VANCOUVER, B.C. – Lee Young-Pyo has played every minute of every game for the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS league play this season, but that streak is set to end.
The former South Korean international is feeling the effects of the extensive travel schedule in North American soccer, and the club will give the 35-year-old the weekend off to let him recover, meaning he won’t make the trip to for Saturday’s encounter with the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (10 pm ET, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada, MLS Live).
“He’s come to a league where there’s a lot more travel than any other league he’s played in previous to this,” club president Bob Lenarduzzi told Vancouver radio station CKNW on Thursday. “He’s been one of our best players throughout the season, but he’s hit the wall and is a very tired player right now.
“We could take him into LA and we do have two weeks off after that, but the feeling amongst our coaching staff was that we would be better served to get him ready for the last six games of the season for getting a break this Saturday.”
At the other side of the field, the club will be without rookie Darren Mattocks following his straight red card for raising his elbow while challenging for a ball with Portland Timbers defender David Horst last weekend.
Other doubts include recent signing and former Irish international center back Andy O’Brien, as well as central midfielder Gershon Koffie. Both players have seen time on the sidelines during training this week due to right adductor strains.
Despite potentially missing a few players and going through a tough stretch in which the team has only picked up two wins from its last 10 matches, the feeling within the group is that a win on Saturday can keep the playoff push on track.
“To be honest looking at our schedule I think we’re just kind of at the lower end of a bump and it’s just going to take one result to get us going in the right direction,” goalkeeper Joe Cannon said after a training session this week. “With those four home games – I don’t think any of us are panicking at this point. I think the thing for us though is that we want to start playing really well as a team before heading into the playoffs.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.