Whitecaps’ depth will be tested in CONCACAF

It is a critical month for the Vancouver Whitecaps as they dive into a busy part of the MLS schedule and with added CONCACAF duties, don't be surprised to see some changes in the line-up on Wednesday.

VANCOUVER—An unusual question was put to Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson this week.

“So if you beat Seattle again Wednesday night, does that mean you win the Cascadia Cup?”

Such is the confusion that continues to surround the CONCACAF Champions League. Throw in the Amway Canadian Championship final, which kicks off next week and involves these same Whitecaps in a two-legged series against the Montreal Impact, and it truly is a recipe for misinformation. But the Canadian Championship is a story for another day. So is the Cascadia Cup for that matter. So, let’s focus on one thing at a time.

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Here it is. By virtue of being the top Canadian in the overall MLS standings last season, in a pre-approved arrangement, the Whitecaps automatically became Canada’s lone representative in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.

The Champions League? Yes, that’s the same competition that caught Canadian soccer fans’ attention earlier this year when the Montreal Impact came to within an eyelash of winning it all and representing CONCACAF at the next FIFA Club World Cup.

First up for the Whitecaps is a date with the Seattle Sounders at B.C. Place Stadium on Wednesday night in their opening group stage match of the Champions League. This one comes hard on the heels of Vancouver’s dominating road win over the Sounders in MLS play on the weekend—hence, the poor guy’s confusion when asking Robinson the question about the Cascadia Cup.

Some are calling that Vancouver win the most complete performance by a Whitecaps team since they entered MLS in 2011.

But a crowded August fixture—the Whitecaps will play eight games in three different competitions—means Robinson will make plenty of changes to the starting lineup on Wednesday. His counterpart, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, likely will, too.

Robinson says he couldn’t care less what Seattle does; he’s just focusing on rotating his squad and playing the games one at a time, as they say. Robinson is so meticulous in his planning that he says barring injury, he has the starting 11 burned into his brain for each of the next seven matches.

Do the Whitecaps have enough depth and quality to compete on several fronts at the same time? When I asked Robinson that question today at practice he said, “I don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough.”

Soon enough begins with game one of the group stage Wednesday evening. Maybe we’ll get some answers then.

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