BURNABY, B.C. – Visiting Real Salt Lake is tough enough. Doing it with your captain fresh off playing 90 minutes only two days before doesn’t make it any easier.
But that’s exactly the scenario for the Vancouver Whitecaps following Jay DeMerit’s valiant display in the AT&T MLS All-Star Game, in which the league’s elite defeated Chelsea FC 3-2 on Wednesday.
DeMerit (above left), who was only scheduled to play a half, ended up playing the full game after fellow defender Aurélien Collin suffered two facial fractures in a collision with Chelsea's Michael Essien.
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“I understand that there was an injury and there was no one else, and that happened,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com at Burnaby Lake field on Thursday. “We’ll evaluate him when we see him later today. You’d obviously rather your players were rested more, but we understand why he had to play longer and we accept that.”
While Rennie seemed calm about the situation, when asked if MLS should look at expanding the All-Star roster to allow greater flexibility, he had some friendly suggestions – namely that the host club could provide emergency substitutes in the case of injury. This wouldn’t add any further logistical or financial pressures but would help navigate tricky situations such as the one faced by D.C. United and All-Star coach Ben Olsen when Collin went down.
“I’m just joining MLS, so I don’t know all the ins and outs about it,” Rennie said. “In a situation like this, it would have given Jay a bit more rest. No complaints about it – we understand the situation on what happened and we just move forward from there.”
Rennie also added that players playing soon after the All-Star Game should be started in the second half rather than the first – this way they wouldn’t be forced to play an extended time if certain players went off injured. When asked if he would consider starting DeMerit against Salt Lake Friday night (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), Rennie was non-committal but noted his player's heavy recent schedule.
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“We need to see how he’s doing,” Rennie said. “Eight games in 21 days is not good, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
During the week, Alain Rochat slotted into a central defensive position during a number of drills involving the first defensive unit, with Jordan Harvey filling the left back position. Whether this was simply a placeholder scenario with DeMerit away with the All-Star team or if this is the preferred lineup for Friday’s match is not altogether clear.
Are reinforcements on the way?
Rennie told reporters following Thursday’s practice that the club could be adding as many as two to three players to his squad. He didn’t give many hints but made note of the club’s international roster spot vacancies.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.