Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Abscences Will Test Depth At Key Positions

At the beginning of the season there was a question of depth for the Whitecaps and whether the team could handle a rash of injuries.  Unfortunately for the Teitur and the Caps the answer is required sooner rather than later as the roster could be without up to nine players available for selection this Saturday against Sporting KC.  The latest in the injury cavalcade is Captain Jay DeMerit who tweaked his groin in the international friendly for the United States against Paraguay.  Along with the list of injuries can be included a suspension and a couple of players who are on international duty for their countries.

In addition to the injury to DeMerit, who is still to be evaluated by the medical staff, the Whitecaps are still without midfielders Shea Salinas, Davide Chiumiento, John Thorrington, Micheal Nanchoff and goalkeeper Jay Nolly.  Of those players Thorrington and Nolly are the only players that have a chance to play against Sporting KC.  Eric Hassli, the team’s Designated Player, is out due to a suspension from receiving two yellow cards against Philadelphia.  Both their 1st overall choice Omar Salgado, who just received transfer papers and homegrown player Russell Teibert, already with two starts, are off with their national squads at the U20 CONCACAF tournament.

Add it up and and the Whitecaps are missing nine players that are capable of being in the starting eleven for this weekend’s match.  However when you take a closer look at the missing players and their positions, there are only three spots in the lineup that will be greatly affected.  The loss of DeMerit  will be alleviated by the return of Michael Boxall from international duty and Greg Janicki’s surprising play against the Union.  Both Jay Nolly and John Thorrington have been covered well by Joe Cannon and Gershon Koffie in the starting lineup.

The positions where the Whitecaps are hurting the most are both wide midfield spots and the forward to play next to Atiba Harris, who has yet to practice due to his ankle.  At the striker position Teitur will have to select from Camilo or Long Tan to make their first start in MLS.  The Brazilian striker gives the Caps a speedy forward who has proven to be a prolific goal scorer at a professional level.  Although that league was Malta, Camilo has had some flashes in preseason and scored a couple of goals.  Tan, who made his first appearance last week, gives the team a larger target who is tenacious on and off the ball.  Because Tan plays a similar style to Atiba Harris, Camillo is the best option to start and will give a different look up front.

Both the left midfield and right midfield spots are in equal disarray when it comes to selecting starters for this weekend.  The left side is missing Russell Teibert who is off the Canadian national U20 team in World Cup qualifying as well as 1st round pick Micheal Nanchoff who has yet to see any training with the team.  Davide Chiumiento, who was a revelation in the opening first half, has been suffering from a hamstring injury.  The options for these spots are Nizar Khalfan, who can play both, and Blake Wagner on the left and if Khalfan is selected for that side Wes Knight will be an option for the right.  Both Khalfan, right mid, and Wagner, left back, struggled last week in their starts, especially Khalfan who gave away the ball too easily.  While coming off the bench as a midfielder, Knight is natural right back and lacks the experience to play in the middle of the pitch.  The wild card could be John Thorrington who if ready could slide into one of those spots despite normally playing as a central midfield.

Teitur Thoradson was hoping that the young players filling out the bottom of the roster wouldn’t be tested until later in the season.  Unfortunately with all the absences, injury or otherwise, the Whitecaps will have to continue to throw these inexperienced players into the fire of MLS.   If the Whitecaps can squeak out a result against Sporting KC then some of the injured should recover for the midweek match against the Revolution and the starting eleven can return to looking solid once more.

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