Great season to date
It has been a very strong year for the Vancouver Whitecaps in a very pleasantly surprising manner. The team was expected to demonstrate some improvement, but the jump from the Western Conference basement, all the way up to their current 3rd place seat (and in the playoffs) has been a greater than hoped for change.
The credit is due in great part to the new manager Martin Rennie, the motivated Scot who had enjoyed great success with the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks.
Rennie has been able to meld his European understanding of the game with his previous experience in the second tier of North American soccer to reinvigorate the Whitecaps.
Additional credit can also be attributed to Whitecaps executives, especially Bobby Lenarduzzi, who hired Rennie and gave him such immense input into acquiring new players and offloading the dead weight.
The 3-1 spanking of a talented Houston Dynamo side on June 10th at BC Place matched the total number of wins that Vancouver had managed to accomplish in its first season of 2011. It was also the emergence of Number 2 SuperDraft selection Darren Mattocks who scored twice.
Last week’s humiliating 3-0 loss to the LA Galaxy showcase the ‘Caps at their worst, with poor marking in defence (which is the team’s mainstay) and a limited, creatively deficient midfield corps.
YP Lee has been the steadiest of the Whitecaps this year. The ex-Korean national team captain is rarely spectacular, just a committed player who tackles cleanly, plays the ball well out of defence and also contributes on the offensive end, with a goal and two assists this season.
Most Improved Player
Davide Chiumiento was guilty of too much gimmickry last year, tending to attempt tricky step overs constantly or fruitlessly trying to dribble past opponents with limited success.
However, this year under Rennie’s guidance, he has worked to improve the efficiency of his game, making quick cuts while retaining his eye for a great pass. He leads Vancouver in assists while serving turns in the team rotation.
Darren Mattocks blundered early on in the year with his cooking mishap that led to burns, and a medically induced stay on the injured list. However, the wait was worth it as he has started to pile up the goals, while bringing a welcome injection of speed to the Vancouver front line, which provides a nice counterpoint to the skills of the other forwards.
Gershon Koffie has shown great moments this year, but with the incoming Barry Robson likely to take much of his playing time in the creative midfield role, he needs to generate much more in the way of consistency throughout games.
The Whitecaps are about to embark on a four game road trip that could define their season, either propelling them into the playoffs for sure, or knocking them out of a first MLS post-season experience. Vancouver needs to manage a .500 record or better to maintain their course for the MLS Cup.
- Away to Colorado (July 4th)
- Away to Chivas USA (July 7th)
- Away to TFC (July 11th)
- Away to Chicago (Juy 14th)
Eric Hassli’s stunning volley to tie Toronto FC in the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup finals in the Canadian Championships was a spectacular indicator of the French forward’s ability to create goals out of the merest hint of an opportunity.
Top 10 Moments So far
This Vancouver Whitecaps squad is very talented, soon to be even more with the arrival of Robson, and now has the leadership to match.
As long as there is a return to solidity on the back line, this ‘Caps group will be in the playoffs by the end of the regular season.