Whitecaps Notebook: Squad left to play for their jobs

VANCOUVER, B.C. — “You have to play for your job.”

That’s what Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon said last weekend when reporters asked him what the team had left to play for.

It’s a line that players bring out from time to time, and with the season’s end in sight and a new coach watching from afar in preparation for next season, Cannon’s statement rings very true.

Last week, it was indeed Cannon who found himself left out in favor of Jay Nolly. Cannon, as Nolly did during his time out of the lineup, said all the right things and worked hard in training to earn his starting job back for the weekend’s match in Portland.

Now, defender Jonathan Leathers is preparing for the same sort of struggle, having been left out at right back in favor of rookie Jeb Brovsky.

“There’s not too much to it,” Leathers told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday. “The coach makes his decision and you’ve got to keep fighting. At the end of the day, it’s about being the best you can possibly be. If you get the call back, [the spot] is yours to keep as long as you play well.”

In a back line that has seen a lot of shuffling this season, Leathers has been almost ever-present, having played 18 out of the team’s 25 league matches. Even when he didn’t start in his usual position, he deputized capably at left back on a number of occasions.

Now, Leathers and the Whitecaps look toward Saturday’s match against Houston (7 pm ET, TSN2 in Canada, watch LIVE online). The Dynamo sit in third place in the Eastern Conference and are riding a five-match unbeaten run.

“I think if we can spread them out and then attack from the flanks and then get in — hopefully we have Moose [Mustapha Jarju] back and then Eric [Hassli] — we can get crosses in and finish,” Leathers said. “That’s something that worked pretty well when we were in Houston.

“The goal Camilo scored, he came from wide and checked into the middle, someone played it in and he finished it. If we can mimic that, we’ll be successful.”

Comings, goings and call-ups

Trialist Massih Wassey has left the team and gone to Kelowna, B.C., to recover from an illness. The twice-capped Canadian international will likely return to the team for another trial when he recovers.

Meanwhile, defender Omar Elmasri has joined the club on an extended trial until December. The Los Angeles-area native has played for the United States at the U-18 level, and his rights are currently owned by Mexican Primera División team Tigres UANL.

The 21-year-old was initially set for a loan deal, but his paperwork didn’t go through before the international transfer deadline, meaning he can play in the MLS Reserve League but not for the Premier Development League team.

• Jarju and Nizar Khalfan have received call ups for Gambia and Tanzania respectively, for 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifying matches. As the Whitecaps don’t play the weekend of Sept. 3, the pair will not miss any league action.

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon