As Vancouver Whitecaps FC prepare to take on New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday (11 a.m. PT, CTV BC, TEAM 1410), they will do so without captain Jay DeMerit.
In the interests of keeping the 34-year-old centre back fit for the duration of the season, Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson has left DeMerit back on the West Coast.
The player is healthy, but given his injury problems in recent years, and his age, the club's boss is picking strategic moments to rest DeMerit – and other senior players such as Andy O'Brien and Kenny Miller can expect similar treatment as the season goes along.
“When I took the job, obviously, it was a case of – I've got three 34-year-olds within my squad,” Robinson told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “Jay, Andy and Kenny. So I mapped out a plan of what I wanted, and how I thought I could best protect these guys because it is a 34 game season – regular season, plus playoffs, plus Canadian cup.”
Robinson said he aims to play his elder statesmen in the range of 25 games apiece by selectively giving each breaks throughout the season.
He says the decision to leave DeMerit in Vancouver was his, and not an idea of the player, but that the Green Bay native respected the decision.
“I told him he's a very important player,” Robinson said. “I've got 26, 27 players that want to play every minute of every game. That's not going to happen. It's important I rotate, it's important I rest. It's important I help these guys through, especially the older guys.
“They want to play every minute of every game but I've been in that situation. Your body doesn't allow you to do it, and train...if I didn't have players that I felt would come in and do a good job for me, I wouldn't have rested, but I do. I have full belief in the players coming in.”
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One candidate to replace DeMerit alongside O'Brien for this weekend's match is Johnny Leveron, but Robinson said he would make his final decision following Friday's final training session. The Honduran missed out on last weekend's match due to a concussion suffered in training last week, but has recovered well. Carlyle Mitchell and Christian Dean can also play there if required.
“Johnny's a different type of player,” Robinson said. “He's a ball-playing centre back, which there's very few of them in the league. I think he showed last year, when he got up to speed with his fitness levels, how good he could be. He brings a different dimension ... Johnny's a defender as well, and reads the game very well, but he brings an attacking side to the back four as well.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.
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