Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Coach Robinson Hopes Bet on Youth Will Pay off as Playoffs Approach

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Coach Robinson Hopes Bet on Youth Will Pay off as Playoffs Approach

Article excerpt

Whitecaps seeking goals from young strikers

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VANCOUVER - As the Major League Soccer playoffs approach, the Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping the gamble they took on youth starts to pay off soon.

The Whitecaps allowed the MLS trade deadline to pass this week without making a deal for a veteran striker with proven scoring ability. Instead, with six games to go in the regular season, they will depend heavily on their highly talented, but highly inconsistent, young forwards.

"Darren (Mattocks) has got hot at times, Erik (Hurtado) has got hot at a certain time, Kekuta (Manneh) was pretty hot at the start of the season," Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said this week as the Whitecaps (8-7-13) prepared to visit the Portland Timbers (8-8-12) on Saturday for a game that could be pivotal to both clubs' playoff hopes. "So you're hoping that one will catch fire and drag someone else along."

Mattocks, 24, is in his third MLS season while both Hurtado, 23, and Manneh, 19, are in their second. All have been mired in lengthy scoring slumps for most of the season. But they will play key roles as the Whitecaps attempt to reach the playoffs for only the second time in their four years in MLS.

The Whitecaps hold a one-point lead over the Timbers for the fifth and final post-season berth. With the top four berths virtually set due to large point spreads, the final post-season plateau is likely the only one still reachable.

"I think we've got a six-game mini-season now with Portland," said Robinson. "You look at it, and whatever has happened up to this point is irrelevant, because it's all about the six games now."

It's also largely about the young scoring hopefuls. Since striker Kenny Miller left the club by mutual consent in the spring, the Whitecaps have lacked a consistent scoring threat up front. Vancouver also took a pass on signing a player in the summer international transfer window.

According to Robinson and president Bob Lenarduzzi, the Whitecaps explored several trade and free-agent signing opportunities. …

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