VANCOUVER — It’s a new league on a different continent, but for midfielder Jordon Mutch the game stays pretty much the same.
Mutch spent a decade competing in the top levels of the English football before joining the Vancouver Whitecaps earlier this month on a one-year loan from Crystal Palace. Major League Soccer may not have the history or prestige of the English Premier League, but Mutch says the style of play is similar.
"If I’m being honest there’s not too much of a difference," said the soft-spoken 26-year-old from Derby, England. "It’s a very fast game over here and very similar to the Premier League.
"It’s very much what I thought it would be like. There’s not too much difference in the standards."
Mutch is expected to be in the lineup Saturday when the Whitecaps (2-1-0) host the LA Galaxy (1-1-0) at BC Place Stadium. He earned his first MLS assist in his first start last week during Vancouver’s 4-1 loss to Atlanta.
"It’s nice to get my first game under my belt and I’m looking forward too many more," said Mutch, who has scored 10 goals in the English Football League Championship and seven in the Premier League.
Something that does make MLS different is the travel. After playing in Houston and Atlanta the Whitecaps have already flown over 16,800 kilometres. That’s further then most English teams travel in a whole league season.
"That’s the nature of the league, you have to deal with it," shrugged Mutch. "You just get on with it and enjoy the matches."
At six-foot-two and 180 pounds Mutch brings some size to the Whitecaps’ lineup. He describes himself as a "box-to-box midfielder."
"I want to bring goals and I want to bring assists," he said.
While the style of game may be similar Mutch is still adapting to new teammates.
"You have to get to know the players, what they like, what they don’t like," he said. "What foot they like to receive on, what runs they like to make. I have been here three weeks now. I’m getting used to it."
So far Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson has been impressed with Mutch.
"He’s a very good player, a very calm player," said Robinson. "He’s exceptional on the ball.
"His body movement, the ball manipulation he has is excellent. You can see he has played at the top level."
Both striker Kei Kamara and Canadian defender Marcel de Jong are eligible to play Saturday. Kamara sat out last week’s game with a groin injury while de Jong left the Houston game two weeks ago with a bruised lung.
De Jong was spitting blood and spent the night in hospital after suffering a freak injury.
"I jumped up to block a cross," he said. "Nothing weird happened. I just got the ball on the chest. I got up and kept on playing for two minutes. All of a sudden blood was coming out.
"That was pretty scary. To see yourself spitting up blood is not something you want to experience every day. It was kind of freaky."
The Whitecaps will be without captain Kendall Waston who has been called up by the Costa Rican national team for international friendlies. Vancouver is also appealing a red card given Waston last week.
The Galaxy opened the season with a 2-1 win at home over Portland then lost on the road 2-1 to New York City FC before having last week off.
Two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press that Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left Manchester United to sign with the Galaxy. He could make his debut on March 31 when the Galaxy play MLS expansion team Los Angeles Football Club.
The Galaxy will come to Vancouver missing several players either through injury, suspension or international duty. Mexican internationals Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos are both nursing injuries while striker Ola Kamara has been called up to the Norwegian national team.
Robinson isn’t counting on an easy match.
"They still have a terrific amount of players," he said. "We know they are a deep squad. The players who come in will be top quality MLS players.
"It’s going to be very tough for us. No game in this league is easy."
Mutch said the Whitecaps need to focus on their own game. A win would extend Vancouver’s home undefeated streak to eight games, dating back to Aug. 19.
"As a team we focus on what we do," he said. "If we focus on our strengths and make sure we do that right, that’s the only thing we should be worrying about."