The club was forced to turn to their bench in a big way against FC Dallas on Wednesday, but flopped to a 2-0 defeat, potentially disspelling the myth of the team's superior depth.
With Gershon Koffie suspended, Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks away on international duty, and captain Jay DeMerit concussed, in stepped John Thorrington into midfield, Atiba Harris onto the wing, Kenny Miller up front, and Andy O’Brien at centre back.
Joe Cannon’s return to goal from suspension in place of backup Brad Knighton made it five total changes.
Now maybe it’s not a question of depth entirely – of the four players who stepped into Wednesday’s lineup, none would be expected to be match fit, or at least, not match sharp.
O’Brien and Miller are essentially in preseason mode after recently arriving from England, while Harris and Thorrington have spent extended periods on the sidelines due to injury.
While the changes didn’t quite bring about a positive result on Wednesday, Saturday once again will test the club’s depth.
Martin Bonjour will miss out due to suspension for yellow card accumulation, increasing the importance of a potential return for DeMerit.
Vancouver’s captain made a brief appearance at training at Burnaby Lake field on Thursday, but didn’t train with his teammates despite wearing a training jersey – head coach Martin Rennie was noncommittal on whether the player will be ready to face the Seattle Sounders on the road this weekend.
“He seems to be feeling a lot better,” Rennie said. “Still not sure he’ll play on Saturday, but he seems to be coming on fine.”
What that means for Vancouver is a likely start for Jordan Harvey at left fullback, with Alain Rochat partnering O’Brien in central defence. Whoever he’s asked to partner, O’Brien seems unperturbed by the situation.
“You just get on with it,” O’Brien said. “It’s as simple as that really. We had five changes the other night. It’s part of football nowadays, whether it’s international games, suspensions or injuries. We’re a group of players, we stick together and you get your opportunity due to certain circumstances sometimes, and this is another one.”
While Rennie suggested his lineup for the Dallas match actually might be stronger than the one that defeated Real Salt Lake on Saturday before Wednesday’s match, given the way things played out it will most likely be a reversion to Saturday’s lineup apart from the two likely enforced changes at centre back.
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Saturday’s match with Seattle has all the makings of a blockbuster match – a crowd of over 54,000 is expected, it’s a derby encounter between Cascadia rivals, and will be a key match for playoff position given Vancouver sits tied on points with 37, although Seattle have two matches in hand.
“It’s got all of the elements of a great derby match,” Thorrington said. “It’s important in terms of the league standings, there’ll be a great crowd and the local rivalry is huge for us as players.”
Despite the hype surrounding the match, Rennie wouldn’t be drawn into calling it a “must-win” affair.
“It’s not a must win,” Rennie said. “It’s a big game for both teams and for our fans – it’s one of those games you feel like you’re desperate to win. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t but we’re certainly at the moment not thinking of anything else but winning at the moment.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.