"We're as ready as we can be."
That's how Whitecaps FC assistant coach Phil Dos Santos summed up the team's progress following a 90-minute intrasquad scrimmage on Friday to wrap up their second week of full training.
"We're confident, we believe in the group, and we're happy with the state in the moment we are in today given the circumstances," said Dos Santos.
The Wave squad came out winners via shootout following a 2-2 draw at the end of regulation time. Lucas Cavallini netted a brace for the Hoop side, while Ali Adnan drilled a penalty kick goal and Tosaint Ricketts scored the equalizer for the Wave group in an intense match where both squads produced a number of chances.
'IT MEANS EVERYTHING'
"We got the intensity of a real game today. It's important to see the team apply the principles that are important to us, elements that are non-negotiable," said Dos Santos. "There's been a level of competitiveness that is very high. That's starting to become the DNA of the team. Players feed off each other."
The intensity level throughout was indicative of a group that has been itching to go out and battle.
"It means everything. We missed competing," said Maxime Crépeau. "Even if it's an intrasquad, it's the same thing as the usual game, everybody's got their shin guards in, the mentality is to win, we know what to do, that's what we want."
Centre back Ranko Veselinović, who joined the 'Caps not long before play came to a pause in March, looked comfortable and was vocal around his new teammates.
"I'm still new to the team, I'm still getting to know my teammates but that's what I do in games," said the 21-year old from Serbia. "Even if I had just met them today, I would still talk. If I don't talk, I would look bad on the field, and my team would look bad on the field. That's how I play, no matter the result."
The emergence of the roster's younger players like Veselinović could be vital in the MLS is Back Tournament where depth could spell the difference in earning a result.
The substitution limit for the tournament will follow the new protocol set by the IFAB and allow five substitutions per match. In addition, teams may name up to 23 players on each official match day roster.
"The way the tournament is structured, we play every five days so there's plenty of time to recover. But we do need to consider the heat factor, how players are going to react," said Dos Santos. "It's going to be game-by-game. If that's something that needs to be done to impact the game or to allow us to get a result, obviously we're going to do it. We'll take advantage of it if it's necessary."
The rule adjustment could also mean a switch of pace towards the end of games.
"Teams will be using that wisely," Crépeau prognosticated. "It's going to be warm, guys might be tired after 60 so the pace will be higher up towards the end of the game because there will be more fresh legs on the field."
The team gets the weekend off to recharge before departing for Orlando on Wednesday.
"Recover well and spend time with their families," said Dos Santos of the next two days for the team. "Enjoy the time with your families, do the last little bits of planning that we need to do, and come back on Monday ready to go."
Preparation has been continuous, however, so the coaches may also take advantage of the time to pore over film.
"We're going to look at the X's and O's, we're going to look at what tactically was done well, what was good in the execution or not, and that can be corrected," said Dos Santos.
The last two weeks of full training have been just what the 'Caps needed, and now they're eyes are set on Central Florida.
"It's been a condensed way of getting back to our principles offensively and defensively," said Crépeau.
"I really can't wait," said Veselinović. "I want to sit on the plane and go to Orlando and wait there for five more days, then to start to play and feel that excitement."