VANCOUVER, BC – We’re into the final week of the 2015 MLS regular season.
And it’s going to be a busy one for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
The ‘Caps, or at least a group of them, will fly out of Vancouver tomorrow morning ahead of Thursday’s CONCACAF Champions League fixture in Honduras. They will then conclude the regular season against Houston Dynamo on Sunday at BC Place (4 p.m. PT - tickets still available) in a game that has major playoff implications.
So how is the team approaching the week ahead?
Find out below.
It’s no secret the ‘Caps are dealing with “a serious glut of injuries at the moment,” as Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson put it. But just how bad is it? Well, Robinson revealed on Monday that they’ll likely be travelling to Honduras with just 12 or 13 players.
“Everyone that is fit and available to go will go,” he told reporters.
One player who was scheduled to make the trip and play was Homegrown striker Caleb Clarke. But he too has been ruled out after suffering an injury in training over the weekend.
When it rains, it pours.
As for the players currently on the shelf, Robinson said that captain Pedro Morales (hamstring) and centre back Pa-Modou Kah (groin) will not play in either game this week, while midfielder Nicolas Mezquida (hamstring) has an “outside shot” of being available on Sunday.
Mezquida trained on Monday as a neutral. Cristian Techera (hamstring) also trained, while Mauro Rosales (adductor) did some work on the sidelines with the physio staff.
There were also some questions over whether or not Robinson would travel with the team to Honduras, but the ‘Caps head coach put those questions to bed on Monday.
“I’m the manager of this football club,” he said. “It represents the club as a whole, it represents me. We know we’re walking wounded. We know we’re taking a young group of players. It will be a great experience for my young players. We’ll have a lot of Homegrown players there. Well, I’m in charge of them. I want to be in the trenches with him.”
PLAYING FOR PRIDE
Thursday’s match against C.D. Olimpia won’t have any bearing on the CCL Group F standings – Seattle Sounders FC will go through regardless of the result. But don’t tell that to Robert Earnshaw.
“There is something on the line,” Earnshaw said. “There’s pride, which is bigger than three points and all this … I’ve always thought ever since I was 12 years old. Whether I’m kicking the ball against the garage door in Caerphilly, whether I’m here or in Honduras, it will always be the same. It’s a game of football. It’s what I love to do … it always means something.”
Many of the young ‘Caps are also playing for jobs. Case in point: Robinson said that anywhere from six to eight of them could be involved on Sunday as well as Thursday.
“It means stuff to us,” said centre back Christian Dean. “It’s another chance to show Robbo that we are capable of playing. And they’re playing in front of their fans so it’s not like they’re not going to come out and try hard. We have to be ready for it. And I think the only way to be ready for it is to take the game by the horns and go full throttle.”
WILD, WILD WEST
There’s a reason they call it, the wild, wild West.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, just three points separate second and sixth in the Western Conference. That means the ‘Caps could still end up in second and get a bye to the conference semifinals, or they could fall to sixth and play on the road in the Knockout Round.
“MLS is MLS,” Robinson said. “This weekend, I think it was proven that you don’t really know what’s coming out of each result. It’s great for MLS. It goes down to the wire. You can finish in second, you can finish in fifth or sixth. There are a lot of teams that can do that. It’s what the neutral wants … it’s exciting.”
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