Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 set to beginMarch 5, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 | Leave a comment
Tags: 2016, Bob Lenarduzzi, Carl Robinson, MLS first kick, Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps
The 2015 season represented a giant leap forward for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Though the season ended with a whimper due to injuries and poor form, 2015 was the best MLS season yet for the still-young team. The Whitecaps finished third in the overall MLS standings. A second place finish in the Western Conference meant they had a home playoff game, something the club had set as a goal going into the season. They finally won the Canadian Championship, something which had been a monkey on their back for years. And, they participated in the CONCACAF Champions League, though they went out in the group stage.
There were two main factors which contributed to the mediocre form at the end of the 2015 season. One was the injury and poor fitness of the team’s captain and most gifted player Pedro Morales. When the Whitecaps were really in good form so was Morales. The value of having a truly gifted player like Morales was made clear by his absence: a string of mediocre and poor results followed his lack of fitness. The other was a snake bitten Octavio Rivero, who started the season well but struggled to score as the season went on.
In 2015 the spine of the team got stronger and the team was harder to beat. David Ousted was the best keeper in MLS by a long way, assisted by the Costa Rican giant Kendall Waston who is the Whitecaps leading centre back. Watching Waston win virtually every battle in the air all season was one of the joys of 2015. In midfield Mathias Laba stood out as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. His ability to read the minds of opponents demonstrated a keen intelligence, and he broke up attack after attack all season. Labas’ mental and physical attributes showed a player who is will only get better with time.
For the 2016 squad the good news is that we kept all of our best players and have added some more strong ones. Costa Rican international and World Cup veteran Christian Bolanos brings a wealth of experience and skill with him to the squad, making the team less dependant on Pedro Morales to be the play-maker.
Octavio Rivero gets some help up front, which was lacking last year, with Masato Kudo joining from Japan and Blas Perez coming over from Dallas FC. This will put pressure on Rivero, who was the only viable striker in 2015. These additions give manager Carl Robinson an option to play with two strikers. He now has viable substitutes if he plays with only one. Darren Mattocks was a disappontment last year and the Whitecaps are just looking for the right deal to move him on somewhere else.
The loss of Stephen Beitashour is really the only down side to the off-season, with young and relatively inexperienced players Jordan Smith and Fraser Aird covering the right back position. I expect it is Aird we will see running up and down the right flank, and what we lost in Beita’s experience we may well gain in Aird’s speed and fitness.
The Whitecaps have again stopped short of signing an aging superstar, which is good news. We don’t need a splash in the press, we need solid footballers who are committed to playing. Bob Lenarduzzi and Carl Robinson have their fingers on the pulse of the supporters in this regard. With some of the stars other clubs have signed acting like tourists rather than footballers, (Montreal’s Didier Drogba will not show up at BC Place tomorrow but will go to Florida instead!), this is an approach I prefer.