Jonathan Leathers (Scott P. Price / Grande Sports World)
Scott P. Price / Grande Sports World

Whitecaps FC set for Phoenix showdown with Columbus Crew

Looking to wrap up this first preseason trip to Arizona in positive fashion, Vancouver Whitecaps FC take on Major League Soccer rivals Columbus Crew in their latest training match at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix on Tuesday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. PT.

Follow Tuesday's training match @WhitecapsFC

Teitur Thordarson's side have already played two MLS opponents during this 11-day camp at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona. Both games were extended contests, with the Blue and White defeating Real Salt Lake 2-1 in a 135-minute match last Tuesday before falling 1-0 in a 105-minute contest versus Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders FC. The formats of both matches last week allowed the 'Caps to play the many players they currently have in camp.

"So far, things this preseason have progressed better than I expected, so I'm quite pleased with that," defender Jonathan Leathers told "As we get more familiar with each other, I think our play on the pitch will speed up."

Tuesday's game will be a more standard affair, with Whitecaps FC and the Crew to play a 90-minute training match over two 45-minute halves. Vancouver are close to full strength at present, with the fit-again pair of centre back Jay DeMerit and midfielder John Thorrington expected to see action against Columbus. Jeb Brovsky, Joe Cannon, and Cornelius Stewart are listed as day-to-day, while youngster Russell Teibert has left camp to join up with the Canadian U-20 national team.

"Columbus are a strong, physical team, so we'll have to be ready for that. We'll have to be aware of all their crosses, corners, and free kicks tomorrow," Former Sporting Kansas City man Leathers said of the Crew. "I'm expecting it to be a good contest."

A part of MLS since its inception in 1996, Columbus are retooling their squad for 2011, with big names such as Frankie Hejduk and Guillermo Barros Schelotto moving on from the Ohio club at the end of last season. Crew head coach Robert Warzycha has several new faces in camp, including MLS journeyman striker Jeff Cunningham, who is beginning his second spell with the Ohio outfit. On Saturday, the Crew drew 2-2 with Sporting Kansas City in a training match that was played in three 30-minute periods in Phoenix. The Crew are also preparing for an early start to their season. Later this month, Warzycha's squad take on MLS rivals Real Salt Lake in a two-leg quarterfinal series in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tuesday's contest is the first-ever meeting between Vancouver and Columbus. As a North American second division club, the 'Caps faced Ohio-based opposition in the form of two defunct clubs - Cincinnati Riverhawks (1999-2003) and Cleveland City Stars (2009).