This includes a 6AM Pacific start for the Blue and White, as their third match will now see them face off against the Chicago Fire the morning of July 23rd, a tough ask for both the players and fans in both markets.
Now that FC Dallas and Nashville SC have officially dropped out of the tournament, this also means that the format will now be comprised of six balanced groups of four - a sigh of relief for those who were confused or upset by the six-team Group A in the initial draw.
Sporting Director Axel Schuster spoke with the media Thursday afternoon, and outlined his initial impressions of the updated groups:
“We still get to play two games in the ideal temperature and humidity. This tournament will be about the survival of the strongest no doubt, those who find better solutions and are more creative. So we are starting to discuss that. We have more than a week to plan. Right now we are focused on San Jose.”
Whitecaps Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was also available to the media and he added his thoughts on life inside the bubble so far, as well as the preparations for upcoming matches.
“It’s nice to be settled in. We’re staying on Western time right now, waking up at 10:30, and then once we’ve finished those first two matches, we can turn our focus towards preparing for Chicago... so far it’s been great [staying in Orlando]. No one has been negative about the temperature or anything. We are just enjoying being here together and getting ready for our first game.”
“We’re not taking unnecessary risks” said Crepeau in regards to the Whitecaps Bubble. “We have confidence in our group here to be responsible. So far, everything has been good. I feel safe.”
Provided that the Whitecaps do end up playing the Chicago Fire on July 23rd, they’ll be facing a team which secured only a single point in their first two matches of the 2020 regular season. Back in 2019, the Whitecaps played out a 1-1 draw in Illinois which saw Yordy Reyna capitalize on some ill-advised goalkeeping.
During the offseason, the Fire lost a trio of impact players in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty and Nicolas Gaitan. But with a speedy Przemyslaw Frankowski on the wing in his second season at the club, as well as the newly acquired Robert Beric up front, the new-look Fire will aim to give their Group B foes a run for their money in the coming weeks.
All things considered though, this is likely a good break for the Whitecaps, as the Fire were projected to be bottom dwellers in the east going into the season, and this updated schedule should only increase the Whitecaps’ chances of making it out of the group.