Whitecaps Competitive in FriendliesFebruary 12, 2011 at 5:29 am | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps In MLS | Leave a comment
When a Formula 1 team puts a new car on the track they hope that it will be quick “right out of the box”. The first few tests will tell the team whether they have designed a dud, or a car that can win.
The Vancouver Whitecaps have now played three friendlies, and the good news is the team is quick out of the box, having won two friendlies against Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew, with a narrow loss to arch-rival Seattle Sounders. Early tests demonstrate we do not have a dud on our hands.
I can’t say I am totally surprised, because the Whitecaps have had the opportunity to build their team for years with an eye towards entering Major League Soccer. They have been developing their club structure and soccer infrastructure for years now in United Soccer Leagues Division 1.
It is interesting to note that MLS expansion franchises who have not had the opportunity to step up from a second division league tend not to fare so well in their initial seasons. Toronto FC, for example, have not made the playoffs in four years since they started from a blank slate. The Philadelphia Union, who started from nothing, did not crack the playoffs last year. Seattle Sounders have made the playoffs for two seasons in a row now, and did so at the first asking, having jumped up from years of USL 1 play in previous years.
There is an obvious advantage to having a club structure in place, a young player development system in place, and having played in another league far in advance of entering MLS. The recent signings of Nizar Khalfan and Gershon Koffie demonstrate this advantage. This should teach the MLS the value of such systems in terms of creating quality teams in the league.
Will the new Whitecaps have confidence when they are in front of a sold out Empire Stadium? Will they be able to cope with the pressure and not make foolish mistakes?
Teitur Thordarson will be looking to his veterans, in particular Jay DeMerit, to provide the leadership and experience necessary to enforce concentration and discipline on the field. DeMerit has played for years in the English Championship, which is an intense cauldron of physical play before the most passionate fans. He has also played in the World Cup. The success or failure of the team in MLS 2011 may well rest on the fitness and desire of Jay DeMerit.
A number of other MLS veterans will give the team a spine while the younger players get the experience they need to take over.
While we have yet to sign that special star player we are all hoping for, the Vancouver Whitecaps are showing signs they will be competitive right from the start.
The recent success in our first MLS friendlies appears to demonstrate the long term vision of Bob Lenarduzzi and owner Greg Kerfoot is starting to pay off.