Saturday evening came and went without an Earthquakes game, which was odd but not totally discombobulating. Instead, San Jose plays a Sunday matinee, at lovely BC Place no less, against the Whitecaps of Vancouver.
Yes, lovely seems to be the more apt descriptor, and not the customary hostile, for the remarkable near-waterfront stadium in downtown Vancouver. The night before the big game, with the rest of the weekend’s MLS action put to bed, activity around the stadium consisted of a few random skateboarders and some observably tipsy nightlife goers. Only one ‘Caps jersey clad young man in sight, and he was as polite as could be.
Now, in all honesty, cliché alarms should be sounding, but the friendly Canadian stereotype has been in full force on this Earthquakes versus Whitecaps weekend. Awe over the feats of Chris Wondolowski has nearly dominated discussions as much as lament at the loss of Eric Hassli to Toronto FC. In Martin Rennie we trust, is the common conversational chorus heard in sports bars and coffee shops around the stadium.
There permeates a growing optimism at the prospects of seeing their double does of Scottish designated players take the turf down yonder at the end of Robson Street, a hopeful plaintive that the team has readjusted, rather than rebuilt, with its summer roster makeover. The ‘Caps sit comfortably in playoff position in their second year in Major League Soccer, yet the consensus that the team was well stationed to successfully compete in the postseason was very much in doubt.
Barry Robson’s performance against the Galaxy on Wednesday was strong enough to sway some supporters back, but the indecisiveness over the Whitecaps prospects will most certainly linger until fellow Scot Kenny Miller makes his debut. Judgment is rightly reserved on the Rennie roster retooling, and the ramifications the offensive overhaul will have on the second half of the season playoff chase. Still, signs seemingly point safely toward the postseason.
The Earthquakes know how to orchestrate on offense, to the melody of a league topping 43 goals in 21 games. The Whitecaps know how to stymie opponents defensively, with MLS All-Star First XI centerback Jay DeMerit and criminally underrated Alain Rochat part of their resolute back four. Something has to give.
Sunday’s match marks the rubber match of the three game MLS unbalanced schedule inspired 2012 season series, with both sides capturing dramatic wins at home, and capitulating late on the road. Quakes killer Hassli has been shipped eastward, which could play to San Jose’s favor. However, Cascadian roadtrips have not always looked kindly on the boys in Blue and Black, and they will have a stern test waiting for them from the boys in Blue and White.
A draw would be a fitting result for both the Quakes and ‘Caps, but no player or supporter will want that to transpire at BC Place this afternoon. Kick off is scheduled for 4 p.m., the roof may or may not be open, the two sides will be primed for three points. And unlike the stadium surroundings on the eve before the match, the action on the field should be spectacular.