Whitecaps' Rennie: Reo-Coker could start opener vs. TFC
CHARLESTON, S.C. — With only one week to go until the 2013 MLS season opener against Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps have a handful of lineup questions they're yet to answer. But head coach Martin Rennie prefers it that way.
After Saturday night's 1-1 tie against the Chicago Fire in the Carolina Challenge Cup, some Whitecaps will head back to the home base while others will be making the trek to Cary, N.C., for the annual Community Shield against the Carolina RailHawks. One of those Sunday players will be newly acquired EPL veteran Nigel Reo-Coker, who Rennie says still has a shot at starting against TFC.
"He'll probably play tomorrow," Rennie said on Saturday night. "He feels he can play 90 minutes, but he's not going to do that [vs. Carolina]. But he will play a little bit and we'll see how he does and after that we'll decide how we go for Saturday [vs. Toronto FC].
WATCH: Rennie on lineup decisions
Rennie added that Reo-Coker was "a possibility" to start against Toronto, also indicating he will likely play in central midfield vs. the RailHawks. "It's not that long ago that he was paying 90-minute games. We'll see how his fitness is tomorrow and go from there."
But if the Vancouver newspapers will be filled with ink about Reo-Coker in the lead-up to the opener, Rennie also anticipates plenty of talk about the starting goalkeeper position, which he says is still undecided between Joe Cannon and Brad Knighton. Cannon started on Saturday night and was author of a handful of big saves against Chicago.
"I think Joe did well tonight and he has done well all preseaon in training camp and Brad has done fairly well, too," Rennie said. "We'll just have to wait and see. … I think we have competition in quite a few places and goalkeeper becomes more of a focal point. … It'll be an interesting talking point for people."
WATCH: Cannon on battle for No. 1
Offered Cannon: "You give your best and I'm sure Brad has given his best and the chips will fall where they may. That was my goal in the offseason ... just come in and be competitive and give everything I got. I left everything I had on the field and hopefully next week I'll play and if not, I'm there for the team."
The other main lineup question will surround the health of central defender Jay DeMerit, who is battling left Achilles tendonitis for which he's been undergoing prolotherapy to help regeneration. Earlier this week the veteran indicated that the injury recovery was "taking a little bit longer."
DeMerit did not appear in Saturday night's finale — Brad Rusin featured in what appeared to be Vancouver's starting lineup — and his last preseason appearance came on Feb. 2 vs. Houston.
"He's coming along," Rennie said. "We just spoke to the physios, the sports science guys, and they just felt that with Jay. … He knows the tactical system, he understands that. It's just making sure that he feels 100 percent and we decided to do a slightly different program with him and also [Rusin] has been doing well and so we continued with him, too."
Aside from individual lineup questions, Rennie said he'll also have the added task of making sure the team is sharper and crisper in its movements, combinations and finishing, which he admits were better in previous preseason matches than they were on Saturday.
"I think tonight was just the end of a long preseason," Rennie said. "We're focused on getting a little bit of rest, getting back to Vancouver and gearing up for a fantastic game against Toronto on March 2. We're already starting to think about that right now."