VANCOUVER, BC – After a depleted lineup battled to a hard-fought point in Portland last weekend, the ‘Caps will be back on home soil this Sunday as they get ready for their showdown with San Jose. Here are three storylines to get you set for the match.
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CALLING IN THE CAVALRY
The ‘Caps squad depth was tested last weekend as they hit the road with a host of senior players missing from the lineup. With Kendall Waston away on international duty with Costa Rica and first team regulars Pedro Morales, Pa-Modou Kah and Sam Adekugbe out injured, the likes of Nicolas Mezquida, Tim Parker and Christian Dean were asked to step up to the starting XI. And step up they did, with all three drawing plaudits for their performances against Portland.
Those performances should give Carl Robinson a selection headache this weekend as the ‘Caps coach starts to see his injury-depleted side return to full strength. With Waston back from the Gold Cup and Kah returning from injury, the Blue and White have a full compliment of centre backs to choose from.
Elsewhere, it’s good to see left back Sam Adekugbe (ankle) on the road to full fitness, while Morales (calf) is inching closer to a return as well. In fact, Robinson said on Friday that he expects the skipper to be in the 18.
With Darren Mattocks continuing his Gold Cup adventure and both Jordan Harvey and Cristian Techera serving one-match suspensions, Robbo will be pleased to have some fresh faces back in action as he looks to shuffle his pack against San Jose.
TIGHT IN THE WEST
We may only be just over halfway through the 2015 regular season, but those of you who’ve glanced at the standings will know that things are already getting pretty wild in the West. Indeed, just three points separate first from sixth in the Western Conference standings with the ‘Caps currently sitting in third place - just two points off the pace being set by FC Dallas.
So how closely are the ‘Caps looking at the standings with 13 matches remaining?
“We check it out frequently,” Harvey told reporters at training earlier this week. “We have it up in our lounge so we see it everyday. It’s a reminder that it’s really tight. Every game is huge. Especially Western Conference battles.”
Robinson takes a slightly different approach.
“I don’t take too much notice, to be fair,” the boss told reporters. “Until it gets nitty-gritty time at the back-end of the season, then we’ll look at it. I know it’s tight. The Western Conference is stacked with very good teams. We know that. We’ve just got to concentrate on our own business. If we can pick up the results that we want, then we should be okay.”
It’s no surprise that Robinson’s side have felt the absence of Morales since the skipper fell foul to a calf strain after the LA Galaxy match back in early June. After all, any team in the league would miss a player of Morales’ quality.
Fortunately for the ‘Caps, however, they’ve had players who’ve been able to step up to the plate in the maestro’s absence, chief among which has been the experienced Argentine Mauro Rosales.
Rosales has played predominantly in the number 10 role since Morales fell foul to injury and has flourished with the added responsibility that comes with being the team’s chief creator. The former Ajax man has created 35 goal-scoring chances for his teammates so far this season, 17 of which have come in the six weeks since Morales’ injury. That’s good enough for third best in the entire league during that period.
While it’s been great to see the Argentine return to something approaching his best after his early season injury, ‘Caps fans will no doubt be licking their lips with anticipation at the thought of him combining his creative talents with Morales when the skipper returns.
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