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: Colorado Rapids 3-0 Chivas USA

    Jul 26, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    Two goals in the first half hour allowed the Rapids to cruise at DSG Park.

  2. Fraizer Campbell gives Tony Pulis a new option at Crystal Palace

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-NORWICH-CARDIFF

    The 26-year-old will try to improve an attack that averaged fewer than one goal per game last season.

  3. Omar Gonzalez targeting Monday return to LA Galaxy’s defense

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Gonzalez Getty Images

    Gonzalez resumed full training on Friday with the hope of starting in Seattle.

  4. Everton willing to set club transfer record to bring Lukaku back

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

    Lukaku Getty Images

    Roberto Martínez is ready to spend close to $35 million to secure the 21-year-old’s return.

  5. Arsenal on the verge of signing Calum Chambers from Southampton

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

    calum_chambers Getty Images

    Medical with Gunners and fee agreement has Chambers on the verge of departing for North London.

  6. Knee injury will keep Lallana out of Liverpool’s Premier League opener

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    www.liverpoolfc.com www.liverpoolfc.com

    LCL injury could sideline former Southampton star for six weeks.

  7. Houston acquires Honduran international Luis Garrido on loan from Olimpia

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

    luis_garrido AP

    23-year-old brings another ball-winner to the Dynamo midfield.

  8. Bebé done at Manchester United; Portuguese attacker joins Benfica

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    ManchesterUnited

    One of Alex Ferguson’s most notorious transfers has found a new home with Benfica.

  9. Dutch left back Patrick van Aanholt moves from Chelsea to Sunderland

    Jul 25, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    patrick van aanholt

    Five years of development by the Blues ends with the 23-year-old’s departure.

  10. A quick guide to who’s come and gone from Premier League teams

    Jul 25, 2014, 3:11 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Chile AP

    From Sanchez and Luiz to Suarez and Sidwell, a breakdown of the top names to have come and gone from the Premier League.

  11. Saints exodus continues with Lovren medical at Liverpool

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Things are looking dicey at Southampton, where yet another player is set to skip town.

  12. Didier Drogba has officially rejoined Jose Mourinho at Chelsea

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.42.00 PM

    A one-year move and mutual respect between the coach and player could make this a relatively-shrewd move for the Blues.

  13. Revs send DP on loan to Argentina, prepping for incoming attackers

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v New England Revolution Getty Images

    Jerry Bengston is going on loan to Belgrano, while New England president Brian Bilello is working on a number of attacking options.

  14. Who is Houston’s new World Cup mid? Reports say it’s this Honduran

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:24 AM EDT

    Honduras v Ecuador: Group E - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Dynamo president Chris Canetti made waves when he said the team would be adding to the DaMarcus Beasley signing soon with a World Cup starter.

  15. Maradona blasts Argentina team, says Messi was better when he was boss

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 21: Diego Maradona looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao on June 21, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Getty Images

    World Cup final, so what? Diego Maradona is not pleased with the way his nation played in Brazil.

  16. ‘Hacked’ video shows that French defender to City move is all but done

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    France Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Barring something wild, young Eliaquim Mangala is taking his French national team talent to Manchester.

  17. FIFA says World Cup will stay in Russia, “can achieve positive change”

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    FBL-WC2022-FIFA-QATAR-LABOUR-SLAVERY-UNIONS Getty Images

    It can be the soccer tournament that changes Russia forever (so implies FIFA)

  18. Arturo Vidal may not stay at Juve; Shuts door on Manchester United

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT

    FBL-ITA-SERIE A- JUVENTUS-PALERMO-SCUDETTO Getty Images

    The 27-year-old Chilean is very much in demand, but also happy at a Champions League club.

  19. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 3-1 Montréal Impact

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 AM EDT

    Olmes Garcia

    Olmes Garcia’s second half double lifted RSL.