Canadian Championship: Absences force Vancouver Whitecaps to get creative with lineup at Edmonton

VANCOUVER, B.C. — When the Vancouver Whitecaps trot out against FC Edmonton on Wednesday in the first leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal (9:30 pm ET, Sportsnet), it will likely be a mixed lineup featuring fringe players and regular starters.

The Eddies play in the second-division NASL, and the temptation in such situations is to make wholesale changes – but head coach Martin Rennie suggested on Monday that it won’t be an outright "B" team.

“One of the things for us is that we don’t have a ton of veterans all healthy at the same time right now,” Rennie said. “But we’ll have a couple of guys in there who are veterans. But we’ve got a young team and we’ve got a lot of good young players.

“We want them to be in there as well. It depends – you could look at Camilo as an MLS veteran, [Darren] Mattocks has played a lot of games. Those guys come into contention, but there’ll be other experienced players too.”

READ: All you need to know about the 2013 Canadian Championship

When a reporter asked Rennie if he was aware of recent press criticism of some of his team selection decisions in recent weeks – especially in the wake of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to FC Dallas, the Scottish tactician suggested that he knowingly didn’t select his best lineup as he wanted some players to be fresh for this semifinal.

The omissions of established players such as Mattocks, Gershon Koffie and Camilo from the starting lineup in favor of the likes of Matt Watson, Tom Heinemann and Erik Hurtado were particularly surprising decisions which came under close scrutiny following the match.

“I want to put [out] a strong team on Wednesday,” Rennie said. “I think some of those guys who didn’t play in the game against Dallas will come into contention for Wednesday, so that’s part of it. I don’t want them to all play every game. I don’t think they’re going to play Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, all the way through.”

The Canadian Championship is a bit of a tightrope to walk for the Whitecaps given their recent MLS run of five winless matches, but Rennie is looking on it as a chance to gain some momentum.

While the Voyageurs Cup awarded to the tournament champion is a trophy in itself, the more significant carrot on offer is qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League such an achievement would bring.

“I think it’s a very important competition,” Rennie said. “Perhaps that’s part of the lineup that we played in the last game. That just shows you just how important we think this competition is. We’ll have a strong lineup coming into this game.

“We want to get into the final, and then we want to win the final. Of course, that would be the first time the club’s done it, and it would also give us a chance to play in the CONCACAF Champions League.”

READ: Whitecaps will see several familiar faces vs. FC Edmonton

Designated Player Kenny Miller is currently in the United Kingdom as his wife is having a baby, and will not be available for Wednesday's match. The Scotsman has struggled with a hamstring injury in recent weeks but Rennie says he could be in contention for Saturday's match at BC Place against FC Dallas after arriving back in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Corey Hertzog is still getting over concussion symptoms after a head-to-head collision with Adam Clement in training last week but could play on Saturday barring a setback.

Omar Salgado has yet to play a minute for the Whitecaps this season due to a foot injury, but has received a call-up for the US Under-20 national team for a training camp from April 22-29 in Carson, Calif., ahead of the U-20 World Cup this July in Turkey. That rules him out of Wednesday's match as well as Saturday's game against FC Dallas.