VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps are in for a busy summer.
Major League Soccer’s regular season, the Amway Canadian Championship final and the CONCACAF Champions League means the club will play 11 games between Sunday and the end of August.
Vancouver’s depth has already been tested at times in 2015, and it will once again be front and centre during a crowded seven-week stretch.
“It’s going to be tough,” Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted said Tuesday. “We’re going to need everybody. I think you’ll see that hopefully the strength of this team is going to be the depth of the squad. A lot of young guys are coming up now showing they’ve got the level to compete.”
International duty and injuries could further complicate things for Vancouver over the next two months. Jamaican striker Darren Mattocks and Canadian midfielder Russell Teibert are away at the Gold Cup, while captain Pedro Morales and defender Pa-Modou Kah are both dealing with calf injuries.
Kah was hurt in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids that wrapped up Vancouver’s five-game road trip during the Women’s World Cup, while Morales has missed the last three outings.
“With the amount of games that we have, everyone will play,” said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. “Everyone will get their chance, and then it’s down to them whether they take their chance or not.”
Apart from the regular-season schedule, the Whitecaps play the two-legged Canadian final against the Montreal Impact on Aug. 12 and Aug. 26 after opening the Champions League group stage against the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 5.
“We’ve got enough players here in the squad,” said Vancouver striker/midfielder Kekuta Manneh. “We have younger guys and some of the guys who have been with the second team … it will be interesting to see, but I’m sure we have a deep enough squad to manage that.”
Vancouver finished with three wins and two losses on its road trip while B.C. Place Stadium was occupied during the World Cup. Manneh has contributed three goals over the last four games after scoring just once in his first 13. The 20-year-old Gambian was neutralized by opponents at times earlier this season, but is starting to show flashes of the player he can become.
“It feels great. I’ve always been wanting to score,” said Manneh. “I had chances at the beginning of the season and for some reason they didn’t go in. Now they’re going in. All I can do is keep working hard.”
Robinson said confidence is among the biggest reasons for Manneh’s improvement.
“I think his levels have got higher tactically, technically … fitness-wise as well,” said the coach. “He’s got to continue to push himself, if he does he won’t be far away.”
The Whitecaps currently sit tied on points with Seattle atop the Western Conference standings, but they know everyone has to be on board with the hardest part of the year still to come.
That starts with Sunday’s home game against Sporting Kansas City.
“We need to be strong,” said Ousted. “We have a lot of games. We’re going to need the whole squad.”
Notes: Tuesday’s light practice in Stanley Park ended with the players competing in hybrid games of soccer/tennis in front of a number of curious onlookers. … Robinson attended the Women’s World Cup final with his family and was stunned by the United States’ four-goal barrage in the first 16 minutes of that 5-2 victory over Japan. “It was something I thought I’d never see,” he said. “Delighted I was there.”