BURNABY, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps are set to get a boost in central midfield, as John Thorrington and Matt Watson return to full fitness.
While the current central trio of defensive midfielder Jun Marques Davidson and the more advanced Gershon Koffie and Barry Robson has shown the makings of an effective unit, beyond those three, head coach Martin Rennie hasn’t been spoiled for choice.
When Davidson was suspended for the club’s match against the Colorado Rapids on July 4, Rennie was forced into using starting left fullback Alain Rochat as a holding midfielder.
While Rochat had a good game in the club’s 1-0 victory and played there at Davidson’s expense in the following two matches, Rennie’s decision to use a defender in midfield illustrated how injuries had temporarily reduced the side’s depth in the middle.
“We’ve missed those guys,” Rennie told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at Swangard Stadium on Thursday, in reference to Thorrington and Watson. “A few weeks ago, our squad was quite thin, but all those guys are back out there now. They’ll all be in contention for the next game. That helps a lot. People don’t necessarily realize we’ve had quite a lot of players missing at different times in the season and getting them back is almost like having a new player.”
Vancouver are off until their Aug. 11 date with Real Salt Lake.
The experienced Thorrington in particular will provide further competition in midfield. The 32-year-old has struggled with quad injuries in both legs over the past two seasons which are the result of a neurological issue in his back, but when fit has generally started.
With the arrival of Designated Player Robson in midfield, walking back into the starting lineup isn’t necessarily a certainty – but it’s a challenge the former Manchester United trainee is up for, after returning to the squad for the club's last match as an unused substitute.
“The coaches know I’ll be back, I’ll fight hard and give everything,” Thorrington told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I’m not going to get ahead of myself or concentrate on anything that’s outside of my control. I’m going to focus on getting back and moving forward and contributing to the team in any way the coaches see fit.”
Watson (at right), who started six of the club’s first nine games this season – something he said “surprised” him given it is his first MLS season – is also available for selection after suffering a sprained ankle that lingered longer than he had originally anticipated. He’s been on the bench two games in a row now and like Thorrington is happy to battle for his place.
“Competition is good for the team and it’s always something that’s going to be around,” Watson told MLSsoccer.com this week. “If it’s better for the team as a whole I accept that. I think it’s going to make me work harder and make everyone else on the team work harder who plays a similar position. It’s always going to happen and definitely not something I’m upset about.”
Attakora training with ‘Caps
Ex-Toronto FC midfielder Nana Attakora trained with the Whitecaps on Thursday, but Rennie insists the player isn’t on the club’s radar as the San Jose Earthquakes own his MLS rights.
“He’s doing fine – he’s just here training for a few days,” Rennie said. “I think he’s probably going to go and play in Europe, so we’re just letting him train and get fit.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.