The tinkering didn’t work out for manager Martin Rennie and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as they fell to New England Revolution 4-1 on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
With the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship next Wednesday against Toronto FC in mind, the 'Caps went with a backline mixed with starters and fringe players, leaving captain Jay DeMerit behind in Vancouver and his regular center back partner Martín Bonjour on the substitutes bench.
“Playing slightly different players who haven’t played as much together at the MLS level cost us tonight,” Rennie told reporters in New England. “For us, we’ve just come off winning five games in a row. The next few games are really big for us. We’ve got a cup final on Wednesday, which we’re really looking forward to.
“It’s all positive for us except for tonight, which was a humbling experience and one that we have to take our medicine, learn from and improve from.”
Alain Rochat, who normally starts at left fullback, and Carlyle Mitchell stepped in for DeMerit and Bonjour in the middle of defence. Following the match, Rennie admitted he would not have run out the same starting XI if given a second crack at picking his team.
WATCH: Revolution rout Whitecaps, 4-1
“With the number of games we’re playing, we know we’re going to be looking to rely on Martín and Jay at the center of defence for us over the next four or five games that come in quick succession, so we juggled it a bit tonight,” Rennie told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 after the match. “I’d look to do that differently if I was picking the team right now.
“Definitely some things we could have improved on there and a humbling night for us and one we have to learn from.”
OPTA CHALKBOARD: Whitecaps create little vs. Revs
The man who made the difference for the Revolution was Lee Nguyen, who Vancouver waived at the end of preseason. The twice-capped United States international scored a brace and picked up the assist in a Man-of-the-Match performance against the club for which he never got to play a competitive match.
“With Lee, I didn’t think he would have fit into our team,” Rennie told TEAM 1410. “With the number of players we have that were similar to him, it was the right thing to do to give him a chance to move on. He was on a salary number where we could easily have kept him and used him whenever we wanted to do, but I don’t think that would have been the right thing for him.
“It’s proven to be the case. He’s found a great home in New England. I’m happy he’s doing well – obviously, I’d rather that not have been against us – but if he continues to do that, he’ll be an All-Star by the end of the season.”