VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set for a midfield juggle ahead of Sunday's match against Chivas USA (4 pm PT, TV: Sportsnet Pacific - Radio: TEAM 1410 - Online: MLS Live) at BC Place.
With key midfield man Nigel Reo-Coker set to watch from the stands because of a suspension for yellow-card accumulation, that means an enforced rejig in the center of the pitch.
“Whenever people are out, it's always an opportunity for someone else,” head coach Martin Rennie said after a training session this week at the University of British Columbia. “Whoever comes in will recognize they have a good opportunity and they need to take it, because we're getting to that point where we have a pretty settled team.”
The Whitecaps generally play with three central players – one holding player and two conventional center mids – but in recent weeks Reo-Coker and Gershon Koffie have been the only two guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup.
Beyond those two players, the other options have failed to earn a consistent starting spot in recent weeks.
Jun Marques Davidson, who was nearly constant for most of the season as the holding midfielder, has not seen the pitch since his sending off on July 27. Since that home match against Philadelphia, Koffie has played every minute in that holding position - outside of the away match on August 3 in Portland due to a suspension for yellow-card accumulation.
Matt Watson, a hard working player capable of putting in a good shift, hasn't managed to win a starting spot for any sort of consistent period of time.
Daigo Kobayashi, brought in to provide a creative spark in the middle this offseason, has admitted in recent weeks that he's struggled to adapt to MLS. Rennie continues to back the player, but as the team is very much in the thick of the business end of the season, the 30-year-old will need to make the most of his chances moving forward.
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What this all means for this weekend's selection is unclear, although given the way the other central midfielders have performed, Rennie is considering using Russell Teibert – normally part of Vancouver's attacking three – as a central player.
The Niagara Falls, Ontario, native put in a few steady shifts in that midfield role earlier this season before really finding his feet on the right side of Vancouver's attack.
“It's definitely an option,” Rennie said after a training session at the University of British Columbia this week. “That's something we'll look at. I think we've got other options as well, and between now and the weekend we'll decide exactly.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.