VANCOUVER, B.C. – New faces, experienced heads.
With the Vancouver Whitecaps forced into making four changes to their starting lineup for Wednesday’s game with FC Dallas (10 pm ET; TSN/RDS2 in Canada, MLS Live in the US), and a further switch in goal expected with the return of Joe Cannon from suspension, most coaches would probably be sweating a bit.
Not Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie, though.
“It’s not too many changes,” Rennie told reporters after training at BC Place on Tuesday. “It’s really just a couple of guys coming in from the last game. It’s arguably a stronger team than the one before, so I have no concerns about it.”
Rennie’s assertion might come off as a little strange given the players missing – regular starters Darren Mattocks, Dane Richards and Gershon Koffie are all away on international duty, and captain Jay DeMerit will sit out due to a concussion suffered in last Saturday’s match – but when the likely replacements are examined, it’s easy to see why the Scotsman is confident.
Up top, Designated Player Kenny Miller looks to receive his first start by replacing Mattocks, while Andy O’Brien is also expected to make his full Whitecaps debut in DeMerit’s stead at center back.
In midfield, John Thorrington will likely replace Koffie, while the favorite for Richards’ wide-right attacking role must be Atiba Harris.
Add Cannon replacing Brad Knighton in the Whitecaps goal, and if all of those changes come to pass, Vancouver’s squad will be 33 years older than the one that lined up in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake.
That sort of experienced depth was perhaps best emphasized in the weekend’s match, when O’Brien seamlessly replaced the injured DeMerit half an hour into the game.
“[O’Brien] stepped right in the other night and it didn’t seem like there was much of a loss,” Cannon said. “I think any position on our team right now is that way. A guy could go down, and we could replace him with someone, and we don’t lose anything at all.”
While Rennie seems happy enough with his squad’s ability to handle national team call-ups, when asked if MLS should consider reworking the schedule to better align with the international calendar, he was more than receptive.
“It would be nice to have that and I think it would benefit everyone,” Rennie said of international breaks. “If you look at [Dallas], they’re going to be missing Brek Shea and [Julian] de Guzman, and I think [Carlos] Rodríguez as well. De Guzman and Brek Shea are very key players and they’re going to be missing, so I’d like to see that.
“Especially when it comes down the stretch, I think we have to have that. I’ve not looked ahead to see if that’s the case or not. We have plenty of breaks, so they just need to be timed right.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.