VANCOUVER, B.C. – Tensions were high and tempers flared at Vancouver Whitecaps training on Wednesday, as goalkeeper David Ousted and captain Pedro Morales squared up to each other in an expletive-ridden exchange.
The incident started when Morales sat down on the ground at the halfway line after a scrimmage game. Ousted came over to ask if he'd "checked out" or was injured. Strong words were exchanged and the Dane headed back into his box.
But it wasn't over for Morales, who eventually got up and headed straight towards Ousted. The players squared up and started pushing each other, leading to the 'keeper telling the 'Caps captain that if he wanted to "fight on a football pitch" then he should do that on a Saturday.
Cool heads soon prevailed and, as far as Ousted was concerned, that fire on display was what is needed from the team on the training pitch.
"That's the way it's supposed to be," Ousted said. "When someone isn't doing their job, we as leaders are supposed to step up and tell them. That's all that happened. It's nothing too wild."
Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has cited the need for more leadership from his squad in recent weeks and it was perhaps telling that whilst Ousted was happy to talk with reporters after training finished, Morales refused to speak on the incident and headed back to the training center.
Robinson, who described Wednesday's training as "intense," was down at the other end of the pitch working with a small group of players and said he never saw the incident. But he noted that even if he had witnessed it playing out, he'd have left the veterans to get on with it.
"I'm not doing the Arsene Wenger one, but I did not see it," Robinson told reporters afterwards. "But I like it. Of course I do. If I had to take control of everything myself, you'd see me squaring up to a few of the veterans throughout the season.
"Sometimes from a player perspective, it's good that a player tells someone if they're not happy. I'm not into all these whispering-behind-backs nonsense that happens in school playgrounds and stuff. If you've got a problem, just tell them, and I think my two senior players did it today. They dealt with it and they trained very well afterwards, which is the key."
The Whitecaps' season will come to a close on Sunday with the visit of Cascadian rivals the Portland Timbers (4 pm ET; TSN1 in Canada and MLS LIVE in the US), but Wednesday's training ground altercation will likely leave many observers thinking that it's too little, too late for a side that has missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
So just where has that fire and passion on display been the rest of this season?
"Good question," said Ousted. "That's partly on us as leaders. We haven't been doing that enough. That's partly on me as well for not doing that enough. Like I've said all along, we need to show these emotions.
"We need to show that fans that we're not just here to go down with another loss and especially not with Portland coming in. We've got a chance to stop their playoff season and that's what we're going to do."