The Vancouver Whitecaps, whose roster has been ravaged in recent weeks, are down to one goalkeeper for their final group game Thursday against Chicago Fire SC at the MLS is Back Tournament.
Starter Maxime Crépeau broke his left thumb Sunday against Seattle. Backup Bryan Meredith is back with his family in New Jersey after the death of his mother.
That leaves third-stringer Thomas Hasal and ...
“The backup for Thomas is no one,” Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said.
The league does have a pool goalkeeper, Charlie Lyon, at the tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in the Orlando area. But he was needed by Sporting Kansas City.
Dos Santos said as a result Vancouver would need a transfer window to have Lyon join a Canadian team. “And the transfer window is closed right now, so it makes its impossible to do a move.”
Hasal, a 21-year-old Canadian youth international from Saskatoon, made his MLS debut in coming in for Crépeau on the weekend.
“We hope that Thomas will be fine to do the full game [Thursday],” Dos Santos said. “If not, we’re going to have an emergency situation inside the team.”
“We feel that it’s his moment right now and he’s going to take it,” he added. “So I hope everything goes well for him and our team’s going to do our best to protect him as much as we can.”
Added forward Theo Bair: “I think he’s ready for the moment.”
Asked which of their teammates might be best suited as an emergency ‘keeper in case the worst happens, Bair and Ryan Raposo were stumped.
“No clue,” Bair said.
“I couldn’t give you a good answer to that,” Raposo added.
Despite two straight losses at the tournament – 4-3 to San Jose and 3-0 to Seattle – a young Vancouver side still has a chance of advancing to the round of 16. A win by two goals or more Thursday would move the Whitecaps into third in Group B above Chicago on goal difference.
Depending on what happens elsewhere, Vancouver could move on as one of the four best third-place finishers. The Whitecaps already hold a statistical edge over New York City FC, the third-place team in Group A, so would only need to finish above one other third-place finisher to advance.
Dos Santos said his team will be playing for the win first, given group games at the tournament count in the regular standings.
“I told the players ‘First we need to win the game 1-0,’ ” Dos Santos said. “If it’s 1-0 at minute 80, minute 85, then we could go with everything and take all the risks possible.”
Dos Santos said his team also has to improve its defending so it doesn’t need more goals to have a chance of advancing.
“We’re very aware that 2-0 could give us an opportunity to qualify. But we have to be smart managing the game,” he added.
The game is a 9 a.m. ET start, forcing the Whitecaps to rejig their pregame timetable over the next couple of days.
A Chicago win would vault the Fire over Seattle into second spot in the group behind San Jose. The Sounders would still advance as one of the best third-place finishers.
Crépeau was injured in a 54th-minute goalmouth collision with Seattle’s Handwalla Bwana. The Whitecaps said the 26-year-old Canadian international will undergo surgery in Vancouver while offering no timeline for his return.
Hasal was thrust into action.
“It all honestly happened so quickly it didn’t give me too much time to think,” he said. “One minute I was putting my jersey on, the next minute I was making a double save. ... It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Hasal said his phone blew up after the game, with plenty of support from Saskatchewan.
Vancouver came to the tournament without forwards Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts, along with defender Andy Rose and defender/midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa, who all stayed home because of personal or medical reasons.
Defenders Janio Bikel (adductor strain) and Erik Godoy (quadricep strain) were injured in training. Bikel is gone for the tournament while Godoy did not play against Seattle.