VANCOUVER, B.C. – Atiba Harris is getting ready to give a rude welcome to some familiar faces.
The bruising attacker, who made his return to the Vancouver Whitecaps’ lineup after a one-game suspension in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Sporting KC, is preparing for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas (10 pm ET, watch LIVE online) – his first since leaving Big D via the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft.
“You get that little bit of energy playing against your former team,” Harris told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at BC Place this week. “I haven’t played against them before, but the result is most important – it’s not about me [Saturday] – it’s about the team. Hopefully we go out there and get the result.”
Players generally don’t have to wait this long for a match against their former side, but Harris’s season-ending knee injuries early in 2011 meant he never got a chance to go head-to-head with his old teammates.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Harris said. “I had a fun time in Dallas, and I still have a whole bunch of friends on the team, so I’m looking forward to playing against them. But I’m playing for Vancouver now, so once I get on the pitch it’s all business.”
The Whitecaps have struggled to score this season with just five goals in their opening six matches, and that task isn’t set to get any easier against a solid FCD side on Saturday.
“They have a strong backline,” Harris said. “Centrally, Ugo Ihemelu and George John – those guys are key to the team. Danny Hernandez, the defensive midfielder, is probably the main guy on the team. He organizes everyone and once he’s out there he’s the leader and he’s going to keep things together.”
As for Vancouver’s defensive group, which has conceded six goals over the last two matches? Well, shutting down 2011 MLS MVP nominee Brek Shea isn’t exactly going to be a cup of tea either.
“Brek is a strong, powerful guy, Harris said. “He’ll run at you all day and he’s very competitive.”
Camilo ready to start?
Brazilian attacker Camilo made a substitute appearance in Wednesday’s match as he works his way back to full fitness from a quadriceps injury, and based on training and his performance in that appearance his first start in the month of April seems imminent.
“He’s probably just about ready to go,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com this week. “He looked very sharp [against Sporting] for 30 minutes, and we’ve done some extra fitness with him over the last week or so.
“Hopefully he’ll be ready to go on Saturday. He’s a big player for us. He was the MVP of the team last season and the biggest goal threat, and one of our biggest threats now – so it’s nice to have him back.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.