VANCOUVER, B.C. — A test against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Herbalife World Football Challenge is just what Manchester City want as they prepare for the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League campaigns ahead.
The game represents a chance for the Citizens to regain match fitness and sharpness – although they didn’t look too out of form in a 2-0 win over Club América on Saturday – and for players to prove to the coach they’re good enough to play a starting role for one of England’s top sides.
“We’re gearing up for our big season and we can’t take anything lightly,” Manchester City starting goalkeeper Joe Hart told MLSsoccer.com at a press conference on Sunday evening. “We’re judged on our performances and our fitness. It’s a great opportunity to come out here and do something different and play against some different players.”
The boys from the blue side of Manchester looked comfortable in their victory over Club América and will look to carry that momentum over to Monday for the match at Empire Field.
“[North American soccer] is a great standard,” Hart said. “I can only go off what happened yesterday. We had a good game against Club América and we’re looking forward to another good game tomorrow. It should be exciting.”
Manchester City enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in recent memory last campaign and are looking at the Herbalife World Football Challenge as a springboard for even greater success this season.
“We proved last season that we’re good enough to mix it with the so-called top four,” defender Micah Richards said. “After getting third [in the English Premier League] and winning the FA Cup, people can really start taking us seriously now. If we get some more additions this summer and build on what we did last season, there’s no reason we can’t compete for the title.”
Manchester City notes
Sunday’s press conference was also a chance for Richards to link up with his cousin, Whitecaps striker Atiba Harris. The two hadn’t seen each other since 2004, but were all smiles as Harris showed off his young daughter, Laila, to his English relative.
“It’s been a long time, but it’s really nice to see him,” Richards explained. “Unfortunately, he can’t play [due to a knee injury], so it’s a bit of a bummer. But I’m sure we’ll meet again sometime soon.
“I remember when I was about 10, I went to St. Kitts with my mum and dad, and about 20 of us went to training,” Richards continued. “[Harris] is three years older than me, so he was a bit better than me back then, but I’d give him a run for his money now!”
The English national team defender reacted favorably when asked if he would consider coming to Major League Soccer later in his career.
“Yeah, it would be nice to play over here,” Richards said. “[Teammate] Shaun Wright-Phillips is quite close with Thierry Henry, and he always says how nice it is, so maybe one day [I’ll come to MLS].”