Caps getting to know each other again - The Province

Marc Weber

Host of new faces on key road trip 

Meet the new Caps. Not even close to the same as the old Caps.

Of the 20 women preparing to kick off a key three-game California road trip tonight in Los Angeles, only five have seen the field for the Vancouver Whitecaps (3-0-2) this season.

With the bulk of Bob Birarda's team -- including Birarda -- camped out in Kelowna to prepare for the June 17-28 CONCACAF women's under-20 championship in Mexico, the Whitecaps have turned to some fresh talent, and some old faces, to keep them afloat in the race for two W-League Western Conference playoff spots.

Assistant coach Marc Rizzardo is steering the group that will face the Los Angeles Legends (0-5-1), Ventura County Fusion (1-3-1) and front-running Pali Blues (5-0-0) on this trip, as well as a return date with Pali on June 22.

"A whole bunch of the players I was basically introducing to everyone else," Rizzardo said from L.A., "but many have played on the B.C. team or the Whitecaps prospects team in the past. I think they're going to do OK."

After tonight, 42 players will have dressed for the Caps in eight games this season.

It's a situation the organization knew it was getting into, deciding to focus on developing younger local talent rather than bringing in more foreign players like last season.

"It's a good opportunity for [the newcomers] to step up and see if they can stay involved in the program for the future," said Birarda.

Several local university talents, like UBC midfielder Caitlin Davie, will possibly debut, while familiar faces include goalkeeper Sian Bagshawe, who has played five previous seasons for the Whitecaps and is expected to start all four games.

Bagshawe spent May with the W-League's Washington (D.C.) Freedom. Like the rest of the replacements, she's not sure what her status will be at month's end.

"My plan is to stay here," she said, "but I don't know what plan Bob has for me."

Birarda expects to lose some under-20 players to fatigue or injury and said the call-ups were competing for spots.

"There's no doubt that we'll need a handful of them to [remain] involved," said Birarda, who could yet bolster the Caps' short-term lineup with under-20 cuts.

Forward Tiffeny Milbrett and midfielder Selenia Iacchelli are the only two on the trip who have played in all five games this year.

© The Vancouver Province 2008