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The Vancouver Whitecaps have a number of veteran players in their side. There is no doubting the talent in some of these players, like Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento, Peter Vagenas, Mustapha Jarju and John Thorrington, but at times, they do look jaded and a bit complacent.
Over the course of the season, there have been a number of games which the Whitecaps should have won but didn't. One such game is the recent game against the New York Red Bulls. Up a goal and up a man towards the end, the Whitecaps should have had it in the bag. But a combination of sloppy play and complacency allowed New York to equalize, and the Whitecaps dropped points yet again.
The loss against Portland led to Jay DeMerit, goalkeeper Joe Cannon and Tommy Soehn to openly question the so-called "heart" and drive of the team, wondering if players where "getting up" for the game and whether they deserved to play for the team at all.
And the veterans should be looking over their shoulders, for the Whitecaps actually have a number of hungry, talented youngsters just itching for a chance to break into the first team.
Head coach Soehn gave some of these youngsters a chance in the RSL game hoping they could inject some life into a listless team. They did. And how.
Striker Long Tan (pictured) and winger Nizar Khalfan were brought in for the suspended Eric Hassli and Shea Salinas. Defenders Carlyle Mitchell and Jeb Brovsky were all inserted into the starting lineup. Jordan Harvey was pushed up to the left of midfield, dropping Davide Chiumiento to the bench. Peter Vagenas was dropped for John Thorrington. Even forgotten striker Omar Salgado was given a run out, and he promptly picked up an assist.
What transpired was a truly wonderful game for the Whitecaps, 90 minutes of energy and drive where players constantly created chances and closed opponents down. The youngsters made a good showing for themselves, and even though we shouldn't expect a complete youth overhaul, it's nice to know that the Whitecaps can call on some youth when the veterans need a kick in the rump.
It's unknown how much the coaching turmoil has affected the first team, but Tommy Soehn is on his way out next season. In new head coach Martin Rennie, the team will have a talented and stable force guiding them, which should do wonders for the team's mentality.
Nevertheless, when the veterans do come back, hopefully they'll remember the youngsters they have breathing down their necks.