Jan 27, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)
Vancouver may have made last year’s playoffs, but having stumbled into the postseason after a mid-season makeover, 2013 comes with more questions than answers. Thankfully, there’s still a strong base of talent featuring the kind of veteran cornerstones that make create envy in more MLS bosses.
But players like Jay DeMerit and Lee Young-Pyo only provide a foundation – a fail safe ensuring one half of the Whitecaps’ game will be fine. Vancouver’s problem last year was going forward, with the team scoring seven fewer goals than any other playoff team. It’s difficult to imagine a return to the postseason unless the Whitecaps can find some more goals.
- How good will Darren Mattocks be?
In 21 appearances and 15 starts, the 22-year-old Mattocks put up seven goals (1300 minutes). That’s a decent debut in an absolute sense, but compare that with the other forwards taken high in the 2012 SuperDraft: Andrew Wenger had four goals; Casey Townsend scored once; Sam Garza, Ethan Finlay, Chandler Hoffman, Dom Dwyer and Colin Rolfe failed to score. Mattocks scored more goals than the rest of the first round forward combined. Add in the mid-season reshuffle at BC Place and the demands of World Cup Qualifying and Mattocks’ rookie season looks impressive.
He was more impressive on the field. The raw abilities he showed forced you to imagine an attack that could do more than dump balls behind the defense. That will always be a huge part of the burner’s game, but Mattocks is capable of much more.
If Martin Rennie can harness that talent and put a system behind Mattocks’ inevitable improvement, Vancouver could have one of the more dangerous strikers in the league. But out your calculator, up his minutes, and bump up the numbers to account for some improvement and more help around him, and you can see a player challenging 14-15 goals. Even if it’s low double digits, that would solve a lot of Vancouver’s scoring problems.
- What now without Barry Robson?
Scottish international Barry Robson is gone, and that’s a good thing. Martin Rennie was enamored with the midfielder, built his attack around him, and it cost the team. Vancouver was worse after Robson came into the lineup, with the former Celtic man see more success venting his frustrations than creating goals.
How they move on may depend on Omar Salgado’s health. He’s still coming back after last year’s foot injury, but when he returns, he’ll have to play, something that will influence Rennie’s deployment. Does he play on the left again? Or up top? Regardless, when you combine Salgado with Mattocks, Vancouver has two formidable (if emerging) talents in attack. That’s their future.
The midfield, however, looks thin. Once a position of depth, now Rennie only has Jun Marques Davidson, Gershon Koffie, and Matt Watson returning from the corps he used last season. Alain Rochat seems destined to see time here, but that doesn’t solve the position’s main problem: There’s little to offer in attack. This preseason, Rennie will need to identify the player that’s going to make the connection between the Koffie-level and Mattocks.
- What has Martin Rennie learned?
Rennie looked like a perfect fit at the beginning of last season. In the middle, he got a little ahead of himself. With the departure of Robson, it’s clear there’s been some reconsideration of last year’s moves.
Call it a learning experience, but it remains to be seen what the lessons were. Surely Rennie has learned a lot about what his players can do, but how does that transfer onto those mid-season adjustments the Whitecaps will have to make during the summer window?
Hopefully Rennie gets comfortable with his squad before March so the changes Whitecaps fans see in the middle of the season are more gradual than last summer’s dice roll. The team has the talent to challenge for the playoffs again. Since it’s hard to imagine a mid-season overhaul that would change that state, Vancouver would best served trying to get the most out of now rather than waiting for their team to re-form in July.
MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:
- PST Extra: Relegation in focus ahead of six-pointer in Cardiff 0
- Major League Soccer Preview: An alternate view of the 2014 regular season 0
- Premier League Power Rankings: Top four shuffle, as pivotal stretch arrives – Week 28 0
- Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next two expansion teams (after Don Garber’s Tuesday Q-and-A) 4
- MLS Season Preview: Ranking the top 10 midfielders 0
- U.S. Soccer confirms three-game send-off series ahead of 2014 World Cup 3
- Revs Notebook: Targeting Strikers, Imbongo's Reds & Fagundez's Left Foot
- Chicago Fire Players to Watch for in 2014
- FC Dallas Unveil 2014 Home Kit
- Eddie Johnson's Bumpy Road to Designated Player Status
- Adidas & Nike Unveil Hybrid Cleats to Change Soccer Forever
- Preview: Sporting KC at Seattle Sounders FC
- Chelsea Face Stiff Test When Tottenham Visit the Bridge
- Egyptian Player Banned for Using 'Sisi' Sign
- Houston Dynamo Players to Watch During the 2014 MLS Season
- Vancouver Whitecaps: Players to Watch During the 2014 MLS Season