Days before their high-stakes meeting with Houston for the finale of the regular season, Vancouver travel to Honduras to face CD Olympia with absolutely nothing on the line for either side. The conclusion to the Blue and White's first campaign in the Champions League feels in many respects like an inadvertently cruel joke. Seattle have progressed to the knockout round, and no result at Estadio Nacional can change that fact. I harboured the same feeling of resentment as the club upon realizing that I had to write some form of preview for this so irrelevant of contests.
Moreover, the desolated Whitecaps are landing at an airport renowned for its inconvenience, and are arriving at a country recognized for its absurd murder rate. However, on this particular road trip, the increased potential for crime or completely missing Toncontin International in descent do not rank at the top of Carl Robinson's list of fears. Instead, it's the threat of adding even more casualties to the growing number of maimed absentees that will be keeping the 39-year-old head coach awake at night this week.
At present integral final third pieces Pedro Morales, Nico Mezquida, and Cristian Techera are all dealing with hamstring problems, and wily veterans Pa-Modou Kah and Mauro Rosales are battling groin issues. Meanwhile, and perhaps most significantly with the playoffs lurking around the corner, the invaluable Octavio Rivero is recovering from an Achilles injury. Even Caleb Clarke, one of the few WFC2 regulars available to Robbo, will miss out with a hamstring niggle of his own. This obviously leaves the Welsh tactician in a very precarious position.
In his comments to the media in the days preceding the fixture, the 39-year-old conceded that every member of the roster not currently located on the sidelines will be on board the flight to Tegucigalpa - a total he estimates will lie in the region of 12 or 13 players. With all of the crushing injuries, brutal scheduling, and horrific officiating this year, supporters have every right to feel on the wrong side of luck at this point in time.
This match shares a lot in common with the tenth episode of Breaking Bad's acclaimed third season, wherein Walt and Jesse spend the best part of 45 minutes attempting to kill a fly. Albuquerque's favourite meth cook is consumed by worry throughout; from the aforementioned contaminant to the marginally reduced weight of the previous batch, he finds preserving peace of mind an impossible task.
Walt's endeavours to achieve the perfection needed to constitute satisfaction are nothing short of trivial, ultimately succeeding in his obsessive mission after going through staggering amounts of turmoil along the way. Although the premise inspires boredom, initially coming across as respite from the usual pace, it certainly holds its own among the very best moments of AMC's portrayal of the ultimate anti-hero.
Thanks to the quality of the writing 'Fly' accomplished a great deal in its introspective importance, but in essence the aim of the bottle episode was merely to cut back on costs. The plot doesn't really advance and its value in that respect is minimal, yet the two main characters of Vince Gilligan's masterpiece develop enormously. In a different context, this bout with Olimpia has scope for the same effect in my view.
Honduran youth international Deybi Flores is returning to his homeland for the first time as an opposing player, and appears set to feature in the heart of the midfield on Thursday evening. Farhan Devji has written some enthralling content on the 19-year-old's humble beginnings, leaving the impression that he will be eager to make his mark if afforded the opportunity to do so.
The less sophisticated within the fan base have been very critical of Flores this term without any consideration for circumstance - a chronic problem in Upper Cascadia - however I believe that he has given as much incentive for excitement as any other young talent during his first campaign at BC Place. It would fantastic to watch him end the season on a high with another exciting performance in the engine-room.
Robbo commented that as many as eight members of his starting line-up midweek could reprise the same role on Sunday against Owen Coyle's Dynamo. Those words will serve as motivational material for some, with the idea that a strong display in Honduras could translate into another chance but in a more heightened situation days later. The benefits of the experience for the less seasoned Caps shouldn't go understated either, helping to extend their soccer education and broaden their horizons.
Above all else, the behaviour of the players will reveal a lot to the manager as to who on this team holds ideals such as pride and professionalism in high regard. This quote from Robert Earnshaw on the club's website resonated with me: "Whether I'm kicking the ball against the garage door in Caerphilly, whether I'm here or in Honduras, it will always be the same. It's a game of football. It's what I love to do. It always means something".
Hopefully his colleagues will embody the same attitude in Tegucigalpa, regardless of what exactly is up for grabs.
You can catch the action live on Sportsnet World or listen on TSN 1410.