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With time running out before the first MLS roster freeze of the season, Vancouver Whitecaps held an intrasquad game on Wednesday to have a better look at some of their young hopefuls in game action.

The Blue vs. White game featured a mix of signed MLS talent, Residency players, draft picks and trialists and with the chances to impress the Caps coaching staff diminishing, some shone, tempers frayed and every mistake was met with visual angst.

Caps head coach Carl Robinson generally liked what he saw.

"I think the attitude and application of all the guys has been first class. It's important that I analyze all the guys over matches as well, so we're trying to get as many games in as we can to give them as many minutes before we make some decisions on certain players and before we decide to nail down actually the players in the positions we're going forward with him."

The increasing fitness levels have been particularly pleasing to Robinson and this is an aspect of the team that he will be working hard on throughout the season to try and give the Whitecaps a little bit of a competitive edge.

"It's getting better. I think we'll be good come first game of the season, I have no doubt about that, but I'll keep pushing and pushing and during the season as well there will be pushing. You need to get the top levels of fitness to perform at the highest level every day and every week and that's what I'll make sure we are."

The match was an intense affair that saw some hard challenges, one of which saw striker Kekuta Manneh sent off in the 25th minute. It was the Gambian’s second booking of the match following a square up with his teammate Omar Salgado earlier that saw both players picking up cautions.

Whilst intensity and hunger to succeed is what the coaching staff want to see, fighting with teammates is something the coaching staff knows can't be tolerated.

"I like the fire in his belly." Robinson said of Manneh after the game. "Obviously fighting with a teammate I don't agree with, so I'll deal with that issue. I was only going to play him 30 minutes anyway, so he played 25. He hasn't lost much playing time. But I don't condone that and I'll speak to him, but he's a good kid."

Salgado is keen to impress and has been visibly showing his frustration when things have not been going the way he wants. There will be a fine line for Robinson between petulance and passion and just now the Caps coach is happy with the line that Salgado currently finds himself on.

"It was great watching him today. You see him, he's got his arms swinging everywhere and things like that. He's a character to watch, he really is. But, he had four chances, he did great in Victoria the other day setting up the goal. He's getting fitter. Everyone knows he's got ability and he certainly knows he's got very good ability and it's about transferring that in training into games and then at MLS level, which I'm sure he can."

Salgado needs to be careful that his desire to succeed doesn't push his attitude to the other side of the line, but part of his frustration on Wednesday came in part from the excellent defensive display and thwarting by rookie center back Christian Dean.

Dean has impressed in his first MLS training camp and is quickly making a case for himself to be higher up the depth charts. It’s not gone unnoticed by Robinson.

"He's a man mountain out there, he really is. He's big, he's strong, he's athletic. He's trying to upset Omar in every tackle and he does. His recovery runs are great. I think he's been phenomenal in preseason. Not a pleasant surprise because I knew he could get there, but he's challenging the center backs for a place in that starting line up."
Apart from Dean, Residency products Kianz Froese and Marco Carducci continue to impress. Goalkeeper Carducci made a string of top saves, including one from a penalty.

For some, the game will have been a last chance saloon style affair if they want to impress the Caps coaching team. Mini flashpoints aside, Robinson was happy with the aggression and hunger on display and wants players with such an edge in his squad.

"I want all my players to have an edge about them, especially the young players and when we scout and recruit our young players it's important they've got a little bit. We've got players that have got that and if you've not got that, it's going to be difficult to crack into the team."

Vancouver heads down to Portland on Friday to take part in the three game Rose City Invitational. With some starting, as well as squad, places still up for grabs, it is likely we could see some more intense sessions over the next week.

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