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.”
Vancouver will be without midfielder Efrain Juarez for the match.
The MLS disciplinary committee announced Friday that it suspended Vancouver Juarez an additional two games (three games total) and issued an additional undisclosed fine for aggressive behaviour toward a match official during the 77th minute of Vancouver’s match against Seattle Sounders FC on July 21.
Juarez, who originally received a red card for his actions, was slated to serve his red-card suspension against Minnesota United FC, with his additional two-games being Vancouver’s next regular season matches on Aug. 4 against New York City FC and Aug. 11 against the Portland Timbers.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press