Vancouver, BC – The schedule was kind to Vancouver Whitecaps FC over the last two weeks as coach Martin Rennie received a break without any games to get his club ready for the MLS stretch run.
The second-year franchise sits fourth in the Western Conference, and firmly in grasp of a playoff berth entering their final 11 matches of the season.
During the two-week break, Vancouver added Ireland international defender Andy O'Brien and Brazilian midfielder Tiago Ulisses.
Vancouver (9-7-7) will test its refreshed look Saturday against Real Salt Lake at BC Place. The Whitecaps last match was at Real, a 2-1 loss on July 27.
The Whitecaps will have another major change against Real, as goalkeeper Joe Cannon will be suspended. He was sent off in the recent match against Real and will serve a one-game ban.
Cannon has started every match for Vancouver this year, but Brad Knighton will step in as the starting goalie this week. Knighton has appeared in two matches off the bench for the Whitecaps and made 16 combined starts during stints with the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union.
"You can see he's stepping into that role of a No. 1 pretty easily," Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit said on the league's website.
Vancouver sits just three points behind Seattle Sounders FC for third, and the Sounders visit the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. With a result against RSL and some help from San Jose, the Whitecaps could pull level on points.
Real (13-8-3) will be searching for the opposite, as a win at Vancouver and a win by Seattle would allow it to move back atop the standings. RSL is just two points behind San Jose entering the weekend.
RSL has struggled lately, losing four in a row on the road in all competitions - including a 1-0 setback at the Colorado Rapids in MLS last weekend.
Jason Kreis has guided his club to 14 points on the road this season, however. Three more points aren't out of the question against Vancouver, despite a busy stretch of games that includes MLS and CONCACAF Champions League action.