Injuries, busy schedule testing Whitecaps depth, character: coach

One ‘Caps player hoping to figure into the Red Bulls game is Felipe Martins

Vancouver Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos isn’t surprised at the injury bug spreading through his roster.

After all, it’s been a hectic month for the Whitecaps (3-6-4). On Wednesday, the squad will play its fifth of seven games in May when they visit the New York Red Bulls (5-5-2).

A number of key faces will likely be out of the lineup including centre back Doneil Henry, who suffered a hamstring strain in Vancouver’s 1-1 draw in Kansas City on Saturday.

“It’s very demanding the schedule of MLS and these injuries are going to happen,” Dos Santos said after his team trained in Kansas City on Monday.

“But it also tests the type of roster and depth that you have. And it also gives the opportunity for guys that really want to show that they belong and they deserve minutes to show what they’re made of.”

Lesser-known players have started to step up in recent matches. Rookie centre back Derek Cornelius came off the bench in Saturday’s contest and put away a goal in injury time to help the ‘Caps secure a crucial road point.

With so little time for players to recover, Dos Santos anticipates some more roster juggling will be necessary on Wednesday.

“We always said that everybody’s going to be important in stretches like this,” the coach said. “It challenges the depth that we have and the type of character that we have.”

One ‘Caps player hoping to figure into the Red Bulls game is Felipe Martins, who played 100 matches for New York before he was traded to Vancouver for centre back Tim Parker in March 2018.

The midfielder left Saturday’s game with an ankle injury but said he’ll be ready to play again come Wednesday. It would mark the 28 year old’s return to Red Bull Arena.

“When you play against your former team there’s always extra motivation,” Martins said. “I’m going to be looking, for sure, for the three points and to help my teammates.”

Martins added the Red Bulls have shown growth recently, winning four of their last five games.

“That’s what I expect from New York — a team that fights from the beginning to the end, a team that’s going to give everything every time they step on the field,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure we’re going to be ready for anything they throw at us.”

The Whitecaps know New York has a cannon in Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was third in Major League Soccer scoring last season with 20 goals. But the team isn’t concerned about any particular player, Dos Santos said.

“The ball scores. The ball goes in and makes a difference. So we prepare inside our model, inside our principles,” he said.

“We’re aware of their dangerous players but we don’t focus on one guy and just that. We focus on what we do as a team collectively and we’ll be ready on Wednesday.”

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (3-6-4) VS. NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-2-2)

Wednesday, Red Bull Arena

DEFENSIVE OFFENCE: Whitecaps centre backs Derek Cornelius, Erik Godoy and Doneil Henry have four of Vancouver’s 12 goals this season. Henry was the first ‘Cap to put up multiple goals this year.

SCORING BY COMMITTEE: The Red Bulls last 11 goals have come from 10 different players, including forward Tom Barlow who scored to lead a short-handed New York squad to a 1-0 victory over Atlanta United on Sunday.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: Four of New York’s five wins this season have come at Red Bull Arena.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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