Robinson and Mattocks - training
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Training report: 'Caps looking forward after making 'a big statement' against the Red Bulls

VANCOUVER, BC – It was a great start to the season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC – a “dream start,” some might say – but there are still 33 games to go.

That’s what Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said after the club’s 4-1 win over New York Red Bulls on Saturday and the players were singing a similar tune early this week as they returned to training at the University of British Columbia.

That said, there’s still a buzz around the team – and city – that’s hard to ignore. According to captain Jay DeMerit, the only ‘Caps player who has started each of the club’s four season openers, that buzz also existed after Whitecaps FC’s first-ever match back in 2011.

This time around, however, DeMerit said there’s a confidence to go along with it.

“It’s not just an exciting, ‘Oh here we go,’” DeMerit told reporters after Tuesday’s training session. “It’s an excitement that we have a good enough team to be a good team in this league.”

Second-year striker/winger Kekuta Manneh, who saw the pitch for seven minutes Saturday as a late substitute, added: “We made everyone excited about the team. Now everyone is watching the team, not only in Canada but also in North America. We made a big statement.”

The fact that the ‘Caps played the way they did with so many new faces in the lineup on Saturday – a total of five players made their Whitecaps FC debuts – is a testament to how quickly the team has gelled throughout the preseason.  

“It’s the players, the medical staff, the coaching staff, everyone,” Manneh said. “We all came together. People are fighting for each other, on and off the field.”

Clearly, there’s a lot of excitement around the group after a triumphant opening day victory, but DeMerit said everyone on the team understands there’s “still a lot of work to do.” The focus is now on Chivas USA, who the ‘Caps will meet on Sunday in Carson, California.

“We know we have a tough game against Chivas on Sunday,” Robinson told reporters. “They’re a good team with a new manager and a simple and fluid system. We’ll make sure we’re deal with that, but we’ll focus on what we do. If we perform to the level that we can, as shown on Saturday, then we’re going to be a match for anyone.”

Whitecaps FC striker Kenny Miller speaks to media after training

News and notes

- Robinson said that he will proceed with an err of caution with Designated Player Pedro Morales, who scored a goal and an assist in his 25-minute debut on Saturday. “He’s only trained three or four days with us. So it’s important I look after him because we have a long season ahead.”

- The same could be said for Manneh, who missed most of the preseason with a back issue. “I still think he needs to top his levels of fitness up,” Robinson said. “He’s only played 100 minutes throughout preseason and guys have played 500. Having said that, I think his adrenaline could probably carry him through. He’s working hard on a daily basis in training.”

- Goalkeeper David Ousted was absent from Tuesday’s training session, as he was attending his fiancée’s ultrasound. Ousted and his fiancée are expecting twins.

- Whitecaps FC Residency product Brody Huitema, who is coming off his freshman season with Duke University, participated in Tuesday’s training session with the first team. Huitema, whose MLS rights are held by the ‘Caps, led the Blue Devils with six goals and four assists this past season.

- Robinson said he’s hopeful that midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy (left knee) will be able to start full training with the group in about two weeks.

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