VANCOUVER, B.C. – With both clubs still very much in preseason form, the timing of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal between the New York Red Bulls and the Vancouver Whitecaps (8 pm ET; UDN/Live on CONCACAF’s Facebook page) is far from ideal for either side.
But at least it’s the same for both MLS teams, having avoided clubs in midseason form in the knockout stage, with New York head coach Jesse Marsch calling the tie one of the Red Bulls “biggest games of the season” last week. Vancouver agree.
“Yeah, I think they’ve got that right,” Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted said of Marsch’s comments. “We have the same mentality. This is a huge game in this club’s history. We’re excited to go and hopefully get a good result in New York. It’s one of those things. You want, as a player, to be part of a club’s history.
“From a personal perspective, that’s definitely something to go for. For the team, this is a chance to set up our season the right way and get it started the right way. It’s a big game, but one we’re looking forward to.”
Ousted admits that Wednesday's game will likely feature two teams who might not play the most polished soccer, but the intensity’s going to be there.
That chance to make history as the first MLS club to win the tournament under the current format certainly seems to be one of the driving forces behind the Whitecaps players as they head into the two-legged tie.
“We watched another Canadian team do it in the past and it was incredible to watch Montreal do it,” Russell Teibert said of the Impact’s run to the final in 2015, which they eventually lost to Mexico’s Club America. “We want to do the exact same thing, except win in the final.”
But if the No. 1 seeded Whitecaps are to advance and set up a semifinal meeting with either Mexican side Tigres or Pumas, they’re going to have to do it the hard way, with their attack ravaged by injuries.
New signing Fredy Montero isn’t up to match fitness and won’t travel to New York, although Vancouver are hopeful he will be good to go for the second leg next Thursday.
The biggest concern for the Whitecaps comes in the No. 10 spot. New addition Yordy Reyna picked up an injury in the preseason tournament in Portland. He was in a walking boot and crutches on Sunday and is expected to be missing for a number of weeks. With veteran midfielder Christian Bolaños (knee) and Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Mezquida (hip) also missing the trip, it will test ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson’s squad depth early in the season, but he’s confident his young team can go out and get the job done.
“It’s not going to be won in the first leg but it can certainly be lost in the first leg,” Robinson told reporters. “We have to make sure that they’re right and drilled into what we want to do. We’ve got a number of injuries. There’s a few key personnel missing, so whatever team goes out and steps on the field will have a role and responsibility to do and we’ll be prepared.
“It’s good that a MLS team will qualify out of this tie and go through to the semifinals, so that’s an advantage from a neutral point of view, but I want it to be us.”