With catalyst Russell Teibert at Gold Cup, Vancouver Whitecaps considering right options to stay hot
With the departures of Russell Teibert and Carlyle Mitchell for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, there will be at least a pair of changes for the Vancouver Whitecaps for Wednesday’s match at Sporting KC (8:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes, TSN/RDS in Canada, watch on MLS Live).
On the right wing, Teibert’s absence will surely be felt, as the Niagara Falls native has six assists in his last five games and much of Vancouver’s offense has played through him in the right channel.
Who comes in for the Canadian international, however, is not exactly clear cut. Early in the season, rookies Kekuta Manneh (above) and Erik Hurtado enjoyed plenty of playing time out on the wing, so one of those players could come in. Alternatively, Daigo Kobayashi, who has played centrally in recent weeks, could go back out to the wing where he start the season.
There’s also a chance forward Corey Hertzog could get a crack in a wider role after playing mainly as a center forward this season.
“I think we have a really good, deep squad,” Hertzog said after a training session on Monday. “Anybody can hop in and play whenever they’re called upon. It’ll be good for the guys who get the opportunity, to see if they can take the opportunity and do well with it and maybe get some more games under their belts.”
At center back, Mitchell’s absence means a more straightforward swap, as Brad Rusin is expected to come in for the Trinidad and Tobago international after recovering from a calf problem which kept him out for over a month.
“Obviously Russell and Carlyle have done very well in the last few games,” Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie said on Monday. “It’s … an opportunity for someone else to come in and they have to step up when they get that opportunity. I think other players have done that – Russell being a good example.
“Now someone else will get the chance to step in for him. We’ve got some fantastic young players and some exciting prospects coming through, and it’s up to one of them to make the most of that chance, and if they do, they can make a big impact on the team, just as Russell did.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.