The Vancouver Whitecaps published the 23-man squads submitted by both teams contesting tonight's CONCACAF Champions league quarterfinal at BC Place, providing a sense of how the Caps and the New York Red Bulls are preparing for the match.
In Vancouver's case, the published squad reveals perhaps the extent to which the club is constrained by injuries: only 22 players were named to the CCL roster, and that is with the inclusion of Christian Bolanos and Nicolas Mezquida - both of whom are thought to be well-short of match fit, and were thought to effectively still be on the team's injury list. Either they have made accelerated returns to fitness, or neither is seriously being considered for the match-day 18. And if they are both makeweights on the list, then head coach Carl Robinson really only has a group of 20 from which to pick the team he hopes to see send his Caps to the CCL semifinals.
As anticipated, VWFC has thrown new signings Brek Shea and Fredy Montero into the CCL squad, in line with expectations that they might each debut for Vancouver in the game against RBNY.
Vancouver squad for 2016-17 CCL quarterfinal, second leg (22 named; 18 to be selected for match-day roster):
Goalkeepers: David Ousted, Paolo Tornaghi
Defenders: Christian Dean, Marcel de Jong, Jordan Harvey, Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, Cole Seiler, Kendall Waston, Sheanon Williams
Midfielders: Christian Bolaños, Marco Bustos, Alphonso Davies, Andrew Jacobson, Matias Laba, Ben McKendry, Nicolas Mezquida, Brek Shea, Russell Teibert
Forwards: Kyle Greig, Kekuta Manneh, Fredy Montero
The Red Bulls have their own injury concerns: Connor Lade and Gideon Baah haven't featured in any preseason games and don't feature in the latest CCL squad, suggesting neither is yet adequately recovered from long-term injury.
But those issues have not prevented RBNY from naming a full 23-man squad for CCL.
RBNY squad for 2016-17 CCL quarterfinal, second leg (23 named; 18 to be selected for match-day roster):
Goalkeepers: Evan Louro, Ryan Meara, Luis Robles,
Defenders: Justin Bilyeu, Aurelien Collin, Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Michael Murillo, Hassan Ndam, Damien Perrinelle, Sal Zizzo
Midfielders: Sean Davis, Derrick Etienne, Felipe, Mike Grella, Sacha Kljestan, Dan Metzger, Alex Muyl, Florian Valot, Daniel Royer
Forwards: Brandon Allen, Gonzalo Veron, Bradley Wright-Phillips
It can be assumed this is the group that has traveled to Vancouver - since it would be embarrassing if RBNY suffered a late injury and didn't have a replacement before the game started, and because Jesse Marsch has already told NewYorkRedBulls.com that there will be "a few extra players" in the traveling squad to facilitate rotation if necessary for RBNY's weekend MLS match against Atlanta United.
The surprises are few. Florian Valot is the name that stands out as least expected: as far as we know, he is not part of RBNY's MLS squad, and therefore not eligible to be part of the team that plays in Atlanta at the weekend. Valot is contracted to NYRB II in USL, and can be loaned up to the first team for CCL (as was the case with Aaron Long last season), but some more formal announcement would be expected before he starts appearing in MLS squads.
It would be a surprise if Valot made the CCL 18, however, though perhaps Alex Muyl's facial injuries need a little more time to heal - in which case the II-teamer would not be a like-for-like replacement, but at least one capable of playing the same attacking midfield position. Or it might simply be that RBNY had to call up a II-teamer to get to 23 fit players.
Currently, RBNY has 28 players on its MLS roster. Anatole Abang is on loan to nowhere and really shouldn't count. Baah and Lade are clearly still injured. Tyler Adams is on international duty with the USA U-20s. Rafa Diaz is a goalkeeper, and most competitions require that teams name no more or less than three 'keepers to a 23-man squad. So Marsch had a choice between Diaz and Louro as the unused third 'keeper on his CCL roster, and picked Louro.
The other MLS-contracted player left out is Arun Basuljevic, who might be the victim of the only tactical decision in the selection. Marsch already has Sean Davis and Felipe as his starters in the central midfield positions, and Dan Metzger is a more experienced player than rookie Basuljevic. It would appear Metzger won the back-up job, Basuljevic stayed home, and Marsh raided his USL squad for an extra attacking option.
CCL is a test of depth for any club. As the groups named by both Vancouver and RBNY indicate, both teams will have 18 (mostly) fit players available for their big quarterfinal decider, but they have also both come out of preseason having a little trouble finding even sufficient depth at every position to fill out a 23-man roster from their current first team squads.
Both sides will expect to only get fitter and stronger from here. Only one will be able to apply that renewed squad depth to a CCL semifinal.