VANCOUVER — It'll be a battered and bruised Vancouver Whitecaps side that heads to Ohio in search of redemption this week.
The 'Caps (7-9-3) are down eight players heading into a Wednesday matchup with FC Cincinnati (7-5-5). That number may grow to nine, depending on how midfielder Leonard Owusu recovers after taking a boot to the head in training on Tuesday.
Missing men is simply part of soccer, said head coach Vanni Sartini.
"Every team has an issue during the season with injuries," he said. "And that's the reason why we have deep rosters. And we trust all the players that we have."
Key pieces are missing with designated player Andres Cubas out with left adductor discomfort and winger Deiber Caicedo shutdown for the season after undergoing surgery on his right knee.
The spate of injuries comes at a difficult time for Vancouver, though, with the club set to play five games — including the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC — over the next two and a half weeks.
Staying flexible will be crucial to weathering the difficult stretch, said goalkeeper Cody Cropper.
"We know we have guys that can play multiple positions, we know that we have the ability to mitigate (the injuries) and guys will fill the roles when asked, how asked. And they'll go out there and do the job," he said.
"It's just one of those things. Injuries happen. They are part of the game and we have to be able to adapt."
The 'Caps head out on the road looking to get back in the win column after dropping an ugly 3-1 decision to Minnesota United on Friday.
While the team wasn't happy with the final result, there are lessons to be taken from the game, said Cropper, who has four clean sheets on the season.
"I think it's just a simple finish the game mentality, something that we've become very well known for," he said. "I think we went three games in a row without conceding a goal and I think when we conceded a goal that deflated us. We've learned from that, we've grown from that."
Cincinnati, meanwhile, head into Wednesday's game undefeated in their last five outings (1-0-4).
"They are very good," said Whitecaps defender Florian Jungwirth. "Obviously their offence is very good, even though (Luciano) Acosta and (Allan) Cruz are missing. But they still have (Brandon) Vasquez and Brenner (Souza da Silva), two very lethal strikers, so we have to shut them down."
Defensively, Cincinnati has shown weaknesses, Jungwirth added. The club has conceded 33 goals this season, the fifth most in Major League Soccer.
The Whitecaps know there are holes in the defence that could be exploited, Jungwirth said.
"If we stay in our shape, do our stuff and then set our attacks, that's why we win," he said.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-9-3) AT FC CINCINNATI (7-5-5)
Wednesday, TQL Stadium
INJURY REPORT: In addition to Cubas and Caicedo, the Whitecaps will be without midfielder Sebastian Berhalter (stress fracture in foot), defenders Marcus Godinho (knee discomfort), Cristian Gutierrez (calf strain), Luis Martins (calf strain) and Ranko Veselinovic (non-COVID illness), and goalkeeper Thomas Hasal (sprained fingers). Cincinnati's injury list is much shorter, with Ronald Matarrita (ankle), Dominique Badji (leg) and Junior Moreno (leg) all out and Alvas Powell (leg) listed as questionable. But the Blue and Orange will also be missing Luciano Acosta and Allan Cruz due to red card suspensions.
LONG TIME NO SEE: Wednesday will mark just the second time the two clubs have battled. The Whitecaps previously visited Cincinnati in August 2019, taking a 2-1 decision against the then-upstart club.
FRESH FACES: None of the players who take the field for Cincinnati on Wednesday were in the lineup the last time the 'Caps faced the Blue and Orange. Eleven of the home side's athletes have previously played Vancouver while on other teams.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press