Michael Boxall Toronto FC
Bob Frid

Whitecaps FC forced to juggle line-up for Sporting KC match

A few players in, a few players out. That’s the story at Vancouver Whitecaps FC training this week, as head coach Teitur Thordarson is forced to continue juggling his line-up ahead of this weekend’s match against Sporting Kansas City.

Michael Boxall and Jay DeMerit - the two starting centre backs from the opening match - return from international duty this week, but head coach Teitur Thordarson will have to replace midfielder Russell Teibert and striker Eric Hassli.

Boxall returned to training on Tuesday after playing for the New Zealand national team in a friendly match against China on Friday. Boxall came on at halftime and helped propel the All Whites to a 1-1 draw.

“Stepping out for the first time in your country’s colours for the full national team felt great,” said Boxall after training at Empire Field on Tuesday. “There are not too many higher honours than that in the game of soccer.”

DeMerit, meanwhile, remains with the United States national team, as they play against Paraguay in Nashville this evening. The Whitecaps FC captain played the entire match against Argentina on Saturday, as the Americans rallied for a 1-1 draw in East Rutherford, New Jersey. He is expected to return to Vancouver in time for training on Thursday.

Teibert, who started the first two matches at left wing, is away in Guatemala playing for the Canadian U-20 national team in the 2011 CONCACAF Championship. The 18-year-old had a strong performance in Canada’s first tournament match, registering two assists in Monday's 2-1 win over Guadeloupe. 17-year-old striker Omar Salgado - who was recently cleared by FIFA to start playing with the ‘Caps - is also away, playing in the same tournament with the United States U-20 national side.

Thordarson will also have to fill a gap up top, as Hassli will miss this weekend’s tilt due to a red card against Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The big striker joins former Toronto FC striker Danny Dichio as players to score their franchise’s first-ever MLS goal and register the first red card in club history.

It could be double trouble for the Whitecaps FC front line, as Atiba Harris sat out practice on Tuesday. The Caribbean striker was on the brunt end of a couple of harsh tackles from Union defenders on the weekend, but Thordarson anticipates that he’ll be back against Kansas City. The real question for Thordarson is who else he plays up top?

“Atiba has been recovering from the weekend. Hopefully he will be in training on Thursday,” said Thordarson. “But who will partner him? I need these days coming up to find out…It will most probably be Long Tan or Camilo.”

Jay Nolly sat out the team’s scrimmage on Tuesday, as he recovers from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the last match. John Thorrington, Davide Chiumiento, Shea Salinas, and Michael Nanchoff, meanwhile, remain in doubt as they continue to rehabilitate from their own injuries. Kevin Harmse is available to play after the Canadian international was signed on Friday.