VANCOUVER — The most talked about player in Major League Soccer could return to the field in Vancouver this weekend.
Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies missed three games as negotiations took place over his record-breaking US$22-million transfer to Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga, but the 17-year-old was back in B.C. for training with his teammates on Thursday.
Whether he’ll be in the starting lineup when the ‘Caps (7-9-5) take on Minnesota United (11-9-1) at B.C. Place on Saturday remains to be seen.
Vancouver coach Carl Robinson said Davies hasn’t trained much in the past week and a half, so he may not be ready physically or mentally.
"We’ll see. If he’s full of energy, I’m sure he’ll be involved. If he’s not, I’m sure he’ll be off the bench," Robinson said.
Either way, Saturday’s game will be crucial for Vancouver and Minnesota alike. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot, currently sitting below the cut-off in the western conference and separated by two points in the standings.
United have won their last three league matches, but the Whitecaps are coming off the high of punching their ticket to the Canadian Championship final with a 2-0 (2-1 aggregate) victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday.
Whitecaps captain Kendall Waston said it was a much-needed win after three losses in a row, including two league games and a tournament match.
He added keeping Montreal from scoring a single goal was especially important.
"The focus was there. So we’ve got to keep that focus and even more," Waston said.
The last time Vancouver was able to post a clean sheet was April 27, when they notched a 2-0 home victory over Real Salt Lake.
Keeping the ball out of the back of the net has been a challenge for the Whitecaps. They sit at the bottom of the Western Conference when it comes to goals against, having been scored on 42 times this season.
For Vancouver, stopping Minnesota’s offence will require finding a way to corral Darwin Quintero. The 30-year-old midfielder has tallied six goals in United’s last five games.
Robinson said Quintero is dangerous but every team in the league has strong players that can score.
"I’m more focused on our boys and what Yordy (Reyna) does and what The Bug (Cristian Techera) does and Brek Shea, who I thought was terrific (on Wednesday)," he said.
"We’ll focus on what we can do."
MINNESOTA UNITED (9-11-1) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-9-5)
Saturday, B.C. Place
RECORD SETTERS: United’s game against Los Angeles FC on Sunday was one for the history books. The team set club records for goals scored, assists and shots on net in the 5-1 victory.
COSTA RICAN CAPTAINS: Both the Whitecaps and United are captained by Costa Ricans. Vancouver’s Kendall Waston and Minnesota’s Francisco Calvo played for the national team in the World Cup this year.
PRIDE NIGHT: B.C. Place will be awash in colour as the Whitecaps host their annual Pride Night match to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Both teams will sport rainbow crested jerseys.