VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Vancouver Whitecaps won't be facing Thierry Henry or Rafa Márquez, but that doesn't mean Wednesday's match against the New York Red Bulls at BC Place (11 pm ET, TSN in Canada/MLS Live in US) will be a walk in the park.
The pair of Designated Players are missing with a calf strain and a thigh contusion, respectively.
"Obviously [Márquez] is a top player, as is Henry, and those guys do bring a lot to the team," head coach Martin Rennie told reporters after a training session at BC Place this week. "But without Henry they've been on a good run of winning games, and, for us, I think no matter who you play there's usually one or two guys missing. It's been the case for us as well — people only look at the other team and see who they're missing and don't look at who we're missing.
"There's games where we've missed a lot of players at times and that's just part of the game."
While some on the Whitecaps may be licking at their chops at playing a weakened Red Bulls side, Davide Chiumiento isn't so keen on missing out on an opportunity to test himself against some of the league's most talented individuals.
"Personally I like always when these kind of players play," Chiumiento said. "It's better for the game and it's a pleasure to play against these big players. When they're not here, maybe it's good too, but personally I love when these big players start."
One player missing for the Whitecaps will be Darren Mattocks, who picked up two bookings in Vancouver's 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. That means either Eric Hassli, Camilo or Michael Nanchoff is expected to slot into one of the three attacking positions.
But the big forward being discussed in the Whitecaps camp isn't Henry, Hassli, Camilo or the suspended Mattocks — it's Red Bulls striker Kenny Cooper, who co-leads the league’s scoring charts with 11 alongside San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski.
"He's obviously done very well since he's gone there," Rennie said. "He's definitely someone that they rely on for goals, so you know we have to be at our best against him. We need to mark him well and do well as a team to reduce the amount of balls he gets and make sure when he has it we're switched on."
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.