Suspensions present opportunity for youth players
Plagued by suspensions of late, the Vancouver Whitecaps have turned to their rookie class to plug a few holes, and the kids aren't showing any signs of nerves.
"We're not playing them in games that don't mean anything," said veteran midfielder Alfredo Valente. "They got minutes against Charleston, in a first-place battle. It's a real positive."
Valente and midfielder Justin Moose both missed last Sunday's clash against the Battery after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season -- an automatic one-game ban.
Defender Omar Jarun sat out Tuesday's 3-2 loss at the Atlanta Silverbacks for the same reason and today, when the Caps host the return game against Atlanta, midfielder Steve Kindel and forward Nick Addlery will watch from the sideline because of yellow fever.
The transgressions have provided opportunities for some fresh faces.
Former Simon Fraser defender Luca Bellisomo, 21, has now started six straight. Defender Mason Trafford, a 21-year-old UNLV graduate from North Vancouver, and midfielders Admir Salihovic, 20, and Ethan Gage, 17, all played at least 40 minutes on the four-game southeastern swing.
Bellisomo and former Langara student Falcon Salihovic both scored their first goals in Atlanta, but it's Gage -- the youngest Whitecap in 20 years and fifth-youngest ever -- whose appearance is most impressive.
"We've got to take our opportunities to present ourselves," said the Whitecaps residency player from Cochrane, Alta. "I did my best and I thought I didn't do too badly. It was a goal this season to start training with the men's team, so to get in some games is great."
Gage, 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, says a season playing against men in the USL Premier Development League helped speed up his maturity process. Others say he's fearless.
"He's a great talent," said coach Teitur Thordarson, "and, physically, he just shows us that he can do it, no question."
Youth will be served again today. With the two suspensions, Moose now out indefinitely with osteitis pubis, and right back Lyle Martin just returning to full health, all four rookies could see action.
But while Thordarson is enjoying this glimpse into the future he's keen to see his current core return to -- and stay on -- the pitch.
"I definitely don't think we've been [tackling] brutally," said Thordarson, whose side amassed 13 yellows and a red card on the road trip. "It's more a question of referees. Referees have been quite tense in these games and we haven't had to do much to get a yellow card. I'm not unhappy with my players."
Four games in eight days might have played a role, too, noted Valente.
"When guys are more rested you don't give up that late foul," he said. "It's a tougher schedule now and it's a tough league. Everyone's battling.
"We're not a nasty team."
At 4 p.m.
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Records: Whitecaps (10-6-4, 22 GF, 21 GA, 2nd place); Silverbacks (8-5-7, 31 GF, 33 GA, 5th place).
The skinny: With 10 games to go in the regular season, Vancouver sits just two points back of the Puerto Rico Islanders for first place and a quarterfinal playoff bye. The Caps have dropped two straight, including a 3-2 decision in sweltering Atlanta, though they have enjoyed three multi-goal games in their last four after just two others all season. Atlanta will be without USL-1 leading scorer F Macoumba Kandji (visa issues), but speedy Liberian M Ansu Toure is dangerous.
Lineup notes: Whitecaps -- M Steve Kindel (suspension), F Nick Addlery (suspension), M Justin Moose (osteitis pubis, indefinite), D Geordie Lyall (back and leg, 1-2 weeks); Silverbacks -- D Matthew Bobo (injury), M Rodrigo Rios (injury).
© The Vancouver Province 2008