Skip to content

Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: Vancouver Whitecaps

Jan 27, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

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. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 0-3 LA Galaxy

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:37 AM EDT

    Philadelphia Union v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    Sounders’ tendency to collapse resurfaces during the Galaxy’s biggest win of the season.

  2. Premier, Champions League quotas leave Mourinho desperate to sell Torres

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:07 PM EDT

    Torres Getty Images

    A terrible move could get worse if Chelsea can’t move the Spanish striker.

  3. Vertonghen confirms interest from Barcelona, intends to stay at Tottenham

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    Swindon Town v Tottenham Hotspur - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Belgian international intends to stay at White Hart Lane, with a new, five-year deal on the table.

  4. Van Gaal, Manchester United ready to move on from Fellaini, Kagawa

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT

    Marouane Fellaini AP

    Napoli, Borussia Dortmund linked to the potential United castoffs.

  5. Radamel Falcao on track to return at weekend’s Emirates Cup

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:22 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-MONACO Getty Images

    Colombian international expected to play Saturday against Valencia.

  6. New York connection: Red Bulls, Cosmos come together on Lade loan

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT

    New York Red Bulls v DC United - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    Time in the NASL will give the 24-year-old needed minutes.

  7. Injured groin sends Rafael home early from Manchester United’s tour

    Jul 28, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    rafael Getty Images

    Brazilian’s injury testing United’s depth on the right side.

  8. Danny Williams finally undergoes knee surgery, will miss start of Reading’s season

    Jul 28, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Reading v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    U.S. international’s knee surgery will sideline him for “several weeks.”

  9. Rodriguez, Schneiderlin close to joining Pochettino at Tottenham

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT

    Southampton v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    Two Saints look to follow their former manager to North London.

  10. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Portland’s Diego Valeri

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Diego Valeri's fifth goal of the season, his second game-winner in a row, gave Portland a 3-2 win in Montréal. (Credit: AP) AP

    Timber’s game-winning goal in Montréal separated him from a tight field.

  11. After Balotelli, Martinez take “selfies” with pitch invaders, should we be worried?

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Source, Twitter: @NA_B27 Source, Twitter: @NA_B27

    After two on-pitch selfie’s occur with players over the weekend, security needs to be stepped up.

  12. Brazil want Neymar to play at 2016 Olympics in Rio

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil. Getty Images

    Could Neymar represent Brazil at the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

  13. Everton buy smart, sign Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    muhamed_besic AP

    Besic, 21, has signed a five-year deal with the Toffees.

  14. VIDEO: Gareth Bale scores wondergoal for Real Madrid on US tour

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT

    Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Bale smashes in an absolute beauty from distance. Check it out, here.

  15. The great Southampton exodus continues. Why is this happening?

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    Southampton v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    After selling over $170 million of talent so far this summer, what are Saints playing at?

  16. US striker Terrence Boyd out injured after tearing ACL

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-RAPID WIEN-KRC GENK Getty Images

    Boyd out after injury in Queens Park Rangers friendly.

  17. Lionel Messi’s tax fraud case will go ahead

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Messi AP

    He may be one of the best soccer players the planet has ever seen, but Messi is not above the law.

  18. Arsenal confirm $27 million signing of Calum Chambers

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Source: Arsenal FC Source: Arsenal FC

    Arsenal splash the cash to sign 19-year-old Southampton academy graduate.

  19. Harry Redknapp says Loic Remy failing Liverpool medical is “not possible”

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers' Remy reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton in Liverpool Reuters

    Did Remy fail a medical at Liverpool? ‘Arry isn’t buying it.

  20. British politicians call for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    Vladimir Putin AP

    Clegg, Downing Street, discuss Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.