Venuto training - NSDC - snow
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

'Caps ready to ramp up preparations for March 2 with trip to Los Angeles

VANCOUVER, BC – Next stop: Los Angeles.

After a short stint in snowy Vancouver, the ‘Caps are headed south on Friday for the final phase of their preseason before opening the 2019 MLS campaign on March 2 against Minnesota United FC. During the team’s recent 10-day training camp in Hawaii, Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos said a big part of his focus was getting a look at the young players currently a part of the club’s Academy and development team.

Now, the focus quickly shifts to finalizing preparations for March 2.

“I want to see the core players that are here right now start to gel together and give them more minutes,” Dos Santos said. “In Hawaii, many subs were made in games. Now you won’t find that much in LA. We’re going to focus on these games like they’re league games and start giving rhythm and minutes to all of those players.”

It will be a very different group of players with the team in Southern California.

Only four development group players are making the trip: goalkeeper Thomas Hasal, defenders Gabriel Escobar and Georges Mukumbilwa, and midfielder Patrick Metcalfe.

Also included in the traveling party are Argentine centre back Erik Godoy and Brazilian winger Lucas Venuto (pictured), while South Korean midfielder Inbeom Hwang and Tunisian centre back Jasser Khmiri are both slated to arrive in LA on Friday. The club is hopeful that strikers Joaquín Ardaiz and Fredy Montero will be able to join the group in LA as well.  

“We’re close,” Dos Santos said this week when asked about having the whole team together. “There are some things that are out of our control. It’s governments, we have to respect rules, it’s just the way it is. It’s the challenging part … but we have a group that will be ready to play that first game. Are we going to be with all our pieces that day? No, but a season is long. We have to look at the long term of this club.”

Russell Teibert (left ankle strain), who did not travel with the team in Hawaii, will also be on the trip – though Dos Santos said he likely won’t be fully involved. The Canadian midfielder said it’s been lonely rehabbing back in Vancouver, but he’s remained in close contact with the technical staff to ensure he’s not falling behind with the team’s new model of play.

“It’s all new stuff to learn,” said Teibert, who has yet to return to training. “Fortunately, we have a great staff and they were sending me videos of the team, philosophy of training sessions, and making sure I’m up to date with tactics.”

The ‘Caps will play three matches in LA – closed-door scrimmages this Saturday vs. LA Galaxy and Wednesday vs. Liga MX side Club Tijuana, followed by their preseason finale next Saturday vs. Dos Santos’ former club LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.

For Vancouver, it presents a first opportunity to play against fellow MLS competition, which will be of particular importance this season with so many additions who are new to the league.

“It does take time and it is a process, but I don’t want to be in front of you guys and say, ‘Yeah we need time.’ You won’t have that from me,” Dos Santos said. “We want to arrive March 2nd ready to go, have a good product on the field, have the fans excited. The time it’s going to take, it’s going to take. But we hope that it comes together fast. That’s our objective.”