5 Bold Predictions For Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2014 MLS Season
5 Bold Predictions for the Vancouver Whitecaps' 2014 MLS Season
To say the offseason has been a whirlwind for the Vancouver Whitecaps may be an understatement. There was a drawn out search for a coach. Their best player and his agent figured out a way to leave the team. One of the team's most dependable players retired, and all this was after missing the playoffs by only three points. The 2014 MLS season is not shaping up as a way to get this strange taste out of their collective mouths as it should be a rebuilding year.
It took until the middle of December for the Whitecaps to find a coach. They went after former USMNT coach Bob Bradley but were turned down. It is hard to say what the offer was, but it was not enough to keep Bradley from staying overseas. Vancouver decided to go with one of their assistant coaches, Carl Robinson, who had worked with midfielders and younger players over the last two years. He will be charged with leading the club through their 40th anniversary season.
In the end of the Camilo Sanvezzo saga, the Whitecaps did get a record amount of money from Queretaro FC, but it started with the player tweeting a picture of himself in the Liga MX team's kit. Camilo and his agent were able to work around a current contract with Vancouver at the time to find a player option. Queretaro later called everything a misunderstanding, but Camilo basically worked his way out of Vancouver, meaning they would lose his league-best 22 goals from 2013.
The offseason events started in October as defender Young-Pyo Lee retired. Lee was in the back four for over 90 percent of the matches during the past two years and brought an immense amount of experience. Now a healthy Jay Demerit has a new contract and will be used with either Andy O'Brien or Christian Dean.
Preseason play has been a good thing for Vancouver as they can focus on the year ahead, but Robinson has a big job to do. There are so many uncertainties and a lack of optimism that stems from last year. The splash moves have been made in the Eastern Conference, so the Whitecaps can still have hope. It will be interesting to watch it all play out in Vancouver, but these predictions are far from optimistic.
5. The Whitecaps will change their starting XI more than any other team in MLS
The midfield is quite the conundrum. Nigel Reo-Coker is sure to be there, but the rest could be a revolving door. Robinson has kept a lot of midfielders on the traveling roster at this point in the preseason as he tries to turn the team toward a possession-oriented game plan. Gershon Koffie showed moments of brilliance last year, but he has not cemented his place. Sebastian Fernandez and Matt Watson are fighting for a spot on the right side. The No. 7 pick in the draft, Andre Lewis, can play multiple roles, and Robinson is still trying to see where Erik Hurtado fits.
If you add these concerns in with possible injuries to aging players with a history of setbacks like Demerit, there could be a lot of juggling at BC Place. It is a World Cup year, so other MLS teams will be gutted for national team duty, but the amount of uncertainty that still exists for Robinson just two weeks from the start of the season is concerning.
4. Russell Teibert will play defensive midfield
To go along with the last prediction, moving Russell Teibert behind Reo-Coker will be a surprise move. Robinson has experimented with it in the preseason after teams shut down Teibert in his right wing role last season. He needs a defined role, but is still learning this position. Teibert's work rate is often praised, meaning he would do well in a defensive role if he can understand it.
3. Kekuta Manneh will be the second leading scorer for the Whitecaps
Kekuta Manneh may be involved in the most intriguing battle on the field right now as he fights for a starting position with Omar Salgado. The experience is in Salgado's favor, but Manneh is fearless. He is ready to take on anyone in scoring areas and is comfortable with the ball at his feet. Manneh may be a substitute when the season starts, thus saving his efforts for the end of the season. Still, if there is a player to have faith in, it is Manneh. His ability will win out in the end. He is fun to watch, and he will produce results this year, not just anticipation.
2. Darren Mattocks will be on a different team by the end of the calendar year
Darren Mattocks is supposed to score goals, and he didn't last year. He is also becoming known for negative body language and not being a team player. The work ethic of Mattocks has been questioned, so he needs to figure out a way to score again. With Camilo gone, Mattocks should benefit. However, he will have competition from Hurtado and Kenny Miller. One could also see a scenario where Mattocks finds himself on the bench with Salgado and Manneh both on the field.
If Mattocks ends up on the bench, he has no value. It would be wise for the Whitecaps to move on.
1. The Whitecaps will have less than eight points after the first two months of the season
Between March 8 and April 27, Vancouver plays four home games and four away games, but the schedule is not favorable. The Whitecaps open the season against the New York Red Bulls and play the Los Angeles Galaxy back to back in April. When you add in a trip across the continent to meet the New England Revolution and a trip to see Real Salt Lake, a good start does not seem likely.
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