VANCOUVER, B.C. – Only a game into their MLS era, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will already have their depth tested significantly.
With half the squad in San Jose on Tuesday for a reserve match – combined with injuries and international call-ups – only 10 players trained a day before the team departs for Philadelphia to play their first-ever road game.
Jay DeMerit and Michael Boxall, the two starting center backs from the opening match, were absent on Tuesday. DeMerit is away with the US national team and could miss the match against the Union, while Michael Boxall is out with New Zealand.
“It’s just how it is, [but] we’ll be competitive,” asserted head coach Teitur Thordarson.
The good news for Thordarson is that center back Greg Janicki (above) is fully recovered from a calf strain and ready to play on Saturday. The 6-foot-3 defender was expected to start the opening match at Empire Field and – with captain DeMerit absent – he’ll be counted upon to lead from the back to slow down Philly’s attack.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve tried to change is to be more vocal,” said Janicki. “We’ve just got to go out there and focus on staying tight, staying together, and we should be OK. I was disappointed to miss the first home game on Saturday. I’m just going to go out there and do my best this weekend. I’m real pumped up about it.”
Thordarson has several options with how he can arrange his back line alongside Janicki and right back Jonathan Leathers. He could slide Alain Rochat to the middle and put Blake Wagner in on the left, but with Davide Chiumiento and Russell Teibert possibly missing the match with hamstring and groin injuries, respectively, Wagner may be needed on the wing.
Two other players who could step in are rookies Jeb Brovsky and Bilal Duckett. Both have shown the ability to play at either center back or on the left.
All three substitute defenders were in San Jose on Tuesday for the reserve match against the Earthquakes, a fact that could prove crucial ahead of a potential opportunity to play come Saturday.
“I think it’s good,” said Janicki. “Hopefully they’ll have a little bit of momentum, build some confidence and be ready to go on Saturday.”
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