Season Review (Part 4)
The first official year for the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS was certainly a minefield, as the team struggled to adjust to the elevated class of players at the top level in North American professional soccer with a comparatively weak squad, but the lower mainland outfit has garnered league wide acclaim for the quality of their forward play.
Although they had the second poorest league record in terms of points accumulated in 2011, they were always an intriguing team to watch as thanks to the mercurial nature of their duo of talented strikers, they often threatened to claw their way back into matches.
The starting frontmen were quite productive in their MLS debut year, contributing some sparkling highlight reel plays along the way.
Brazilian Camilo Sanvezzo finished tied for 5th overall in the league with 12 goals (just 4 back of league leader Dwayne DeRosario), while hot tempered French maestro Eric Hassli was just two scores behind with 10 goals. Hassli was also a finalist for the MLS play of the year, with his eye-catching dipping strike back across the 18 yard box against the Seattle Sounders mid-season.
The two stars offer differing dimensions in their individual play that would allow an astute coach to develop multi-faceted game plans to suit any opponent. Hassli is a tall, powerfully built force with a delicate touch that saw him find the cracks and crevices in defences to exploit for either a smart pass or a net bursting goal.
Camilo on the other hand provides a lightning quick presence that makes highly intelligent runs into space to get on the end of passes and crosses into the danger areas in front of net. He also possesses nimble feet and can turn and accelerate quickly in tight spaces to create room to get off shots on net.
The two players work well as lone strikers and as a team, so hopefully new coach Rennie will find innovative means to get them the ball, as long as an improved midfield can be constructed.
Davide Chiumiento and Atiba Harris are mainly midfield players with offensive tendencies, who can also step in on the forward line when necessary to provide depth. Chinese striker Long Tan signifies another developing prospect that brings further depth to the forward pool.
Although the Whitecaps were blessed with a great deal of riches at the forward position this year, not everything was rosy this year, as second designated player Mustapha Jarju from Gambia proved to be a near half a million dollar failure and was left unprotected in the MLS expansion draft.
However, due to his high salary, designated player status and poor play, interest was negligible.
On another front, one hope for Hassli is that he will become a more consistently productive striker, and less streaky, as he loaded up his goals in the first half of the year, ending the season with a scoreless drought of over two months.
Looking forward, the future for the Vancouver Whitecaps is overwhelmingly positive at the offensive end of the pitch, provided they can receive the ball on a frequent basis.
Next week, we will take a look at the Vancouver Whitecaps coaching and team management this past season.