PORTLAND, OREGON – Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s “last push” to the 2017 season is upon us.
And, for the fourth straight year, it’s happening in Portland.
The ‘Caps kick off the annual Timbers Preseason Tournament on Thursday against MLS expansion side Minnesota United FC (5 p.m. PT at Providence Park – watch live on whitecapsfc.com).
It’s Vancouver’s first of three preseason friendlies in Portland over the next week, leading up to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals vs. New York Red Bulls (Leg 1: February 22 at Red Bull Arena, Leg 2: March 2 at BC Place). And after what Jordan Harvey described as a “gruelling 10 days in Wales,” the ‘Caps feel more prepared than ever.
“We came back in good shape,” Whitecaps FC goalkeeper David Ousted told reporters on Monday. “It was tough. It was hard. The running that needed to be done was done and I think guys are coming back in good shape. Now, we’re trying to build on that process coming into Portland and getting into some important games before we square off against the Red Bulls.”
As Ousted alluded to, the main focus in Wales was fitness. But it was also about bringing the team together, and in that regard, Harvey said it served both purposes.
“That first trip is about building team chemistry, getting guys together, and almost forcing them to hang out with one another,” he told reporters. “And that’s what you’re able to do at The Vale [in Wales]. We had game rooms, meeting rooms, everything was close confined. You were able to just have conversations that sometimes you normally wouldn’t be able to have.”
Now, Harvey said it’s time to “ramp up the intensity.”
“These Portland games you’re going to try to approach like they’re a regular season game or a Champions League game,” he said. “You’ll see guys getting more valuable minutes and kind of honing in on that first game in New York.”
One player who could get some minutes in Portland is recently-acquired Peruvian attacking midfielder/forward Yordy Reyna, who joined the team in Vancouver over the weekend. Also on the trip are WFC2 duo Thomas Gardner and David Norman, U-18 midfielder Michael Baldisimo, and 2017 MLS SuperDraft selections Nazeem Bartman, Jakob Nerwinski, and Francis de Vries.
Minnesota, meanwhile, are preparing for their inaugural MLS season.
Their roster features the likes of Trinidad & Tobago international Kevin Molino, Costa Rican international Johan Venegas, and 2017 MLS SuperDraft number one overall selection Abu Danladi. Also in camp with Minnesota is former 'Caps keeper Marco Carducci as a trialist.