Feb 23, 2013, 7:57 PM EDT
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.
No. 7 in the West are the Vancouver Whitecaps:
Significant additions and subtractions: Barry Robson is the biggest “loss.” The Scottish international was brought in as a Designated Player, had the team built around him, but never quite justified the love. It was also unclear he ever warmed to the move, part of the reason he’s now in the third-tier of English soccer.
To partially fill his boots, Vancouver’s brought in 30-year-old Daigo Kobayashi, though the team’s unlikely to rely on him the same way they tried to depend on Robson. With the once-capped midfielder on this fifth team in sixth years, that’s probably a good thing.
Farther back, the team has added Nigel Reo-Coker to their defensive midfield. If Martin Rennie gets good Reo-Coker, the former West Ham, Aston Villa standout will prove a very valuable addition.
Strengths: Vancouver has a number of individuals capable of transcending whatever struggles appear around them. Defenders Jay DeMerit and Lee Young-Pyo are among the best at their positions in the league. Gershon Koffie would be one of the most talked about young players in MLS if he were playing in a different market, while it’s no longer edgy to say Darren Mattocks is set to break out (everybody agrees).
Rennie could change philosophy every 45 minutes, but if those players are on the field, Vancouver have a puncher’s chance.
Pressure points: That starts with Rennie. The Whitecaps’ boss took a chance with the team last year, shifting gears midseason after an unexpectedly strong start. A couple of key trades and the signing of Kenny Miller remade the team for the worse. That mistake needs to turn into a learning experience.
The team also needs to settle into a way to play (a problem that lingers from last year’s makeover), and they need to find somebody to augment Mattocks’ goals. That means playing in a way that gets more production out of Miller and Camilo.
With the acquisition of Reo-Coker pushing Alain Rochat back to left back, the biggest question is in goal. Is it going to be Brad Knighton or Joe Cannon? Knighton seems the right choice, but Cannon is awfully veteran-y.
Difference maker: If Jay DeMerit isn’t the best defender in the league, he might be the most valuable. His experience and talismanic play augment his defending with valuable leadership at a crucial position. The problem is age combined with the specter of nagging injuries, with an Achilles problem hampering his preseason preparations. For a 33-year-old, that type of problem could cause a cascade.
Potential breakout player: No doubt about it: Mattocks (right). On a per minute basis, the guy was already a strong scoring option last year, a season where injuries and rookie adjustments held him back. With Jamaica out of the Gold Cup (and Mattocks no lock to make the team for World Cup Qualifiers), the talented attacker will be at Rennie’s disposal more often.
The question is how much to expect. Break out your TI-85s and do some prorating and it’s not hard to see mid-teens as a reasonable output for Mattocks. That would make him one of the league’s best goal scorers.
Is it too soon for that? Nobody who has watched this kid played would deny the talent. It’s all about how much he plays and whether he has made the adjustments.
If he comes good, Vancouver’s biggest problem is solved. They have a consistent goalscorer.
Bottom line: If the Whitecaps carry over last fall’s form into 2013, they’re not a playoff team. Add in likely improvement from Dallas and Portland, and Vancouver will be hard-pressed to replicate last year’s finish.
Oct 19, 2014, 11:38 PM EDT
The Dutch midfielder scored off two ridiculous strikes to lead Galatasary over rivals Fenerbahce.
Oct 19, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
The Sounders came from 2-0 down to steal a draw in Los Angeles at Landon Donovan’s final regular season home game.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT
Werder Bremen became the first team without a shot in a Bundesliga game as Bayern continues to cruise.
Oct 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
The Argentinian forward is scoring goals at a blistering pace for Manchester City. Could he be the most lethal striker in Europe?
Oct 19, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Catch up on all of this weekend’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.
Oct 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT
After an ugly 8-0 thrashing at Southampton, Vito Mannone said he will try to pay back fans who travelled to the game.
Oct 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
The American international responded to Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent criticism of his return to the MLS.
Oct 19, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT
The private nature of Mackay’s texts may help him steer clear of FA charges.
Oct 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Bale did not play in Real Madrid’s match against Levante while nursing a muscle injury.
Oct 19, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT
12 players sent off, an ambulance called, and riot police on the field. That was the carnage from an ugly brawl in Argentinian soccer.
Oct 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT
The Swansea manager was furious following a soft penalty given for a foul on Victor Moses, suggesting his club has been hard done by referees plenty this season.
Oct 19, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Raheem Sterling faced criticism from the British media for his fitness, but he was also rumored to be wanted by Real Madrid. Ancelotti says don’t believe the rumors.
Oct 19, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
The QPR manager loved what he saw on the field at Loftus Road despite the loss. Off the field is a different story.
Oct 19, 2014, 12:53 PM EDT
Jonathan Walters scored the winner off the bench as Stoke City grabbed a much-needed three points.
Oct 19, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT
Harry Redknapp was left flabbergasted after his side performed well but fell 3-2 after a bonkers last five minutes at Loftus Road.
Oct 19, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Rodgers, Gerrard know the Reds were fortunate to leave West London with all three points. But they’ll take it.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:58 AM EDT
Two teams who have dipped in form look to get back on track at the Britannia.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT
Liverpool struggled through the first hour, but somehow earned the win in an absolutely wild finish.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
QPR’s wasteful finishing, Balotelli’s struggles and much more from a superb encounter at Loftus Road.
Oct 19, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT
Borussia Dortmund have lost five of their opening eight matches, putting them in 14th.
- MUST SEE: Wesley Sneijder scores two wonder goals 0
- Where does Sergio Aguero rank with the world’s best? 0
- Michael Bradley to Jurgen Klinsmann: ‘I have thick skin’ 0
- Stoke 2-1 Swansea: Substitutes pick up three points for the Potters 0
- Liverpool must improve, and they know it, despite late win at QPR 3
- VIDEO: QPR 2-3 Liverpool: Pair of own goals dooms QPR after insane final six minutes 1