D.C. United host West Coast foes Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday evening at RFK. After narrow losses to the Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City, Carl Robinson’s Whitecaps have gone unbeaten in their last three matches, with wins over Seattle Sounders FC and the Houston Dynamo, followed by a scoreless draw last Saturday against the LA Galaxy--in which they played with ten for the majority of the match. The ‘Caps were forced to compete a man down after midfielder Matias Laba was sent off for a reckless tackle on Mike Magee in the 28th minute.
Though they have had difficulty scoring from the run of play, Vancouver have been lethal from the penalty spot thanks to Pedro Morales. The Chilean playmaker has scored four goals in as many games this regular season, all of them penalties—including game-winners against Houston and Seattle. Morales, who was recently voted Vancouver’s player of the month, has impressed with his creative midfield play in addition to his goal scoring, but will face a fight to be fit for Saturday after suffering a hip strain last match.
The ‘Caps are also beginning to rediscover their fine defensive form of last season after a somewhat unconvincing start. The defense, who have recorded shutouts in their last two games, are led by experienced left back and all-time club appearance leader Jordan Harvey, who has played all 450 minutes so far this season and scored a goal (a side-footed finish off a Morales free kick in the team’s season-opening loss to Montreal). Goalkeeper David Ousted, meanwhile, was named to the MLS Team of the Week for the second week in a row, following a performance against LA in which he recorded four saves, including an incredible reaction stop from a Gyasi Zardes volley in the 71st minute.
United, who are 2-2-2 against the Whitecaps overall, are undefeated in their last two matches against the Canadian outfit, the most recent result being a 2-1 win in Vancouver last April, thanks to goals from Bobby Boswell and Chris Rolfe. The Black-and-Red will hope to extend their streak when the two teams face off on Saturday, while also aiming to pick up their first three points of the 2016 campaign. With wingers Lamar Neagle (named to MLS Team of the Week) and Patrick Nyarko (nominated for AT&T MLS Goal of the Week) earning league-wide recognition for their play this past week, United will try and take advantage of their skill and athleticism on the flanks to break down Vancouver’s back line.