Vancouver Whitecaps to choose between Kekuta Manneh, Tom Heinemann at open striker spot
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Vancouver Whitecaps' playoff hopes hang by the slimmest of threads, but ahead of their crunch Cascadia away clash with the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday (10 pm ET, MLS Live), the club's head coach is promising an all-or-nothing, offense-first approach.
The Whitecaps, six points back of the LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids, who hold the fourth and fifth Western Conference playoff spots, likely need to win all three of their remaining matches to sneak into the MLS Cup playoffs for the second straight year.
“With the Cascadia games when we're not travelling too far, we've always just kind of gone for it,” Martin Rennie told reporters following a training session at the University of British Columbia on Tuesday. “Earlier this season it was a back-and-forth game. We were a goal down, then a goal up.
“It was a bit wild. It might be a little bit like that again. These games are intense and lots going on, so we need to make sure we have that intensity to start the game.”
With Designated Player Kenny Miller looking doubtful for the clash as he deals with a groin injury, and Darren Mattocks away with the Jamaican national team, Vancouver will look for either Kekuta Manneh or Tom Heinemann to partner with Camilo in attack.
The two players offer very different options, with Manneh possessing breakaway speed and trickery, and Heinemann able to provide a physical presence and strong hold-up play.
Both players just have three starts to their names this season, but Manneh's strong performance over the weekend, when he forced Portland Timbers 'keeper Donovan Ricketts into no less than two top class saves and nearly drew a stoppage-time penalty, will surely be fresh in Rennie's mind as he makes his selections.
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If called upon, Manneh insists he's ready to deal with the large and loud crowd at CenturyLink Field, even in a must-win game with major implications for the team's playoff hopes.
“Just go out and play and have fun,” Manneh said. “That's what the coaches have been saying – all the coaching staff. Just have a smile on your face and do what you do best.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.