The TWO ONE: Getting on the pitch
Three games in five days against local universities. That’s what has been lined up for our reserve players over the past week. That sounds like a lot this early in the season, but these games are important for the players who are trying to break into the starting lineup.
This week is a perfect example. With Kenny Miller away with Scotland's national team, someone will be given a shot to step into the starting lineup against Houston on Saturday (5:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet Pacific, Bell mobile devices, TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca). Who that player is will likely depend on performances during these reserve matches.
MAINTAINING A PROFESSIONAL FOCUS
Make no mistake, these games are sometimes hard to get up for, but as a player you must know that they are critically important to show the coach you are ready if called upon.
You also must recognize that your opponent will really be up for the battle, having the chance to test themselves against professional players. It really is their cup final, so they will be ready to play the game of their lives.
For our players, the nerves are usually not as bad, which in some ways can make it tougher. You have to create your own atmosphere as only a handful of fans might be attending the game. Yet the pressure is on as the coaches will be looking to see how you perform. For the players on the fringe of starting or making the team, you know you have to:
· Shine on the field
· Work hard with and without the ball
· Show good tactical awareness
BENEFITS OF RESERVE MATCHES
For some players like Omar Salgado, these games are a chance to see where you stand after overcoming an injury and to round back into form. Omar has been chomping at the bit to get involved again, and he looked sharp against UVic on Saturday.
For others, it is simply a chance to build up their match fitness and confidence levels.
These games will also be just as important for the coaches to assess players:
· Do they offer us something different on the field?
· Can they play a certain position, or adapt to a certain formation?
· Are they ready to step in, both physically and mentally?
We’ve all been excited by the play of our ‘Caps over the first two MLS games, but it’s a long season and many more players will be called upon. We’re fortunate to have a wealth of talent waiting for the chance to make their mark, but it’s crucial to have a deep squad. All of our players need to stay sharp so that the staff can be confident when they send them onto the field.