After 18 months out, Vancouver Whitecaps' Omar Salgado to make MLS return vs. Columbus

Last Friday, Vancouver Whitecaps' striker Omar Salgado was turning out for the Charleston Battery in their 4-0 win at Harrisburg in USL PRO action. Seven days later, he is on the verge of playing his first MLS minutes in 18 months when the 'Caps travel to take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live in US, TSN in Canada).

Salgado was sent out on loan to Vancouver's USL PRO affiliate in Charleston in March. The aim was to ensure that he was healthy and able to contribute to the Whitecaps in MLS, following two years of setbacks after suffering a foot injury while with the US U-20 team in June 2012. Those injuries have restricted the first overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft to just 21 appearances and 902 MLS minutes to date.

The plan was always to bring him back when Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson felt the time was right. After two goals and an assist in five appearances, that time has perhaps come faster than expected.

"He looks sharp. He looks leaner," Robinson told reporters this week. "The reason I sent Omar down to Charleston was to get games. He's done that. I just think it was right to call him back because he has an opportunity now to put himself into the frame for a first team start."

The opportunity has come about as a result of an eventful week for Vancouver's front line.

Designated Player Kenny Miller's departure from MLS on Sunday came less than 24 hours after Darren Mattocks hobbled off the field at BC Place against San Jose with a hamstring injury, which will keep him out for at least a few weeks.

Robinson may have put together an exciting young squad for the season but it doesn't contain an abundance of proven goal scorers or players who could be classed as out-and-out strikers.

That led to the recall of Salgado from Charleston on Tuesday, and he put in a strong substitute appearance in Wednesday's 2-1 Canadian Championship semifinal first leg loss to Toronto.

That performance puts him in the mix for minutes this weekend and maybe even a start against the Crew, a team that Salgado scored his lone MLS goal against in his rookie season. Now back healthy and hungry to perform, at 6-foot-4, Salgado fits a missing piece in the Whitecaps attack, that of a tall targetman.

"I'm about giving young players chances," Robinson said of Salgado after Wednesday's game. "I'm not going back on my word to any young player and Omar is in that category."

The absence of both Miller and Mattocks will definitely be felt by the Whitecaps, but there is something of a silver lining to come out of it all in that it affords opportunities for some other young strikers to shine, starting Saturday.

"If I wasn't comfortable in that then I wouldn't have come to the decision with Kenny," Robinson noted.