The revolving door at centre back for the Vancouver Whitecaps is about to swing open for Carlyle Mitchell -- whether he’s fully ready or not.
The Trinidad and Tobago international, who has been on loan this season with second tier FC Edmonton, estimated Tuesday that he’s at about 75-80 per cent after not playing since May 26 because of an ankle sprain.
But with four days to go before the Caps face the New England Revolution at B.C. Place, Mitchell still represents a healthier option than Jay DeMerit (rehabbing from Achilles tendon surgery), Brad Rusin (calf strain) and Andy O’Brien (hamstring).
“I’m pretty excited, you know . . . just trying to do what’s best for the team,” Mitchell, a man of relatively few words, said after practice Tuesday at UBC.
With the veteran O’Brien going down Saturday in Seattle in a 3-2 loss to the Sounders, the Caps had no other choice than to recall Mitchell, who played five MLS games in 2011-2012. He was loaned out this season to get him more playing time.
Head coach Martin Rennie said an MRI on O’Brien’s hamstring showed the injury may not be as severe as initially feared, but there’s no chance the iron man, who had started every Vancouver game this season, will play Saturday.
Rusin is at least a couple of weeks away and DeMerit, who was injured seven minutes into the Caps’ regular-season opener, figures to be on the shelf for another two to three months.
So the six-foot-one Mitchell will slide into the spot beside Honduran international Johnny Leveron, who has just four MLS games under his belt. Mitchell was actually recalled once before this season when Leveron was suspended for a May 18 match against Portland, but did not play.
“His ankle seems to be getting stronger, so that’s an encouraging thing for us,” said Rennie. “Hopefully he’ll come through this week well and be ready to go.”
Rennie said he likes Mitchell’s athleticism and believes he can form an effective partnership with Leveron, even though the normally cool and composed Honduran struggled Saturday when O’Brien went off.
“I’ve watched (Mitchell’s) games with Edmonton and he’s done very well,” said Rennie. “He’s very good in the air, a powerful player. The reason we’ve been getting him games with Edmonton is so if this situation arises, we have a player who is match fit and ready to play.”
Rennie said he also got good reports from the head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago national team about Mitchell’s play during qualifying for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“He said he was their best player. He said he was the first name on the team sheet, even ahead of the players that came back from Europe, so that was encouraging.”
It also means Mitchell could be on international duty in July for the Gold Cup, as could Leveron, so the Caps better hope there’s no setbacks for O’Brien and Rusin.
Mitchell said he wasn’t disappointed at being loaned out this season, noting it was a real good opportunity to get some quality playing time under a good coach in Colin Miller. He says he’s become better at reading the game and has improved his work in the air.
“This is a big challenge, most definitely, this weekend. But it’s all about three points and I’ll do anything to get there points. Injuries don’t matter. I’ll just play with my heart and try to get three points.”