A Preseason of Hope

After the conclusion of the 2014 season Carl Robinson, head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps, knew that there was something special about his team. The sense of comradery in the Vancouver dressing room was so noticeable that Carl could look at his first season as a head coach of a MLS team and smile with satisfaction. That being said, there remained one massive problem, the team lacked a goal scorer.

Since the departure of Camilo in January 2014 the Whitecaps had failed to find his replacement but on Christmas Day, Vancouver officially announced the addition of striker Octavio Rivero as the clubs newest designated player. On paper Rivero looks to be another hidden gem that Robbo and his scouting network has managed to unearth. As the team concludes their preseason training stint in Tucson Arizona, Rivero is already well on his way to finding a place in the hearts of Vancouver supporters. On February 4th the ‘Caps played New England and Rivero saw his first action as a Whitecap. Rivero scored a brace in 45 minutes and could have easily added a few more as he lead his new team to a 2-0 victory.

Rivero isn’t the only important piece the Whitecaps have managed to add or retain on their roster this offseason. Creative midfielder and winger, Mauro Rosales re-signed with the club after joining late in the 2014 season after the Caps traded Nigel Reo-Coker to Chivas USA in exchange for Rosales. Mauro had an immediate impact both on and off the pitch and despite his age, Rosales is an integral part of the Whitecaps roster as we head into the 2015 season.

The club surprised more than a few people by deciding to part ways with central defenders Johnny Leveron and fan favorite Andy O’Brien. The club and O’Brien went through lengthy discussions to come to terms on a new contract but in the end the two sides were too far apart. This meant that Robinson had to find reinforcements and soon after the club announced the signing of Pa-Modou Kah who last played for the Portland Timbers and Diego Rodriguez. Over the last week in Arizona the Whitecaps have played three games and both Kah and Rodriguez have impressed the coaching staff. Central defender Tim Parker was selected 13th overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and has looked like a solid draft pick so far. These additions plus the towering frame of Kendall Waston and Christian Dean means that Carl Robinson could be spoiled for choice at this position. After qualifying to represent Canada at this year’s CCL tournament the Whitecaps will have more than enough minutes to go around for these players.

So far, the surprise of preseason training has been the emergence of Nico Mezquida in the central attacking mid position. Since joining the team just days before the 2014 season Pedro Morales has claimed the CAM position and no one has been able to come close to dethroning him. I’m not saying Mezquida has been or will be able to claim the playmaker role for himself but his chemistry with fellow countrymen Octavio Rivero could be the deciding factor which could result in a change in formation for the Vancouver Whitecaps. In the second half of the game against New England, Robinson played Rivero up top with Mezquida in the CAM spot while Morales was pushed back into a deeper role. Due to a lack of a stream I am unable to give my opinion regarding how well this change in formation worked but the ‘Caps scored 2 goals and based on what those in attendance have told me do not be surprised if you see Robinson try this attacking formation in the regular season.

Perhaps the biggest news of the offseason was that the entire Whitecaps coaching staff were given new long term contracts. I honestly can’t say enough good things about Carl Robinson and his coaching staff. The team they have assembled and the comradery that exists is something special to behold and will only continue to improve. All in all, the Whitecaps have been able to improve the team in several positions which has given fans a real sense of hope for the upcoming season. Robbo would still like to add another striker and a winger before opening day on March 7th and if he is successful I would confidently say that this would be the best offseason and preseason for the club since joining MLS.

(image courtesy of whitecapsfc.com)