Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
MLS Preview: Aggressive Whitecaps stay the course with 2013 signings
by Ridge Mahoney, February 22nd, 2013 1:44PM

TAGS:  mls, vancouver whitecaps


By Ridge Mahoney

Whitecaps' management admitted after the 2012 season that perhaps too many changes were made to a successful team, but the few misfires that resulted haven't staunched an aggressive approach.

The signing of English Premier League veteran Nigel Reo-Coker this week marks one of the few times in league history an MLS team has acquired a player with extensive top-division experience on the young side of 30. Reo-Coker, 28, has played more than 200 English games though he comes to MLS after a three-month stint with Ipswich Town in the League Championship (second division).

A month ago, Vancouver cut ties with Barry Robson, who’d been signed as a Designated Player well before the start of the 2012 season, and upon arriving in July showed that he certainly wasn’t worth the wait. No one in the Whitecaps’ front office would say that subsequent moves were partially triggered by Robson’s lackluster performances, but a team that looked certain to make the playoffs in midseason struggled through a seven-game winless streak (while scoring just three goals) that dragged into early October.

A fifth-place finish matched Vancouver against the defending MLS Cup champion in the wild-card game, and despite taking a 1-0 lead the ‘Caps ended up 2-1 losers to the Galaxy. Robson was the most prominent of nine players cut loose by Coach Martin Rennie, and Reo-Coker is one of several international products to come aboard.

Where he’ll play hasn’t been determined; in England, he played a lot of midfield but the ‘Caps will try him in several positions, including right back, where Young-Pyo Lee reigns as one of the league’s best.

The Caps posted encouraging victories during preseason as Darren Mattocks, the No. 2 selection in the 2012 SuperDraft, banged in a few goals. Also hitting the net were 2013 first-round SuperDraft picks Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado, and ex-Red Bull Corey Herzog. Last year Vancouver scored the fewest goals, 35, of any playoff team, and Rennie wants options so as not to waste the opportunities set up by Camilo, the team leader in assists with a very modest seven.

KEY PLAYER MOVES. The newcomers include Japanese playmaker Diago Kobayashi, signed on a free transfer from Shimuzu S-Pulse, and yet another Honduran, defender Johnny Leveron, who takes the centerback roster spot vacated by the waiving of Argentine Martin Bonjour. Rennie believes that Kobayashi’s energy will better suit a higher-tempo game, which prompted the coach to draft Manneh at No. 4 in the SuperDraft as well as Hurtado (No. 5), and pick up Paulo Jr. from RSL in the Re-Entry Draft.

WHY BE OPTIMISTIC? The late-season fizzle left fans disappointed; still, a playoff appearance in the second year after joining as an expansion team is an achievement that escaped Toronto FC (debuted in 2007), San Jose (2008), and Portland (2011), and TFC still hasn’t made the playoffs. Unlike a few of the midseason moves of last year, the offseason changes make a lot of sense, and after a rough inaugural season during which the head coach was replaced after a dozen games, the ‘Caps matured into a competitive unit.

WHY BE PESSIMISTIC? The goalkeeping situation is cloudy: Joe Cannon (1.34 goals allowed average in 26 games) and Brad Knighton (0.81 in 10 games) shared the job last year and neither stamped themselves as a clear No. 1 in preseason. Captain Jay DeMerit has been hobbled for the past three weeks by an Achilles injury, and at 33, is falling behind in fitness and sharpness as the regular-season opener draws near. A team that managed just 10 goals and three wins on the road needs to get tougher physically and mentally to grind out points away from B.C. Place. Kenny Miller is on a DP salary (about $1.39 million last year) that isn't producing much and rumors of a move back to Scotland persist.

WHY WATCH THIS TEAM? Camilo is one of the smoothest movers in MLS, and with speed added up front and in midfield the ‘Caps should be entertaining as they bomb forward to feed on his through balls and chips. Lee should also benefit from runners carving out space for him to exploit, and all eyes will be on Reo-Coker to see if the teams in England and elsewhere that passed on him had it right, or got it terribly wrong.

Eastern Conference: New England | Philadelphia | Toronto FC | Montreal
Western Conference: Chivas USA | Colorado | FC Dallas | Portland

No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
USA is better off without the hysteria surrounding El Tri    
The hiring of Juan Carlos Osorio marks the sixth time in the past two years that ...
Year of parity marks 20th MLS season    
There are certainly some poor teams in MLS this season for which parity seems a long ...
U.S. national team succession will begin sooner than you might think    
As Jurgen Klinsmann stated in his pre-Concacaf Cup camp interview with U.S. Soccer, Saturday's USA-Mexico game ...
MLS: Best of September    
More brilliance from the Atomic Ant, another top forwar.d robbed by the league's all-time shutout king, ...
Sporting KC isn't about to rest on its impressive laurels    
There is a lot to like about Sporting Kansas City. Its ownership group has built one ...
Does the Open Cup final need a home, too?    
Since closing of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame building in Oneonta, N.Y,. five years ago, ...
MLS home teams are winning at a near-record pace    
Has the rapid pace of MLS expansion and corresponding increase in soccer-specific stadiums translated into better ...
MLS stars align at just the right time    
September was a crazy month in MLS. Not once but in two consecutive weeks the top ...
Western Conference race merits attention from all MLS fans, regardless of loyalties    
By expanding its playoff field from five teams per conference to six, MLS has broadened interest ...
The case for and against a summer off    
We should know soon enough whether the Copa Centenario goes ahead as planned -- the final ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives