VANCOUVER, B.C. — Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn has some selection headaches ahead of this Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer, TSN). This time, though, it’s the good kind.
For the first time since taking over, Soehn has some serious decisions to make about which attacking players will play, and where. Designated Player Mustapha Jarju is the latest addition to an attacking group that includes Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento, Camilo Sanvezzo and Shea Salinas.
Hassli is the most prominent of the group and is coming off a two-goal performance away to the San Jose Earthquakes last week, and this week was voted to the inactive MLS All-Star roster by his fellow players. His eight goals in 14 MLS appearances, topped off with an ESPY nomination for his June 11 goal against the Seattle Sounders, make him a sure fixture in the Whitecaps lineup.
If Hassli is the star of the orchestra, Chiumiento has been the on-field conductor pulling the strings. His eight assists have him tied with David Beckham (LA Galaxy) and only one behind league leader Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo).
Salinas, for his part, also impressed in San Jose, dazzling the Earthquakes’ defenders and orchestrating both of Hassli’s goals in that match. His performance led to his first-ever place in the MLSsoccer.com’s Team of the Week, but it is worth noting that those two assists were his first two points of the season.
“This is the first time we’ve had actual hard coaching decisions to make,” Soehn told MLSsoccer.com after training earlier this week. “I think that’s the exciting part. We’re getting a more competitive roster with everybody healthy. It pushes everybody to fight a little harder for their place.”
Perhaps the biggest question is how to fit Jarju into a lineup with Chiumiento, as both players prefer to play as a withdrawn forward. The natural decision would be to shift Chiumiento back to the wing, where he grudgingly played under previous coach Teitur Thordarson.
During that time, the Swiss international was quite vocal in the media about his preference of playing centrally as a second striker, but with Jarju’s arrival, Chiumiento is being a bit more diplomatic about potentially reverting back to a midfield role.
“In the team, it’s good that we have a lot of good players,” Chiumiento said. “But it’s not my job to put the team [lineup together]. I’m just a player, so we’ll see what happens.”
In other team news, the club announced on Thursday that it has waived defenders Blake Wagner and Mouloud Akloul. Wagner played nine times in MLS this season, while Akloul made eight league appearances.
The team has also rescheduled its match against Real Salt Lake for Oct. 6, meaning the ‘Caps will get one extra game in the new BC Place stadium. That match was initially scheduled for July 16, but was postponed following heavy rainfall on the temporary grass pitch at Empire Field laid down as part of the preparations for the Manchester City Herbalife World Football Challenge match.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon