Residency products Bryce Alderson and Marco Carducci are set for their Whitecaps debuts, while former first overall draft pick Omar Salgado has rejoined the side from a loan stint.
VANCOUVER – True to his word from the weekend, Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson will give some of his younger players a run-out when Vancouver begins its 2014 Amway Canadian Championship campaign in Toronto on Wednesday night.
The former Wales international hinted at his plans by the roster he submitted last week to the Canadian Soccer Association for their semifinal clash versus MLS rival Toronto FC.
Robinson confirmed that 17-year-old goalkeeper Marco Carducci and 20-year-old midfielder Bryce Alderson will make their professional debuts versus The Reds at BMO Field. Canadian international Russell Teibert is also expected to start against his former club.
"I will play young players," Robinson said to reporters at Vancouver airport on Monday. "I've got a young squad in my first team anyway, so this gives me another chance to evaluate some of my other younger players within the squad. There's a few Canadians that will be in the starting XI and a few Canadians on the bench as well, so that's very healthy."
With an MLS weekend trip to Columbus Crew to follow, the former Wales international will rest some of his senior players this week. They include the veteran centre-back pairing of captain Jay DeMerit and Andy O'Brien. Johnny Leveron, Carlyle Mitchell, and MLS SuperDraft pick Christian Dean will be the centre backs in consideration for a start at BMO Field.
With Wednesday's match the first of a two-leg semifinal series with TFC, Robinson's plans to play a younger side in Southern Ontario will come as surprise to some observers, with Whitecaps FC still searching for their first Voyageurs Cup title.
MATCH PREVIEW: Toronto FC - Vancouver Whitecaps
Yet, as a Canadian Championship winner with Toronto FC, then a two-time finalist for the title as a 'Caps assistant coach, Robinson knows what the Voyageurs Cup means to Vancouver and its supporters. In playing some of his Canadian youngsters, he also sees the value of the competition to their development.
"I want the likes of Marco (Carducci) to get this opportunity because I know what it means to Canadian players," said Robinson. "I've been fortunate to win this tournament as a Welshman and it meant a lot to me. It's a chance for us to win a trophy. When you set your goals at the start of the season, you want to win every game, so we're going there (to Toronto) to win."
Signed to a Homegrown contract at the start of the season, Carducci is thrilled to have the chance to make his professional debut on an important Canadian soccer stage.
"I'm really excited," the Calgary native told reporters. "When I got the news, it was a really exciting moment for me. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been preparing for it, but it's coming up now, so I'm looking forward to Wednesday."
For Alderson, the opportunity to make his Whitecaps first team debut has been two-and-a-half years in the making, but the Kitchener, Ontario, native could not be happier to do so in front of family and friends.
"To be able to make my professional debut and my first professional start at, kind of, my hometown in Toronto is fantastic," Alderson said.
Though the decisive second leg is set for Vancouver's BC Place next week, Robinson is not looking to be defensive-minded in Toronto.
"With my young group of players, my philosophy won't change from my first team to my younger group, and even down to the (Whitecaps) Residency (program)," Robinson said. "We will try to be attacking and possess the ball. It might slightly vary because we are away from home, but we won't set out to play for 0-0. We'll set up to try and score because if we score one (goal), they'll need two to beat us."
Ahead of Wednesday's first leg, Robinson boosted his Whitecaps attack by recalling striker Omar Salgado from the club's United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL PRO) affiliate Charleston Battery on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old returns to the Blue & White after spending a month-and-a-half on loan with the South Carolina outfit. The El Paso, Texas, native scored two goals and added one assist in five appearances with Charleston.
Little has been seen of Salgado in Vancouver since the tall goalscorer broke a bone in his foot while on United States U-20 national team duty during the 2012 season.