VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping Lee Young-Pyo’s midseason mini-break pays dividends going into the final stretch of the season.
Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) should be the first away match for the 36-year-old since a June 8 game against Seattle.
This after Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie gave the veteran right fullback a break on an eastern road swing which saw Vancouver face D.C. United on June 29 and Sporting KC on July 3, instead dropping midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker back to Lee’s position for a two-game spell which saw the 'Caps pick up a win and a draw.
The hope is that two-game rest will help Lee recharge his batteries ahead of the club’s push for a second consecutive playoff berth – and into the postseason if necessary.
The coach and his player discussed the possibility of a break given Lee’s dropoff as the 2012 season came to a close. While the former Tottenham Hotspur defender started last season strongly, the fatigue late in the season appeared to affect his performances.
But in his two matches since the two-game break, Lee has looked more energized – bombing up and down the right flank and overlapping with Corey Hertzog.
“He seems pretty fresh,” Rennie said after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Thursday. “I thought the last game he was excellent against Chicago. I thought he was really, really good. I think that break was important. It came for the right time for him.
“Now the games are spread out much more evenly, a game a week almost all the way in. I think he can definitely handle that.”
Given that Lee has stated that he is almost certain to retire at season’s end, Rennie is hoping the knowledge that this is likely his swan song will mean the former South Korean international performs optimally.
“This is most likely the last season for him,” Rennie said. “So it’s a big motivation for him to make the most of every game and to bring his best. Obviously we know when he does that he’s one of our best players.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.