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USA Major League Soccer - Match Prediction: Vancouver Whitecaps VS Portland Timbers
Match Time：4/19/2021 10:00 Monday (GMT+8)
USA Major League Soccer -- Vancouver Whitecaps VS Portland Timbers
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Vancouver Whitecaps will begin their 2021 Major League Soccer campaign in Utah on Monday, welcoming Portland Timbers.
The match will take place at the Rio Tinto Stadium, home of Real Salt Lake, due to coronavirus restrictions, removing all home advantage for Marc Dos Santos's side.
Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping to put their disappointing 2020 campaign behind them, which saw them fail to make the playoffs, finishing ninth in the Western Conference and 17th in the overall table.
Reaching the playoffs this campaign remains the minimum target and manager Dos Santos, who heads into his third season in charge of the Whitecaps, is hoping they can achieve that for the first time since 2017.
Dos Santos has built a team designed to play on the counter-attack, and with the likes of new recruit Deiber Caicedo as well as winger Cristian Dajome and forward Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver should be lightning in transition and could be a major threat on the break.
Midfielder Caio Alexandre, who joins from Brazilian side Botafogo, is renowned for his passing ability and so his role in Dos Santos's setup could see him emerge as a key player for the Whitecaps this campaign.
Vancouver have impressed ahead of the new campaign, after claiming a 3-0 win against Real Monarchs and a 3-2 victory over Chicago Fire in their two pre-season matches earlier this month.
The Whitecaps have lost each of their last three meetings with Portland Timbers and securing a victory on Monday would be a great way to begin their 2021 season.
Unlike Vancouver, Portland Timbers have already tasted competitive action this year, progressing to the quarter-final of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Despite drawing the first leg of their last-16 tie 2-2 against Honduran outfit Marathon, Giovanni Savarese's side cruised to a 5-0 victory in the second leg on Wednesday, winning 7-2 on aggregate, to book their place in the last eight for the first time in their history.
This result means that the MLS will be represented by five clubs at this stage of the competition for the first time, with the Timbers qualifying alongside Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Atalanta United and Toronto FC.
After returning from an interval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Portland enjoyed success in 2020 by becoming the MLS is Back tournament champions.
They also just missed out on top spot in the Western Conference, finishing in third place, so will be keen to climb to the summit for the first time since 2017 and have a strong squad capable of doing just that.
Portland will be the favourites heading into Monday's encounter with the Whitecaps, and a strong start to their 2021 campaign could help them challenge for silverware once again in the Autumn.
Vancouver Whitecaps pre-season form: WW
Portland Timbers form (all competitions): WDDDW
Vancouver goalkeeper Thomas Hasal is expected to miss the start of the season through injury, which is likely to see Maxime Crepeau start as a result.
Left-back Ali Adnan is doubtful with a slight muscle injury, therefore Cristian Gutierrez could feature in the starting lineup, if the Iraqi international is not deemed fit to play.
Alexandre and Caicedo are both set to make their debuts, while Cavallini – who scored 10 goals last season – is expected to lead the line in attack.
For Portland Timbers, Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Sebastian Blanco remain out as they are still recovering from serious knee injuries. Blanco is close to a return, but this game will come too soon for the winger.
Forward Jeremy Ebobisse is also unavailable for selection after picking up a hamstring injury in pre-season.
New full-backs Jose van Rankin and Claudio Bravo are both expected to make their debuts, while veteran midfielder Diego Valeri, who has been the club's top goalscorer in four of the last five seasons, is likely to start in behind striker Felipe Mora.
Vancouver Whitecaps possible starting lineup:
Crepeau; Gasper, Godoy, Veselinovic, Gutierrez; Alexandre, Teibert, Baldisimo; Dajome, Cavallini, Caicedo
Portland Timbers possible starting lineup:
Clark; Rankin, Mabiala, Zuparic, Bravo; D. Chara, Williamson; Y. Chara, Valeri, Polo; Mora
Vancouver Whitecaps VS Portland Timbers
Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Portland Timbers
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