BURNABY, B.C. – It’s not always easy being the youngest regular starter.
For Omar Salgado, he’s surpassed expectations for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the early going’s this campaign. Establishing himself as the club’s first-choice left winger after some pundits wondered how he’d get on the pitch at all, Salgado has given the club a plethora of attacking riches.
SAVE: Salgado thwarted by Reis
Coming into preseason looking noticeably stronger, the 18-year-old has shown more of a willingness to stay on his feet and fight for the ball, rather than being knocked off on the ball easily as he was often liable to do in his rookie season.
The new attitude and the new position are boding well for the native of El Paso, Texas, but Saturday’s 4-1 loss saw Salgado’s performance take an unexpected blip.
“It was bad,” Salgado told MLSsoccer.com after a training session this week at Swangard Stadium, discussing his performance. “I think it was my first real bad game of the season. I don’t have an excuse for it – I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t nervous. It was just a bad game.”
When asked about Salgado’s showing, head coach Rennie suggested it was to be expected – and he wasn’t the only Whitecap to have a sub-par match.
“It’s normal,” Rennie said. “Young players will have ups and downs. I think he’s had more ups than downs and I think he’s done very well for us, and I’d expect to keep doing well for us, but on Saturday most of the guys would say they could have done better – most players would say they didn’t have a great performance – and if they wouldn’t say, I would probably say that.
“It was one of those games, one of those nights, and I wouldn’t read too much into it."
The sophomore’s run of matches has come about in part due to a series of injuries to the club’s attacking unit, but with Camilo returning from quad problems, Darren Mattocks back after recovering from a cooking accident and Etienne Barbara easing back into the lineup after a sports hernia problem, this next stretch of games could give a better indicator of where Salgado fits on the depth chart.
“I feel comfortable at the moment,” Salgado said when asked about the near full-strength Whitecaps attacking group. “I don’t think that I’ll feel affected at this point, but it’s a competitive sport and you’re going to have to fight for those minutes.”
As for putting the sub-par performance behind him, Salgado said the backing his senior teammates and the coaching staff provide will help him bounce back next time Rennie gives him the nod.
"They'll give me the same confidence that they gave me the first four games that I did well in," Salgado said. "I think next game, or whichever game I play, I'll come back stronger than before."
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.