After another month-long road trip, the Vancouver Whitecaps return home today [Simon Fudge, WhitecapsFC.com] to face the Austin Aztex [Benjamin Massey, Eighty-Six Forever] in a game I'll be live-blogging. It will be their first match at home in almost five weeks [Marc Weber, The Province]. Their last home fixture was a 1-1 draw against Minnesota all the way back on July 25.
The team went 2-0-3 on their month-long road trip, picking up wins at Montreal and Minnesota and earning draws with Carolina, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. They've also undergone quite the roster makeover in that time [Bruce Constantineau, Vancouver Sun: I focused on the reasons behind that in my World Soccer Reader column a few weeks back, but the changes have come even faster and on a wider scale than I would have imagined.
We should see some of the new faces in the lineup today; Weber expects 19-year-old Swiss forward Ridge Mobulu to start, with 22-year-old American striker Cody Arnoux and 22-year-old Costa Rican striker Jonathan McDonald predicted to come off the bench. Greg Janicki is suspended and Nelson Akwari is injured, so SFU product Luca Bellisomo will drop back into central defence and will partner with Zurab Tsiskaridze, who moves in from the wingback slot. It's also keeper Jay Nolly's 100th match for the club.
Vancouver is first in the NASL Conference, but full points here could still be quite important for them as Carolina is only five points back. They aren't facing an easy opponent, though; the Aztex are second in the USL conference with a 13-3-6 record and are only three points back of Rochester for first with four games in hand. They also feature Manchester United academy product Eddie Johnson, who's second in the league in goals with 10 in 21 games. Maxwell Griffin and Jamie Watson have added seven and six more respectively, so Austin can be very dangerous in attack. They are coming off a 1-1 draw in Portland [James Clay, Native Aztexan] only two days ago, though, so they may be more tired than usual or have to go to a heavily-rotated lineup. It should be an interesting one to watch. I'll be live-blogging from the Swangard Stadium press box starting at 7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific: come join me then!