Feb 23, 2013, 7:57 PM EST
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.
Dec 20, 2013, 10:00 PM EST
Fresh off his ride into the sunset, Jimmy Nielsen returns on the other side – the coaching side – to lead a new USL Pro affiliate of his former MLS club.
Dec 20, 2013, 9:12 PM EST
If the midfielder’s back continues to hamper his ability to get on the pitch, he may elect to get a wrist procedure out of the way as well.
Dec 20, 2013, 7:55 PM EST
Tim Sherwood has not only expressed his interest in the vacant Spurs managerial position, he insisted he’s the only man for the job.
Dec 20, 2013, 7:15 PM EST
Out of Premier League action since the beginning of November, Joe Hart could get a lifeline against lowly Fulham.
Dec 20, 2013, 6:05 PM EST
Euro 2016 will definitely feature 24 teams – up from 16 – and now we know how they’ll get there.
Dec 20, 2013, 5:13 PM EST
19-year-old M’Baye Niang is a wanted man, just not at the San Siro.
Dec 20, 2013, 4:25 PM EST
With names tossed around left and right, the Swansea manager has taken himself out of the running for Tottenham’s next manager.
Dec 20, 2013, 3:48 PM EST
It nearly came to pass that Fernando Torres attempted a professional career as a shot-stopper, not a goal-scorer.
Dec 20, 2013, 2:26 PM EST
Landon leads the way as U.S. Soccer Federation honors greatest XI of all-time:
Dec 20, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Can City keep the pressure up on those above them by beating struggling Fulham?
Dec 20, 2013, 12:24 PM EST
With a new deal inked and his future secured, now Suarez wants to bring UCL success back to Anfield:
Dec 20, 2013, 11:22 AM EST
All the details on where to watch every single PL game live this weekend:
Dec 20, 2013, 10:50 AM EST
New deal extends apparel deal which began in ’95… Will the USA now get creative with jersey design?
Dec 20, 2013, 10:00 AM EST
In the latest PST Extra, JPW and Prindi chat about Sherwood’s potential, a massive London derby and Guzan vs. Cameron:
Dec 20, 2013, 8:56 AM EST
Star striker signs lengthy new deal to hand Liverpool huge boost:
Dec 20, 2013, 8:32 AM EST
Get ready, “Fulhamerica” is about to be back on the map as Dempsey finalizes loan switch:
Dec 20, 2013, 8:10 AM EST
Cardiff boss expected to be fired, as owner Vincent Tan shocks English soccer with appalling behavior:
Dec 20, 2013, 7:25 AM EST
Top teams across Europe scrambling to get AVB on board:
Dec 19, 2013, 11:05 PM EST
They couldn’t wait until January. Swansea’s goalkeeper had to go under the knife as soon as possible.
Dec 19, 2013, 10:01 PM EST
Simple, cheap, and already in wide use. Giving the okay to vanishing spray was an obvious choice.
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- U.S. Soccer names All-Time Best XI, do you agree? 7
- Luis Suarez signs new long-term deal at Liverpool 3
- Clint Dempsey undergoes medical at Fulham ahead of loan move from Seattle Sounders 3
- Hamm, Wambach, Morgan lead U.S. Soccer’s all-time women’s best XI (but no Solo, Milbrett) 11
- Manchester derby in cards for League Cup final 1
- Report: Clint Dempsey will join Fulham on Jan. 1 for two-month loan (12)
- Is Google a player in the game of sports media rights? (12)
- Hamm, Wambach, Morgan lead U.S. Soccer’s all-time women’s best XI (but no Solo, Milbrett) (11)
- Spurs in hunt for new boss after sacking Andre Villas-Boas (10)
- Mexico’s Monterrey dumped out of FIFA Club World Cup (7)
- Bank of Brazil to Release Special World Cup Coins
- Nightmare for Socceroos in Real Group of Death
- Hodgson's Manaus Plan is Flawed
- Wilmer Cabrera on WC Draw: ''It's an Even Group''
- Germany Building Training Facility in Brazil
- Spain Thinking of US Camp Before World Cup
- Don't count out Chile in WC Group B
- Kicking it Off with a Final
- VIDEO: Visa World Cup Promo
- Aurelien Collin: I Think France is Very Very Happy