Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson likes to trumpet the talent and depth of his squad.
Many of the players who have been waiting patiently on the sidelines this season will get their opportunity on Wednesday night.
The Whitecaps visit FC Edmonton in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal and Robinson made it clear this week he will give most of his starters in Major League Soccer a rest.
"The boys are ready, they’re very sharp — the ones that haven’t played the majority of minutes — and they want a chance," said Robinson. "They get a chance in a competitive match."
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The Welshman is usually coy with his starting 11, but dropped a few names, including those of midfielder Cristian Techera and goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, who will both make their first-team debuts.
Vancouver will be playing the second of five games in 15 days, with an MLS home tilt against the Philadelphia Union set for Saturday before the return leg against Edmonton at B.C. Place Stadium on May 13. Robinson said the team he fields on Wednesday will be expected to play at the same level as the sides that have helped Vancouver to a tie atop the MLS standings with 17 points.
"They get their opportunity to play and show that they should be getting MLS minutes when the time is right," said the Welshman. "I think six or seven of them are ready now to play and unfortunately I’ve been leaving them out of the team in MLS because the guys who have been in those places have been doing very well."
Two other players expected to see action against Edmonton, which competes in the second-tier NASL and beat the Ottawa Fury to advance, are strikers Robert Earnshaw and Erik Hurtado. Earnshaw scored a dramatic winner in his first game for the club against the Portland Timbers at the end of March as a late substitute, but the former Welsh international has played just one minute since.
"I want to play … but at the end of the day it’s up to the manager," said Earnshaw, who played a game for Vancouver’s USL affiliate recently to stay fit. "Whichever way you put it there’s a load of games coming up. You can be disappointed. You want to play, but at the same time you have to give credit. We’re at a good time right now and we’re working hard."
Earnshaw said there could be some hiccups on Wednesday because many of the Whitecaps suiting up won’t have played together before as a unit, but added that won’t be an excuse.
"Sometimes you can get little misunderstandings or little combinations not quite there," he said. "Things like this will happen, but we’re ready. We’ll try and play. We have to be energetic because Edmonton are going to be a very good team. They’re going to be very tough to beat. We’re going to have to be at our best."
The Whitecaps have never won the Voyageurs Cup and the winner of their two-leg, total-goals tie with Edmonton will face either Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact in the national final with a spot in the 2016–17 CONCACAF Champions League on the line.
"We want to win every tournament that we go in, every competition that we’re in, so this is no different," said Robinson. "We haven’t won it. That hurts, and we’ll try and win it this year, (but) I’m sure Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton all think the same."