Today's Reserve Game has so many different storylines. There's O'Brian White's probable return to the lineup. There's the attempt by Seattle to remain perfect in this lower level competition, as they are currently 7-0-0 with a +8 Goal Differential. Is the game open to the public or not? Which seems like it should have a simple answer, but there were conflicting reports yesterday, and the Vancouver Whitecaps statement on the subject provides little clarity.
*Please note that Tuesday’s reserve match is open to the public, with limited capacity available at Swangard Stadium.*
Well, that seems clear. Except they don't note a cost (some MLS teams charge for Reserve Games others do not). They do not note a specific entry, parking, which stands will be used, all things that are normally specified when capacity at stadiums are tightly limited.
The biggest story though has to do with how two different organizations view the purpose of the Reserve League.
Again from the Whitecaps preview;
However, while standings play a role within Reserve League competition, the main priority of the MLS Reserve League focuses on development and providing a stage for players to impress their respective club coaches. With Whitecaps FC assistant coach Denis Hamlett taking charge of the reserves on Tuesday, the game offers the club's MLS roster players a chance to make that type of impression and earn a spot in Tom Soehn's first-team squad.
Many MLS clubs have taken the long view for the Reserve League. Some have used several Academy players and Home Grown Players in order to get them higher level time. The Seattle Sounders have taken a more near term approach.
Head Coach Sigi Schmid has tasked Assistant Ezra Hendrickson with the task of keeping the team's overall depth fresh and able to contribute. They have used strong performances in this lower league as an indicator of who should get more time on the First Team. The list of players who have stepped up is long. Lamar Neagle, Tyson Wahl, Mike Fucito, Roger Levesque, Pat Noonan, and Zach Scott have all stepped from being primary Reserve players to players that have gotten starts in the trophied competitions.
Today's match will also see another why that the return of the Reserve League is benefit to all teams. Like AAA baseball it offers players coming back from injury the chance to get into match conditions under less pressure than League play. Today's match will likely see Brad Evans (whose appearance tonight was canceled) and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado return to action.
Erik Friberg also seems likely to play as he comes back from a tweak and rest. In order to keep sharp for the many weeks of double matches Patrick Ianni and Leo Gonzalez probably both start. Neagle and Fucito are likely to get runs because they haven't had extensive time, but both seem to feature regularly and have shown they need more time.
In fact this match could see only two positions be held by players in developmental roles rather than as depth being kept fresh for competitive play. Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith will fill-in for Terry Boss, and who ever plays at right back will be someone learning the position on the fly, but in a match that matters less than any other - possibly still David Estrada.
There could be alineup with 135 competitive appearances, 100 starts for a team that is actually quite good. That there is a team that is deep. A Reserve side capable of playing and competing in MLS play, rather than one that is focused on learning the professional game.