Funny how things can change so drastically in a week.
Coming off of their shock 2-1 upset away to Colorado Springs, the sixth seeded WFC2 suddenly finds itself in vastly different territory. Thanks to a first round full of upsets, the ‘Caps will be favoured in their second round match-up when they host the seventh seeded Oklahoma City Energy at Thunderbird Stadium on Saturday.
A home playoff match seemed like a distant possibility thanks to WFC2’s second half struggles which saw them plummet to sixth in the West, but thanks to the USL’s fixed bracket playoff format, and Oklahoma City’s shocking upset of the 2nd seeded Rio Grande, Vancouver finds itself in a home playoff game with a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Despite the change of circumstances, this game will by no means represent an easier challenge.
Oklahoma City are fresh off of a stunning comeback win against the heavily favoured Rio Grande Toros. Colin Bonner scored twice in stoppage time to pull out a dramatic 3-2 win in Texas last week meaning the Energy will be full of confidence as they visit the ‘Caps.
June 25 @ Oklahoma City
The teams played to a 1-1 draw as Fatawu Safiu and Coy Craft split a pair of first half goals.
Sept. 21 @ Vancouver
The ‘Caps held on for a 2-1 win in the last game of the regular season. Marco Bustos scored both WFC2 goals.
Players to Watch
Kyle Greig: The Vancouver captain faces his former team only a year removed from helping the Energy reach the Conference Finals. As the only player with playoff experience on the ‘Caps roster, his guidance will be crucial to a team that has never been to the playoffs before this year. Even more so, his experience last year, in which his 2nd seeded Oklahoma City squad was upset by the 5th seeded Los Angeles Galaxy II, will serve as an important lesson to the higher seeded WFC2 team this week.
Cody Laurendi: Oklahoma City’s keeper turned down a call up to the Puerto Rican National team this week so that he could remain with the team for their showdown in Vancouver. The 28 year-old is one of the top keepers in the USL and could face a heavy workload against a dynamic attacking team in WFC2. As Devala Gorrick inability to keep Kyle Greig’s savable attempt last showed last week for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, a keeper can often be the difference in a playoff match in which margins are slim at best. With the loyal Laurendi in goal, that shouldn’t be a problem for Oklahoma City.
-Marco Bustos will be unavailable for WFC2 due to his Canadian National team call up. The ‘Caps midfielder scored twice in the team’s last win over Oklahoma City.
-Vancouver’s last two home wins have both come out in Langley at McLeod Athletic Park. The last win in Thunderbird Stadium was all the way back on July 24th against Sacramento.
- The ‘Caps will have to be weary of Energy defender Michael Harris on Saturday and not for what you’d expect. The 25 year-old has perfected the front handspring throw in, which allows him to launch the ball spectacular distances. Harris’ long throw lead to the equalizer against Rio Grande and victimized the ‘Caps during their 2015 encounter.
It’ll be interesting to see how the ‘Caps handle being the favourite on Saturday, especially in front of the home crowd. If they are able to play with the composure that served them so well in Colorado Springs, should be able to take down a team that they’ve had success against this year. That being said, with the inconsistency shown by this team in the second half, paired with the unpredictability of the USL Playoffs, this is the farthest thing from a sure thing.