AC St. Louis and the Vancouver Whitecaps meet up for the fourth and final team in USSF D2 league play Friday night at AB Soccer Park at 7:10 pm CDT. The Whitecaps will enter MLS in 2011. The series between the two teams has featured defense, with Vancouver winning once and the teams drawing twice, with a total of three goals scored in the three contests.
Vancouver continue to lead the NASL Conference in USSF D2 with a 8-3-10 record and a plus 8 goal differential. Friday night’s game will be the Whitecaps third of a five game road trip, and the Whitecaps have earned four of the six possible points on this trip so far. The Whitecaps are led in scoring by longtime veteran and captain Martin Nash, who along with Greg Janicki and young midfielder Blake Wagner. Jay Nolly, despite a few hiccups, has generally been arguably the best goalkeeper in USSF D2 in 2010, and Nelson Akwari has been steady on defense.
The Whitecaps have been able to hang onto their first place NASL Conference position due in large part to an improved road record in 2010. “We’ve been better defensively the whole year. That is often more important in away matches than when you play at home,” he told whitecapsfc.com. “I also think our team has been more consistent this season. Our performances have not been that different from when we’ve played at home or on the road, and that has been down to our consistency, which has been very good.” The Whitecaps will be missing strikers Marlon James and Randy Edwini-Bonsu for Friday’s match, and forward Ridge Mobulu is still sidelined with visa issues.
For AC St. Louis, an improved attack has nudged them towards playoff contention. Miami FC’s win in Crystal Palace Baltimore Wednesday afternoon has AC St. Louis, CP Baltimore and Miami FC knotted near the bottom of the NASL Conference, with Miami FC just a couple of points behind. AC St. Louis has begun scoring more goals, though, since Coach Dale Schilly took over from Claude Anelka in June. The team is healthy, with only Dillon Barna and Gilbert Pogosayan still injured. On-loan defender Chris Schuler, who featured in two contests recently for AC St. Louis, has returned to Real Salt Lake but his RSL teammate, midfielder Collen Warner, is still with the St. Louis club. Warner started his first USSF D2 game last Sunday, and the former University of Portland star performed well.
Eight of the twelve USSF D2 will be eligible for the postseason playoffs, based on total number of points regardless of conference. Coach Schilly has his sights on obtaining one of the playoff berths, but the team will have to eliminate their recent disquieting habit of giving up late goals. According to the coach, “The first thing that has to happen is our mentality in training has to get better We have to be more competitive in practice. Training sessions have to be more intense. This has to happen so when we are in our games and competing to try and hold onto leads we’ll be able to finish games off.”
Goalkeeper Alec Dufty has played every minute for AC St. Louis, even playing the team’s entire three US Open Cup matches. Dufty has registered six shutouts in league play, with two more coming in US Open Cup action. The Saints are led in goals by Mike Ambersley with six, and both he and midfielder Luke Kreamalmeyer are in the USSF D2 top ten in scoring with 12 points each. Defender Jack Traynor captains the squad, and has demonstrated a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout the 2010 campaign after spending last season with Miami FC.
Coach Thordarson expects a difficult game in St. Louis. “Friday will be a hard game,” he said. “St. Louis have been getting some good results of late, and the heat here in Missouri will also not make it easy for us. However, we have played some tough games of late, so we will be ready for it.” Good news, Coach. The temperature is forecast to be only in the low 90s Friday night, not the brutal heat and humidity the Whitecaps faced on their last St. Louis visit.
After Friday’s match, Vancouver will have eight days off before their next road game against the NSC Minnesota Stars. AC St. Louis continue their home stand with an August 14 date with the Portland Timbers.