VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps get back to MLS action on Wednesday with a Canadian derby against the Montreal Impact (10 pm ET; MLS Live in US, TSN/RDS in Canada). And they may be set to welcome back a familiar face to their backline for the game.
After conceding six goals in their last two matches, yet still managing to take four points away from them, the Whitecaps focus at training this past week has been shoring up their defense. But it will be a defense with a forced change to it following the injury of their captain, center back Jay DeMerit.
Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has a few options available to him, with Carlyle Mitchell looking the one likely to come in and get his chance to stake a claim on a starting spot alongside Andy O'Brien.
"I'm very excited to play this game because I haven't played for a while," Mitchell told reporters at training on Monday. "Big opportunity for me as well, so I've got to come in and do my best.
"It's soccer. Someone gets injured, so someone has stepped up. Unfortunately for Jay he gets injured so now I get my chance. Now I got to go there and grab my opportunity with both hands."
Mitchell has yet to feature for Vancouver this season in league play, but he has played and impressed in both of Vancouver's Canadian Championship outings against Toronto and will give an added aerial presence for the Whitecaps in both boxes.
The 26-year-old defender is in his fourth season with the 'Caps and already has 20 MLS appearances under his belt and although he hasn't played very often with O'Brien during those appearances, he feels comfortable regardless of his partner.
"The pairing of me and Andy, we've been doing well in training," Mitchell said. "So it's normal. We've got to communicate as a team, as a back four."
After a season plagued by center back injuries last year, veteran O'Brien is getting used to a change of defensive partners, but he has no doubts that Mitchell has what it takes to come in and do the job after seeing him work hard on his game in the last few months.
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"I've seen a big development in him," O'Brien said of Mitchell at training. "I think he's matured. Not only in age but in terms of how he is in the dressing room and the dynamics of that. He's a good defender. I think he's got the attributes to be and continue to be a good defender.
"He's an international defender, so we're not talking about someone who hasn't played before or is a rookie. He's an established player coming into the prime of his career."
Mitchell's last MLS appearance came in the 3-2 loss away to Colorado on October 19 last season but O'Brien doesn't feel that time away from the first team will prove hard to readjust to for the Trinidad and Tobago international.
"It can be difficult, but we're not talking about someone who has never played for the Whitecaps or is starting his career," O'Brien noted. "We're talking about an established player. If Mitchell's playing, I don't think there's any worries or issues with regards to what he brings to the team or what he can do."