Vancouver Whitecaps put their good road form to the test once again on Wednesday night when they head east to take on Chicago Fire at Toyota Park, live on TSN.
The Whitecaps were disappointed to only tie against FC Dallas at home on Sunday, and will be hoping for a similar performance, but with a better end product against a Chicago side that has only won once at home this season.
The Whitecaps have won just once in their last eight matches, but have only lost twice in 14. They have tied their last three in a row, but in an extremely competitive Western Conference, Carl Robinson's men will need to start turning those ties into wins sooner rather than later if they are to be in the playoff conversation in the fall.
The Whitecaps were unfortunate not to take all three points at home to FC Dallas on Sunday. Their finishing was not clinical enough, and, for the fourth-straight match, they were unable to win despite taking the lead in the game. Raul Fernandez also deserves a mention, as his performance in goal for Dallas was a big reason his club left B.C. with a point.
On Sunday, the Whitecaps were once again entertaining to watch, setting a new club record with 30 shots, but they were masters of their own downfal,l giving away a penalty to give Dallas a halftime lead.
Earlier this season, it was Erik Hurtado who was the main main in front of goal as he found the net in five consecutive matches in all competitions, but right now it is Darren Mattocks. The former first-round draft pick opened the scoring against Dallas. He now has a goal in three consecutive matches for the first time in his professional career.
The Big Question:
Can Pedro Morales do it again? The Chilean midfielder was magnificent in Sunday's draw against FC Dallas. He scored his seventh goal of the season to earn the Caps a point and was involved in the build up to the goal from Mattocks that gave Vancouver an early lead, but his overall performance was spectacular. Morales is a joy to watch and continues to improve as he settles into life in Major League Soccer.
Morales had 12 shots against Dallas, which is more in a single game than any other player in the league since the Whitecaps joined MLS in 2011. He had 130 touches in the game, 30 more than any other player on the pitch.
Morales has the captain's armband following the retirement of Jay DeMerit and he continues to lead by example. When he plays well, the Whitecaps are an entertaining side to watch. Having Morales on the pitch gives them a chance to win any game.
Chicago Fire have had a difficult first half of the season, and currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, but despite the fact they have only won three games all season, they aren't too far away from the playoff places, just four points outside the top five.
Former Canadian international Frank Yallop is in his first season as head coach of the Fire and they have been the draw specialists so far, as they have been trying to grow as a team under their new boss. However, in their last match, they produced probably their worst display of the season, losing 5-1 at San Jose Earthquakes. They were unbeaten in four (with one win and three draws) before the San Jose debacle.
Rookie Harry Ship has had an excellent season in midfield for the Fire and, with reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee in their ranks, they can always be dangerous going forward. Whitecaps fans will likely see a familiar face in the Fire lineup with former Vancouver midfielder Matt Watson a starter for Chicago in recent weeks.
In the last couple of away games, Carl Robinson has utilized the depth within his squad, making a number of changes to ensure his players stay fresh and healthy. After a good performance against Dallas, there seems little need to change things, unless there are injuries to contend with. The Whitecaps have a weekend off ahead of them, so rest shouldn't be as much of a factor for this road trip.
The back four has been settled recently and as long as Steven Beitashour is fit, it's unlikely there will be any changes. The Whitecaps have lots of options in midfield, but it would be a big surprise if we don't see designated players Matias Laba and Morales in the game from the start - they both came off the bench at Real Salt Lake in the Whitecaps' last away game.
It has to be a draw, doesn't it? The Caps have tied three in a row, including their last two away from home. They've now drawn 10 matches this season, which is one fewer than Chicago who lead MLS with 11 draws.
The Whitecaps have shown this season they have the ability to score goals away from hom, and the Fire are yet to keep a clean sheet in front of the home fans this season. Chicago's record against Western Conference opposition is also poor with just three points taken from seven matches this season (four losses and three draws). If the Whitecaps are to challenge for a playoff place this season, these are the games they need to be winning.
Where to Watch:
The Whitecaps at Chicago is live on MLS on TSN on Wednesday night. Join me with Jason deVos and Perry Solkowski at 8:30pm et/ 5:30pm pt.