Competitive groupings in the Vancouver Whitecaps squadFebruary 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | 13 Comments
Every manager will tell you what makes for a good football squad: while the individual skill of each player is key, it is important for each player to be fighting for his position with other competitive rivals. Martin Rennie is trying to build such a squad. Lets look at some of the competitive grouping and the ranking of each player. I enclose my predictions on which players will be fighting it out for certain positions.
Goalkeeper: Joe Cannon is presumptive number one, Brad Knighton number two, young keeper Brian Sylvestre is third. The Joker in this pack is Sylvestre, who undoubtedly has the potential to one day be the number one keeper for the Whitecaps and the United States national team. If Cannon is injured, and Knighton has a bad match as a deputy, Sylvestre is there ready to pounce. Cannon and Knighton should worry, because if Sylvestre plays very well, Cannon and Knighton might never play a first team game for the Whitecaps again. Sylvestre might be the next Iker Casillas, capable of playing first team football while still a teenager. This possible outcome should keep an aging Joe Cannon sharp and hungry to keep his spot.
Center back stoppers: Jay DeMeritt plays the role of hard man/destroyer, breaking up opposition plays with his bone-crunching tackles. DeMeritt is completely committed, tough and big. His deputy is Michael Boxall, who is a similar kind of player. They played together a number of times last year but the weakness was that while they could both win the ball with a vengence, they could not play it well out of the back effectively. These two will from here on in be paired with:
Centre back sweepers: Martin Bonjour is the number one in this spot. He can win the ball and his ball skills should provide for some good passes out of the back, which is crucial to start effective counter attacks. Carlyle Mitchell in number two in this spot. He demonstrated he could defend and play the ball out of the back, but I don’t believe his ball skills are on the level of Bonjour’s.
Right Back: I expect YP Lee to start in this spot, even though his best foot is his left. Last year this was a problem spot for the Whitecaps as both right fullbacks, Leathers and Brovsky, were considered surplus to requirements after last season. The Whitecaps look thin at this position, and it is not clear who will be pushing Lee for his spot. One possibility is that John Thorrington backs up Lee. Bilal Duckett is back training with the Whitecaps, but I don’t expect him to make the squad. In fact, when you look at our squad, we are light on defenders, period.
Left back: Alain Rochat is number one, with Jordan Harvey putting him under pressure as number two. While Harvey slipped forward to left midfield for a while at the end of last year, I don’t believe he will be doing so this year, given that the left side of midfield may be taken up by surplus members of our huge striker complement.
Holding/defensive central midfielders: I feel Gershon Koffie has got to be number one in this spot, having gained lots of first team MLS experience last year. Jun Marques Davidson will him challenge for it. Koffie was superb last year in winning and keeping the ball, but he is a complete bust at making good passes going forward. With a large number of minutes, Koffie managed only one goal and no assists. He gave the ball away a couple of times as well, but experience will have taught him a lesson in this regard. Davidson’s offensive output in his career has also been basically nil. The best either of these two can do is to give the ball to someone who can do something with it after they have won the ball. If Koffie could only work on making creative passes he would be fantastic.
Creative/offensive central midfielders: Davide Chiumiento, John Thorrington, Matt Watson, and Micheal Nanchoff will fight it out for this position. Davide Chiumiento and John Thorrington have to be the favorites. In terms of talent and creativity, Chiumiento wins, but will he be fit, will he defend, and will his attitude be right? Thorrington had a terrible time with injuries in 2011, but if he can stay fit he might just push Chiumiento to the bench. If Rennie wants some size and offence, Matt Watson has proven he can score goals and provide them in USL division 2. Watson will also commit himself to defend, and will be able to frighten members of opposite teams who will laugh at the likes of Chiumiento and Thorrington. Watson might well be suited for the rough and physical MLS, being a big, heavy muscular guy. Nanchoff adds dimension because of his left foot. I don’t believe he has fine skills like Thorrington and Chiumiento, however.
My feeling is that this position is our weakest spot and that the Whitecaps need to bring in a better creative midfielder.
The joker in this central midfield pack might just be 17 year old Bryce Alderson who looks fantastic in available game footage. I expect we will see him get a few games in as a substitute where the Whitecaps are sure they are going to win or lose. Look for him to be introduced in the 80th minute if we are up 3-0 or down 0-3 early on in the season. Alderson has the ability to shock us all and steal a starting midfielder’s spot before the season is over. Alderson looks as though he can play both offensively and defensively. In my view he is our most exciting prospect for the future.
Left side Midfield: Look for Russell Teibert, who is fit again, to rebound from an injury riddled 2011. Coach Rennie has had a lot of praise for him, and rates him highly. Teibert is now possibly the fittest guy on the Whitecaps, having won the “beep” test in training camp. Teibert may have to compete with Camilo for this spot, as up front is crowded with big Frenchmen. Rennie may want Camilo to attack from the flanks from midfield a bit like Messi does for Barcelona. Camilo is the best dribbler on our team and the best at drawing fouls as well. If this scenario does not work and Camilo starts up front paired with Hassli with Le Toux on right wing, Jordan Harvey may fight with Teibert for the spot, since he did well last year as a left sided midfielder in the latter part of the season.
Right side Midfield: I believe Le Toux will start in this position. Hassli and Camilo both did enough last season to earn starting spots up front and I expect Le Toux to play provider at the beginning of the season. If Hassli or Camilo misfire, Le Toux may move to the middle up front. Camilo may then start on the right side of midfield in a similar role as described above. Camilo is good with both his feet so he can play on either wing.
Strikers: This is where it gets really complicated! I rate our strikers in the following groupings: top group: Camilo, Le Toux, Hassli, Harris; second group: Barbara, Tan, Salgado, Mattocks. I expect Camilo and Hassli to start up front and Le Toux to start the season as a right sided midfielder, which may promote either Salgado (if he demonstrates he has made major improvements over last year) or Barbara to the top four. A fit Atiba Harris will keep Hassli honest up front, and may be played in a midfield role as he has been know to do in the past.
Look for some trades from our large stable of strikers. Will Salgado tire of playing reserve matches for the Whitecaps and look to go overseas? Will another team less flush with strikers see the potential in Long Tan? There is just not enough room for all of these guys!
Unknowns: Lee Nguyen has shown good skills in re-season, but he is too small to start in the very big and physical MLS. I expect Rennie to try to use him late in games as a game-changing substitute when he needs to gamble. At that point in the game the big boys on the other side will be tired and the nimble Nguyen might make an impact. Is he our supersub? Lets hope so.
All in all the Whitecaps squad looks deeper, stronger and more balanced than last years squad by far. Rennie has lots of options and combinations up front on a team flush with offensive talent. There is good competition in most spots on the squad. For me the question still remains: do we have the creativity and talent in central midfield to get the ball to all of these undoubtedly talented offensive players? I have my doubts, and my hope is the Whitecaps will sign a quality central midfielder before the 2012 season starts. While we have a very strong starting defensive line-up, we look a bit light on defenders, should one of our starters get injured. We need to sign one of these as well.
Get the checkbook out!