Caps as he brings more physicality and more attack to the position.

The battle of the midfield will be a key and one of the better young holding midfielders in MLS is Sam Cronin. The former draft pick of TFC competes hard for the ball with timely tackles and is showing the ability to contribute offensively in his fourth MLS season.

WHO’S ON FORM :

It was quite a home debut for Barry Robson in front of a sold out crowd at BC Place. Not only did he score a goal but he also controlled the midfield with Koffie. The Scot was very dangerous throughout the match, especially on set pieces where he came very close to giving the Caps a third and grabbing the win.

The much travelled striker Alan Gordon seems to have found a home playing next to Chris Wondolowski up front. Since starting in place of the injured Steven Lenhart, the forward has three goals in four starts and four goals in his last six appearances.

2012 RECORD :

Vancouver:

8W-7D-6L
4th in Western Conference
Last Match: 2-2 Draw vs LA Galaxy

San Jose:

13W-4D-4L
1st in Western Conference
Last Match: 2-1 Win vs FC Dallas

PROJECTED LINE-UPS :

INJURIES/MISSING :

Vancouver:

Out: FW Omar Salgado (foot)

Questionable: MF John Thorrington (quad), FW Atiba Harris (knee)

Away with U18s: MF Bryce Alderson, FW Caleb Clarke

San Jose:

Out: MF Romiro Corrales (back), MF Sam Garza (rib), MF Joey Gjertsen (knee), FW Steven Lenhart (concussion), DF Tim Ward (muscle)

GAME ANALYSIS :

The Whitecaps return to their home pitch as they try to forget their disappointment against LA and focus on their next opponents, the Conference leading Earthquakes from San Jose. The two clubs have split their first two meetings of the season, with San Jose winning 3-1 at home, while the Caps did the same by scoring a late winner at BC Place for a 2-1 victory.

There is no surprise who starts in goal as Joe Cannon returns and could have his top backline in front of him with Lee on the right side with Rochat on the left. The central pairing will be Jay DeMerit and Martin Bonjour, with Jun Marques Davison in front of them as the holding midfielder.

The two other central midfielders will be Gershon Koffie and Barry Robson who paired well in the last match against the Galaxy. Up top Darren Mattocks will start as the striker where he will be flanked by Dane Richards and Camilo on the left side, with a chance that Kenny Miller starts on the bench.

For the fourth straight game, the Whitecaps are either saying goodbye to a key player or welcoming one to the fold. This time it is their first designated player Eric Hassli who was traded to TFC for a 1ST round pick in 2014 and an international spot. Whilst this recent trade came as a shock for many, considering how much Hassli was playing the trade really makes sense.

On the pitch the Caps now have two ways to attack, through the middle with Koffie and Robson, and down the wing using the pace of Richards. In addition, the Quakes have never faced the speed of Darren Mattocks as he makes his runs down the middle of the pitch.

When defending, while it is easy to say, the Caps must keep track of Chris Wondowloski, who is on record breaking pace for goals in MLS. They can’t allow him to slip away from them and find space in and around the box or they will be digging the ball out of their net. Another part of San Jose’s game that the Whitecaps will have to take care of is their ability to cross the ball from wide areas.

The Whitecaps will have a tough task to beat the best team in the league twice in a year, even if they are playing them at home two times. With so many fan favourites leaving, the pressure will be on the new look side to get immediate positive results but there will need to some patience displayed by the supporters. However if this team plays the full 90+ minutes they are capable of, acquiring the full three points as they enter the non existent All-Star break is very achievable.

Club Friendly Preview: Paris Saint-Germain – Chelsea

The friendly at Yankee stadium offers PSG an early chance to test its might against one of Europe’s tradition powers.

PSG  Nicolas; Maxwell, Lugano, Alex, Loick; Menez, Mathieu, Verratti, Nene, Pastore; Lavezzi

Chelsea  Hilário; Ferreira, Luiz, Chalobah, Ivanovic; Marin, McEachran, Lampard, Hazard, Obi Mikel; Lukaku

scotland playoffs preview 9.5

  • FIGHTS FOR 1st DIVISION

Dumbarton vs Arbroath

Dumbarton 2nd division 3rd position, 58 points

Arbroath, 2nd division, 2nd position, 63 points

Dumbarton entertain Arbroath in the Scottish First Division play-off semi-finals without injured full-back Ryan Finnie.

Winger Mark Lamont is another confirmed absentee, with striker Ally Graham struggling to shake off a knock.

Craig Dargo is in line to make the starting XI for the first leg after hitting a hat-trick against Brechin on Saturday.

The Sons were last in the First Division 16 years ago and manager Alan Adamson is determined that they get back there via the play-offs.

He said: “At the start of the season if we had been offered a spot in the play-offs we would have said `yes that will do’ but now we want promotion via them.

“Our games with Arbroath this season have produced 21 goals and I expect both sides to be on the front foot again in this game.”

Arbroath striker Jordan Elfverson has been passed fit.

Elfverson can now be included in a fully-fit and suspension-free Gayfield squad ahead of a trip to the Strathclyde Homes Stadium.

Despite spending over 20 years in the game, Smokies player-manager Paul Sheerin has never experienced play-off football before, but he has been doing his research.

He explained: “I have been talking to a number of people that have been through them and the consistent message is that we should be looking at a 180-minute game and not a 90-minute one.

“Dumbarton and ourselves have attacked teams right throughout the season and it may well be that we need to sacrifice some of that approach until the second leg.”

Airdrie United vs Ayr United

Airide, 4th in 2nd division, 52 points

Ayr, 9th in 1. division, 38 points

Airdrie winger Willie McLaren is suspended as Ayr come to New Broomfield for the first leg of the Scottish First Division semi-finals.

The Diamonds will also be without the attacking threat of injured duo Graeme Owens and Phil Johnston.

Top scorer Ryan Donnelly returns from a two-game ban and full-back Jamie Bain is available after his own suspension, with experienced pair Paul Lovering and Derek Holmes both hoping to feature after knocks.

Diamonds manager Jimmy Boyle has instructed his charges to play to their strengths, saying: “We got into a play-off position by attacking teams and there is no point in changing things now.

“I will be sending my team out to win this game and then doing the same on Sunday.”

Ayr have goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert back from injury.

Cuthbert missed out against Falkirk on Saturday but will be fit to turn out for the Honest Men as they meet the Diamonds for a second time in three years on play-off duty.

John Robertson, Adam Dodd and Michael McGowan all sit out due to knocks and manager Brian Reid’s options could be reduced further with Martyn Campbell and Gareth Wardlaw’s participation in doubt.

Reid said: “Our players will need to stand big and strong for the entire game as Airdrie will be out to make this a really difficult evening for us.

“We will have a number of youngsters in our line up and they will have to put on a mature performance in what will be a fairly tough encounter.”

  • FIGHTS FOR 2nd DIVISION

Elgin City vs Albion Rovers

Elgin, 4th in 3rd division, 57 points

Albion Rovers, 9th in 2nd division, 37 points

Elgin will be without player-assistant manager Barry Wilson due to a hamstring injury as they host Albion in the Scottish Second Division play-offs.

Skipper Paul Kaczan remains sidelined with a groin problem, while Daniel Moore is expected take a place on the substitutes’ bench for the first leg of the semi-finals.

Mark Nicholson, Brain Cameron and Craig Gunn return to contention after being rested for Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Queens Park.

Black and Whites boss Ross Jack said: “There is a real sense of anticipation but we have to tread carefully as Albion Rovers are a very well organised side who will be battling for their lives.

“Our aim has to be to gain an advantage to take to the second leg.”

Albion make the long trip north without the suspended midfield pair of Chris Boyle and Tony Stevenson.

Influential striker John Gemmell is also expected to miss out due to work commitments.

Wee Rovers manager Paul Martin has urged his players to be positive, saying: “At the start of the season we were clear favourites to be relegated but we avoided the drop so we have had a successful season so far.

“Elgin will be buoyant at making the play-offs for the first time but we have no reason to be heading there with negative thoughts.

“They will be backed by a big crowd but we have positive play-off experience from last season that we can use to our benefit.”

Stranraer vs Queen’s Park

Stranraer, 3rd in 3rd division, 58 points, loose last 5 games

Queens’s Park, 2nd in 3rd division, 63 points

 

Stranraer welcome back Frank McKeown, Ryan Borris and Stephen Stirling as they host Queens Park in the first leg of the Scottish Second Division play-off semi-finals.

The trio’s timely return means that Blues manager Keith Knox has a full squad to pick from as the two Third Division sides face off at Stair Park.

Stranraer may have lost their last five league games but Knox is paying scant regard to the poor run, saying: “We rested some players with the play-offs in mind so that statistic is fairly meaningless now.

“There is very little between Queens Park and ourselves and I am sure this tie will not be settled in this first meeting.

“I am hoping that we have a lead to defend going into what we will treat as a cup final at Hampden on Saturday.”

Queens Park have injury concerns in midfield.

David Anderson remains out with a hamstring problem and Martin McBride is unavailable due to work commitments.

Neil Parry, James Brough, Ricky Little, Jamie Longworth and Tony Quinn all return to contention after missing out against Elgin on Saturday, with Spiders head coach Gardner Speirs not allowing himself to be fooled by the Blues’ poor end to the league season.

Speirs said: “They have lost their last five games but I am sure they have had one eye on the play-offs all along so I am not getting taken in by that.

“We have held the upper hand this season but all the games have been close and I expect this one to be exactly the same.”