Sunday for Vancouver, officially eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, is all about Alphonso Davies: the homegrown teenage sensation who is departing MLS for Bayern Munich in January.
Davies is the best Canadian prospect in a generation, and could certainly become the greatest Canadian player ever. He's been one of the league's most dangerous players this season, and he'll want to put on a show in his last game in Vancouver.
A changing of the guard is coming for the Whitecaps in more ways than one. The club fired longtime manager Carl Robinson a month ago with five games remaining in the season, and a new boss — LAFC assistant Marc dos Santos has been rumored — will arrive in the winter.
The Whitecaps haven't stopped playing since interim manager Craig Dalrymple took over four games ago, but they haven't improved at all defensively. Vancouver has already given up 66 goals this year, the most in their eight-year MLS history.
If last Sunday's rout of RSL means anything, it's that the 4-2-3-1 is here to stay. Again last weekend, the Timbers were balanced from front to back, got terrific performances out of David Guzman and Diego Chara in the middle of the field, and stood tall defensively.
Whether Giovani Savarese got to this formation via a stroke of genius or because he ran out of other options, or both, the Timbers have found their groove tactically.
Vancouver has played a 4-1-4-1 in recent games under Dalrymple, but have largely remained a counter attacking team that is not nearly good enough defensively to win games the way that Robinson's better teams did over the last several years.
The Whitecaps will get a boost on Sunday with the return of Kei Kamara, who was suspended for the club's last game at LAFC but was excellent and scored for the Whitecaps in their win at Providence Park back on August 11.
One area of concern for the Timbers might be set pieces. They gave up three excellent chances off of corner kicks last weekend, and the Whitecaps, especially if Kendall Waston is in the lineup, are one of the league's most dangerous teams from dead ball situations.
1 - Attinella
4 - Villafaña
24 - Ridgewell
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
11 - Polo
8 - Valeri (C)
10 - Blanco
17 - Ebobisse
— The big personnel question is in goal, where Steve Clark is coming off of one of the best games of his career on Sunday. Jeff Attinella is the better goalkeeper, but, at this point in the year, Savarese might want to ride the hot hand.
— The same logic likely applies at right back, where, with the Timbers needing less from their fullbacks going forward in the 4-2-3-1, Zarek Valentin is playing over Alvas Powell, and up top, where it's Jeremy Ebobisse over Samuel Armenteros.
— Armenteros didn't even get off of the bench against RSL, with those minutes in relief of Ebobisse instead going to Lucas Melano. It will be telling if the Swede doesn't see the field in Vancouver.
The Timbers also ended their regular season at BC Place two years ago, needing a win to qualify for the playoffs, and were blown out 4-1 by a eighth-place Whitecaps team. It was possibly the worst loss of Caleb Porter's tenure in Portland.
The Whitecaps won't lie down in this game. It'll finish 2-2, and the Timbers will have to go on the road in the Wild Card round.