Vancouver Whitecaps FC get a break from MLS action on Wednesday evening with their Canadian Championship semifinal first leg matchup at NASL side FC Edmonton (7 p.m. PT; Sportsnet 360/Sportsnet World and TSN 1410 radio).
Carl Robinson has already indicated that it will be a much-changed Vancouver lineup from recent league matches. But with the tournament affording the winner Canada's spot in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League, the 'Caps coach is still planning on putting out a very strong side for "a tournament we want to win."
With competition for places fierce within the 'Caps squad right now, and many players pushing hard to be included in Vancouver's gameday 18 on MLS duty, Robinson is keen to see how those players perform and who will grab the opportunity to impress with both hands.
"They get the opportunity to play and show that they should be getting MLS minutes when the time is right," Robinson said of those he plans to play on Wednesday. "Six or seven of them are ready now to play and unfortunately, I've been leaving them out of the team in MLS minutes because the guys that have been in those places have been doing very well. I'm excited to see a lot of them play."
While several players will look at the Edmonton match as a chance to have a statement game, it is perhaps on the attacking side that the best opportunities will present themselves.
Vancouver have only scored 11 goals in their 10 MLS matches so far, and Erik Hurtado and Robert Earnshaw have been sitting patiently on the sidelines for the chance to show that they are capable of improving that statistic.
They both look set to get that chance on Wednesday.
"When I'm called upon, I'll be ready," said Earnshaw, summing up his own waiting game. "I'm eager to play. I want to play minutes. There's a load of games coming up. You can be disappointed and you want to play, but at the same time, you have to give credit where we're in a good time right now and we're working hard. So we'll see in the next few weeks and hopefully get a few more minutes."
Injury and circumstances during games have meant that Earnshaw has only seen four minutes of action for Whitecaps FC in MLS this season, with the player choosing to drop down to play a USL game recently to keep match fit.
Hurtado has been a different story. Having played in all but four games last season, starting 19 of them and scoring five goals, he's found minutes hard to come by this year. The Santa Clara University product has started just one game and didn’t feature in the gameday squad for the last two matches.
Robinson has already said Hurtado will "get his chance on Wednesday" and the striker plans to make full use of it.
"Whenever I get a chance to play, I want to take advantage of it," was Hurtado's take at training, where he's been regularly impressing. "I'm learning when I'm watching the play and I want to be able to use what I've learned when I get my chance."
"All I want to do as a young player is learn and add to my game. Whether it's on the field or off the field, I'm watching, I'm learning. So I’ve just got to take that on board."
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