Busy Whitecaps shift into grind mode in CCL opener: "We did a job today"

The Vancouver Whitecaps got their 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League campaign off to a winning start with a hard-fought, but fully deserved, 1-0 win at Trinidad & Tobago champions Central FC on Tuesday night.

With the game coming just two days after their energy-sapping league loss in Dallas, Carl Robinson rang the changes as expected, with an entirely different starting 11 and a matchday squad that featured four call-ups from Vancouver's USL side.

The Whitecaps have fallen foul of such wholesale changes in the past, but this time the team gelled quickly, earning Vancouver their first-ever Champions League points on the road.

"It's not an easy place to come to," Robinson told reporters after the match. "The pitch is sticky and they've a very good team. It's a difficult environment to play and there were a few meaty challenges going in.

"We're delighted to get the victory. But it's just one game, so we won't be getting carried away."

Robinson has steadfastly stated that all of his players will get their opportunities, and that when they come around it's up to them to seize them. With the Whitecaps in the middle of a very testing three-game road stretch in MLS, the 'Caps coach felt this was the ideal chance to utilize his fringe guys, and was delighted that they rose to the occasion for the most part.

"We played on Sunday in Dallas, in 41-degree [Celsius, 105 Fahrenheit] heat," Robinson mused. "So the guys that played in that didn't travel with me today and I used the majority of my squad. We play again on Saturday at altitude [vs. Colorado Rapids], so it will be a totally different team again. That's why you have a squad. It's not about a team, it's about a squad.

"So my squad gets stretched. It will get put to use, but you've got to win. You've got to grind out results because at the end of the day, football's about winning. We did a job today. Can we be better? Yes. Do we need to be better? Yes. But we won."

Although it wasn't a complete performance by the Whitecaps, there were a number of impressive personal displays in the win, especially on the back line.

Fresh off an impressive display at the weekend that saw him earn USL Team of the Week honors, Spencer Richey started in goal for the 'Caps, earning the shutout in his first-ever competitive minutes with the first team. 

For a Vancouver defense that has struggled at times this season, that clean sheet was particularly pleasing.

"To keep the clean sheet, and nick the 1-0 win away from home, in difficult conditions against a decent side, we're happy," veteran defender David Edgar said after the match.

"We took our chance when it came. I thought we defended quite well. We restricted them to shots outside the box. We could have been tidier in our play, but we had some young boys playing today and I thought overall it was a good performance."

Edgar is hoping that the win will push Vancouver on to a successful campaign in the rest of the group stage and see the Whitecaps advance to the knockout rounds for the first time.

"We want to win every game that we're in," Edgar added. "And it gives boys who maybe aren't playing in the first team some minutes and play. It's a fantastic competition to be in, so we want to go as far as we can."