Robbo’s Vancouver Whitecaps revolution rolls on in 2015

March 1, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 4 Comments
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Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson is rolling into the 2015 Major League Soccer season with the best Whitecaps squad since the Whitecaps’ MLS era began in 2011.

Last year’s off-season was a nightmare with the loss of the best Whitecaps player Camilo to Mexican team Queretaro. Then there was the refusal of several high profile coaching candidates, including Bob Bradley and Frank Yallop, to join the Whitecaps. This year’s off-season has been a decidedly more cheery affair.

Robbo has consolidated his power and legitimacy in the team, and looks fully in charge in pre-season training. In his first year Robbo earned credibility and respect both inside and outside of the squad when he pulled the unlikely Whitecaps into the playoffs.

"Och, aye, they're better this year!

“Och, aye, they’re better this year!

Robbo’s preferred combination of speedy youth with a core of experienced veterans is now coming into full effect. Key talent in the squad is maturing. We have yet to see the best of Gershon Koffie, Darren Mattocks, Russel Teibert, Kekuta Manneh and Nico Mezquida. These young players will play their best football yet as their minds and bodies come closer to full maturity.

The “spine” of the team is the strongest yet. Ousted, Waston, the newly acquired Pa Modou Kah, Harvey, Beitashour, Morales, Laba, Koffie and Rivero, all presumptive starters, look solid, tough, and ready to compete with any team in the fast and physical MLS.

The Whitecaps lost two Latinos during the off-season in Uruguayan Seb Fernandez and Honduran Johnny Leveron, which was no great loss. Fernandez scored five goals, but did not earn an assist all year, and Leveron looked painfully slow last season and a bit overweight to boot. We have traded up in footballing terms, with Uruguayans Octavio Rivero and Diego Rodriguez. Striker Rivero was setting the Chilean league on fire when we signed him from O’Higgins, and central defender Rodriguez looks to be a talented understudy to Waston and Kah. This adds to our existing talented Latino complement of Uruguayan Nico Mezquida, Argentinian Mauro Rosales, Costa Rican Kendall Waston and Chilean Pedro Morales.

The competitive pairings within the squad look to be the best they have ever been, and the intra-squad competition promises to be the best yet. Veterans like Harvey and Beitashour will have Adekugbe and Sampson snapping at their heels all season long. Will Koffie or Teibert start next to Laba? Will Nico Mezquida challenge Kekuta Manneh? Will Mauro Rosales start or finish games now the veteran of the Argentinian and Dutch top flights is getting older?

The addition of Whitecaps FC2 in 2015 with a full second team playing in the USL means squad players will be fresher and in better match condition than they have ever been. Lack of fitness among squad players has proven to be an Achilles heel in past seasons; squad players have come out on the pitch stumbling rather than running in the fast-paced MLS.

Not only will the competition in the Western Conference be intense as usual, but the Whitecaps will also compete in the CONCACAF Champions League. A strong squad kept alert in USL play will be a necessity to get through all of the matches without embarassment.

If this year’s team looks better than last year’s, this is good, because it will have to be. Traditional MLS powerhouses Houston and Kansas City will be joining the Western Conference after being bumped out of the Eastern Conference by shiny new MLS franchises Orlando City and New York City FC. The competition for the five available playoff spots will be very intense indeed.

Will we win the Western division? Not in my view. Other clubs have taken the off-season equally as seriously as the Whitecaps have, and the MLS takes a noticable jump in quality each season. Just because we have improved does not mean others haven’t.

The hard work and thoughtful planning of Robinson, (and, don’t forget, Bob Lenarduzzi), will see us in the thick of the battle this season seriously competing for a playoff spot. It will be intensely competitive, and I’ll bet it will come down to the last few games of the season before we’ll know if we are in the playoffs again.

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4 Comments »

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  1. Join our Fantasy MLS Blog League on fantasy.mlssoccer.com: 11799-2518

  2. The key to Lenarduzzi over the past year is he backed off and let Robbo do his job. That is not a criticism, the best leaders in the world show this trait..it just took him three years to get there but he is there now.

  3. With your kind indulgence, if I am not mistaken12 teams (top 6 per conference) will compete in the 2015 MLS Playoffs, up from 10 the last 3 seasons.

    Not that it will matter, though, because I am confident that fans will see a playoff game at BCPlace for the first time in the ‘Caps MLS era.

    • You are probably right, John, but As I always say, don’t let the facts get in the way of good journalism! I hope you are right abot the home playoff game.


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