Skip to content

Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: Vancouver Whitecaps

Jan 27, 2013, 5:00 PM EST

Mattocks

(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:

Latest Posts
  1. Radamel Falcao’s agent: I wish Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, not Louis van Gaal

    Jan 24, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

    The bitterness is flowing freely from Falcao’s agent as he plots the Colombian striker’s next move to a “world’s best-seven team.”

  2. Italy head coach Antonio Conte supports Sebastian Giovinco’s move to MLS

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:45 PM EST

    Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus

    If MLS is good enough for Italian national teamers, why isn’t it good enough for U.S. national teamers?

  3. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona, Madrid clubs win; AC Milan continue to free fall

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    Lionel Messi and Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    Barcelona were stunning as they put a half-dozen past Elche, while Real stumbled to victory. Elsewhere, AC Milan are very bad.

  4. USMNT U-20s defeat El Salvador, 2-0, qualify for 2015 U-20 World Cup

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EST

    FIFA U20 World Cup Trophy Tour Auckland Getty Images

    The Baby Yanks are headed back to the Big Dance this summer.

  5. Sunday’s FA Cup preview: Arsenal, West Ham hope to avoid fate similar to other PL sides

    Jan 24, 2015, 5:45 PM EST

    FA Cup trophy FA Cup trophy

    A number of PL giants fell on Saturday, leaving Arsenal, West Ham and Aston Villa shaking in their boots.

  6. Jurgen Klinsmann names 23-man roster for USMNT friendlies vs. Chile, Panama

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:54 PM EST

    Jurgen Klinsmann & DeAndre Yedlin, USMNT Getty Images

    The squad is set for the first games of 2015, following a late addition and a number of cuts.

  7. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Ivory Coast, Cameroon in 1-1 draws as Group D up for grabs

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:20 PM EST

    Bakary Sako, Mali Bakary Sako, Mali

    After four games played, absolutely nothing separates any of the four teams in Group D. Nothing.

  8. Mourinho on loss: “Me and the players must feel ashamed”

    Jan 24, 2015, 3:23 PM EST

    Chelsea v Bradford City - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    “Frustration is not the right word, embarrassed would be more appropriate.”

  9. Transfer rumor roundup: Cisse to China, Paulista to Arsenal official?

    Jan 24, 2015, 2:51 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    Catch up on all the latest rumors and gossip, right here.

  10. Ronaldo sees red as Bale saves Real

    Jan 24, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    ron.red Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for Real Madrid, but Gareth Bale saved three points with a late-game penalty.

  11. FA Cup roundup: Top-three Premier League teams all eliminated at home

    Jan 24, 2015, 1:16 PM EST

    che.bra Getty Images

    Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton were all upset in one of the craziest rounds in FA Cup history.

  12. Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough: Premier League champions shocked at home

    Jan 24, 2015, 12:29 PM EST

    boro Getty Images

    Another Premier League giant is out of the FA Cup as Middlesbrough got the result of a lifetime.

  13. Third-tier Bradford City come from behind to stun Chelsea 4-2

    Jan 24, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    Chelsea v Bradford City - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Madness at Stamford Bridge as The Bantams came from two goals down to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup.

  14. LIVE – Manchester City down 1-0 to Championship side Middlesbrough

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:38 AM EST

    bamford Getty Images

    Middlesbrough are poised to knock the defending Premier League champions out of the FA Cup.

  15. LIVE – Goals galore at St. Mary’s as Palace lead 3-2 at half

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:04 AM EST

    Southampton v Crystal Palace - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Southampton and Crystal Palace combined to score five first-half goals in a wild FA Cup match.

  16. WATCH: Gylfi Sigurdsson finds top corner from distance

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:49 AM EST

    gylf Getty Images

    Unfortunately, the strike wasn’t enough to save Swansea City from defeat.

  17. Mancini asked about Yaya Toure despite the Man City man’s status at the Etihad

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:23 AM EST

    Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Knowing that Mancini knows Yaya well, we’ll present the comments in case something comes up.

  18. Altidore ready for “incredible challenge” at Toronto FC; Klinsmann admits “There’s a lot at stake”

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Italy US Soccer AP

    Jurgen Klinsmann knows that Altidore’s move to MLS is a risk and an opportunity.

  19. Report: Controversial midfielder Morrison agrees to deal with Lazio

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:50 AM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    For every backheel volley highlight, there was a story like his nearly fighting Wilfried Zaha in an England U-21 match.

  20. English football set to break record number of sackings in one season

    Jan 23, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-WEST BROM-CRYSTAL PALACE Getty Images

    Check out the stats behind the sacks as the League Managers Association releases its quarterly report.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22