Three days after those memorable events in Seattle, Vancouver Whitecaps FC were back on the training pitch on Tuesday, as they looked ahead to a return clash with Philadelphia Union this Saturday night.
Head coach Tom Soehn changed things up for training this week, as his squad worked on possession and shape on the natural grass at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. Vancouver will spend the next two days on grass before returning to the turf on Bell Pitch at Empire Field for a pre-match session on Friday. "Training regularly on turf can wear you out, so balancing training sessions between grass and turf is important, especially with lots of away games being played on grass," Soehn said after Tuesday's training session.
Wes Knight certainly appreciated a change in training environment, as Vancouver look to end their 14-match winless run in Major League Soccer when Eastern Conference high-flyers Philadelphia arrive in town. "To be on grass again is great," Knight told whitecapsfc.com. "You can tell the quality of play increases when the ball is bouncing predictably and guys are much cleaner with their passing. It's also good to be in a new environment ahead of a big home game."
A change in training venue has followed a new focus in training under Soehn, as the former D.C. United head coach gears up for his first home match in charge of the 'Caps on Saturday night. "We want to make training more competitive, and you can see guys are battling and putting in the work," he said. "The by-product of how you train in the week shows up when you play games on the weekend."
The visit of the Union is Whitecaps FC's lone match at Empire Field this month, with Peter Nowak's side expected to provide a stern test for Soehn's squad. They will arrive on Canada's west coast on a four-match unbeaten streak and with a reputation for not conceding goals in MLS play. Former Union player Shea Salinas knows the challenge his current side face from Philadelphia. "The Union are a good defensive team, but we've been working on possession and our attacking organization, as we're looking to score some goals against them."
One positive sign for the Blue and White was the sight of striker Atiba Harris doing light drills at Tuesday's training session. The former FC Dallas forward has been sorely missed by the 'Caps after he underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee in late April.
While there is plenty of focus on this weekend's showdown with Philadelphia, Whitecaps FC are also looking at some potential new additions. Joining Soehn's squad on Tuesday was former Republic of Ireland U-21 international Cian Hughton. The right fullback - who is the son of former Newcastle United FC manager Chris Hughton - is in Vancouver for a ten-day trial with the 'Caps. The 22-year-old is a former Tottenham Hotspur FC academy trainee, who played the past two seasons with Lincoln City FC in English League Two.