TUCSON, ARIZONA – And so it begins.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC will play their first preseason scrimmage of 2016 on Wednesday afternoon, when they face rival Seattle Sounders FC at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona (4 p.m. PT kickoff – watch live on whitecapsfc.com).
The preseason fixture follows two productive, but “tricky,” days of training in Tucson.
“We come to warmer weather, but it hasn’t been warmer,” joked Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “It’s been a tricky couple of days, but the boys are happy to be away. There’s a good spirit and good chemistry in camp so it’s been a positive start.”
After focusing primarily on fitness and movements on Monday, Tuesday was dedicated to “a lot of shape work.” The ‘Caps coach has said he plans to experiment with formations at some point during the trip, but the team practiced in a 4-2-3-1 on Tuesday.
“A number of players are missing,” Robinson said. “We get to work with a new group of players, which is good for them and good for us. We get to see what they’re like. The basics in the way we play and the style we play doesn’t change. We’re just drumming that into them.”
As Robinson said, the ‘Caps are currently without several players in Tucson.
Sam Adekugbe, Marco Bustos, Kianz Froese, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston and Jordan Smith are all away on international duty with their respective national teams, while Christian Bolanos has yet to join the team – he’s expected to arrive on Tuesday night.
A few players are also unavailable due to injury.
Ben McKendry is still working his way back from the meniscal tear suffered in his knee last year, while Pa-Modou Kah, Pedro Morales and Kekuta Manneh are also dealing with minor issues.
Morales didn’t train on Tuesday due to a “slight niggle in his calf,” Robinson said, and Manneh was pulled off the field early for precautionary reasons. There are “no major concerns” with either of them, Robinson added.
“It’s very tough,” Robinson said of all the missing players, “but now we get the opportunity to look at other players. If your main group is here, maybe you lose focus on the guys on the fringes who are fighting for positions. This way, we’ll get to look at the guys who are fighting for positions.”
That includes the seven WFC2 players in camp.
So far, Robinson said he’s been most impressed with centre back Jackson Farmer and midfielder Brett Levis, who was actually filling in at left back on Tuesday.
“They’ve come back in super shape physically and they’ve given themselves the best chance to try and knock on my door,” he said. “We’ll get to see that in the game [on Wednesday] but they should be given a lot of credit those two.”
Robinson said he will likely field a different lineup for each half on Wednesday – newcomers Fraser Aird and Masato Kudo are both expected to be involved. Youngsters Kadin Chung, 17, and Alphonso Davies, 15, could also get some minutes.
“I brought them here for the experience more than anything, but they’re good young players,” Robinson said of Chung and Davies. “And they’ve got a right chance of cracking the USL team and my roster at some stage in their careers. To find out if they’re good enough and how quickly I think they can be fast tracked will be dependent on what they can do. They’ve come in, they’ve settled very well, they look comfortable with the group and they don’t look out of place so far.”
Wednesday’s match will also be Seattle Sounders FC’s first of 2016.
Seattle are currently preparing for a quarter-final CONCACAF Champions League matchup against Liga MX giants Club America on February 23.
Click here to find out how you can cheer on the ‘Caps, in person, at the 2016 Major League Soccer Preseason in Tucson.
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