Vancouver Whitecaps will be missing five players to international duty for next Wednesday’s key Western Conference match up at home to Dallas.
That’s the bad news. The only slightly better news is that at least it’s only two of the first team regulars that will be MIA.
When those two are your potent, and scarily fast, Jamaican attackers Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards, that’s only a source for a little crumb of comfort.
Mattocks and Richards will be with the Jamaican squad as they prepare for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers when they take on El Salvador in a friendly in Washington, D.C.
Russell Teibert earns his first call-up to the Canadian senior national team as they head to Fort Lauderdale to face Trinidad and Tobago for their own World Cup preparations.
Facing the Canucks in Florida will be Teibert’s Caps’ team-mate Carlyle Mitchell. Having already had their dreams of Brazil 2014 shattered, T&T are looking to rebuild and this gives 24-year-old Mitchell a great chance to stake a claim to a regular international starting spot, even if he can’t get one in Vancouver.
The fifth of the international quintet is Etienne Barbara.
The Malteser will be the only player to miss both Saturday’s game with Real Salt Lake and the midweek Dallas game, as he flies to Europe to play for Malta in San Marino.
Whether all five of the players will see much game time for their countries is currently the unknown, but I would expect to see at least Richards and Barbara getting starts.
This will be Mattocks’ second call up to the Jamaican senior squad, and although he has yet to earn a full international cap, his recent form in MLS will surely see coach Theodore Whitmore wanting to have a look at him at the top level.
All of this is great news for the players involved and a nice reward for all the hard work they put in at club level.
For the Whitecaps though it is a double edged sword.
On the one hand, it is great kudos to the Caps for assembling such talent in Vancouver, on the other, they lose players for a match and then they will come back tired as the team head into back to back Cascadia derbies and a grueling four game road trip.
Those are the perils of signing international caliber players faced by clubs the world over.
It certainly gives the Whitecaps management a bit of a headache, but when AFTN spoke to Martin Rennie last month about that very issue, it was one that he knew was coming and felt that Vancouver would deal with it without too many problems, telling us:
“We just have to manage it when that time comes.
I think having players of that quality you’re going to maybe miss them occasionally here and there, but I don’t think it’s a major problem for us.”
That time has now come and it will be interesting to see if this has any detrimental impact on the Whitecaps playoff push.
Personally, I can just about handle losing these players to international duty when it’s games that matter. Important qualification matches and tournaments is one thing. Friendlies is a whole different ball game.
At least for Jamaica and Canada, these games are not entirely meaningless, as they will give some preparation time for their squads to gel before hitting World Cup action.
It’s just all very frustrating to be missing them for MLS games.
As this is a date in the international calendar for many countries around the world, was it really too much to have Major League Soccer not schedule any games next week? Especially when you look at all of the bye weeks teams have over the season.
At least Scotland manager Craig Levein noted the distance involved and didn’t call up Kenny Miller or Barry Robson for the friendly against Australia.
MLS have made strides in not clashing with international games in recent seasons. They just need to take one more.
Let’s hope these absences don’t cost the Whitecaps ground in the playoff chase.
About the author:
Michael McColl began writing about football in 1989 and has freelanced for various newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK, before moving to Vancouver in 2007. He is the editor of “Away From the Numbers”, which can be currently found over on Canadian Soccer News, and a regular columnist with the Metro. He is also a member of the North American Soccer Reporters association and Vancouver Southsiders supporters club.