BOOM. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Vancouver Whitecaps have been so boring lately that I've actually been watching hockey again.
This isn't meant to be a criticism; not particularly. Today is the first of March, meaning we kick off in just over two weeks' time: it's hardly the moment to be re-modeling the team. The team still has a few roster spots to fill from out of their pool of trialists but one presumes we won't see too many Whitecaps who we haven't already heard of for the 2011 season. We have a coaching staff, we have a national television station, we have a local radio station, and much as I love Pete Schaad I can't bring myself to get sufficiently excited about Paul James to write an entire post about the radio crew. Yeah, the Whitecaps have been running their 30 videos in 30 days advertising campaign, but the only comment I could possibly have about our obsession with getting more famous athletes from more popular sports to endorse our soccer team is the sound of firmly rolling eyes.
I think no news is good news. I mean, Wayne Rooney is scoring for Manchester United again so we probably won't be able to get him on a cheap transfer; barring that, I can't think of much I think the Whitecaps can do. Right now, this isn't a playoff team unless a few players exceed expectations, but at least it's a decent team and one built for the long-term.
The pity is that this doesn't leave me with a hell of a lot to write about. The Whitecaps' woes with their ticket allocations? I don't have much to say about that which Away from the Numbers Canada hasn't said both earlier and better (by this point, I'll be grateful if I can just get into the stadium and watch soccer even if they wind up wedging me into the superstructure).
So screw it. I can't find anything that happened to write about, so I'll write about what I'd like to happen. Next up, some news stories I'd like to see out of the Whitecaps in the next week.
The Whitecaps officially sign Russell Teibert, Davide Chiumiento, Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo, and Mouloud Akloul. I mean, I hope they sign more than just these four guys, but these are the ones I think are going to be most important. Chiumiento has, basically, been the offensive conscience of this team in the exhibition schedule, showing all the Swiss-Ronaldinho magic against MLS opposition he failed to demonstrate in his USSF D2 cameo last year. His signing is strongly predicted by everyone close to the Whitecaps, having even been referred to as "a formality", but it's still disconcerting it hasn't happened yet. To the extent that Chiumiento hasn't been the creative force, the 18-year-old Teibert has, and as a young, talented home-grown player, there's nothing to lose and everything to gain in locking him up.
Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo ticks most of my boxes for what I want this team to acquire: he's a striker (check), a skill player rather than just a meat-and-muscle colossus (check), somebody who's shown extremely well in pre-season despite joining training camp late (check), and somebody who's scored professionally in the past (okay, only in Malta, but still, check). He's not likely to come terribly expensive and, while he'd take up an international spot, it's not like they're more valuable than myrrh to a team with Vancouver's strong Canadian content. Akloul is another international and one whose ankle injury has been a source of persistent heart-break to Whitecaps supporters. But prior to last season Akloul never had a reputation as an injury-prone player and, if healthy, he's unanimously agreed to be good enough to start in Major League Soccer. If he comes at a reasonable price, he's worth the risk.
Some sort of pre-season event in Vancouver is announced. Bob Lenarduzzi has already made it clear that the team won't play any pre-season exhibitions in Vancouver, presumably to save the dramatic unveiling for Empire Fields on March 19. But the truth is that this team has spent most of its time in Arizona. What Vancouver knows of this team comes almost entirely through the media and the almost uncomfortable tweeting styles of Joe Cannon and Jay DeMerit. We're excited for the laundry, not the players.
I'm not saying the Whitecaps should play a game, necessarily. But there are twelve days between Vancouver's last exhibition match on March 6 and our MLS debut. They should find some way to get out into the community beyond soundbites on a website. A skills competition, some sort of event with area youth clubs, something. A parade. An autograph session for an hour at Metrotown. I don't even care. Establish the players as individuals as well as establishing the Whitecaps as a team.
We sign an MLS-capable third goalkeeper. I'm just a little worried about the Whitecaps' goalkeeping situation. Joe Cannon's injury is taking longer and longer to fully resolve. I'm a Jay Nolly fan and would love to see him get his chance, but the fact is that during his last MLS run DC United fans practically wanted to burn his house down. There are always short-term solutions available to tend goal in MLS during a crisis, but that will only help this team so much. The Whitecaps would be well-advised to find a third goalkeeper who can also help this team in the long term when Father Time finally comes calling for Joe Cannon.
In an ideal world, this would have been the perfect spot for 21-year-old Simon Thomas, a nice young Canadian goalkeeper who was by all accounts showing well as Jay Nolly's backup last season. Step into the first team's goal in an emergency, stop balls with the reserves when it's not. But Thomas is long gone now and the next-best option appears to be Residency goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre. Sylvestre is an American U-20 international, home-grown, and highly-touted. He's also been getting an extended run in training camp thanks to Cannon's injury. Frankly, I'd rather this spot went to somebody slightly more developed than Sylvestre while Brian hones his skills with the Residency. Somebody like Josh Wagenaar or even former West Ham youth and Canadian U-20 starter Adam Street would be ideal if they signed cheap. It might end up being Sylvestre's job to lose, though.
Give me my Supporters' Summit tickets. Okay, this isn't a news item. But I ordered those things, like, two weeks ago and I leave on Saturday. Come on, Whitecaps!
Arrange a tour of Empire Fields for season ticket holders. Frankly, I'm a little surprised this hasn't happened yet. The British Columbia Lions arranged something similar for their season ticket holders last season during their first go-round at Empire Fields. There are over 15,000 Whitecaps fans with season tickets and barely a single one of them has seen the stadium set up for soccer. Frankly, there have already been concerns expressed about the sight lines in certain locations: many of the corner seats appear to be pointing nowhere in particular. In the absence of first-hand experience, rumour is making the situation appear worse and worse.
The Whitecaps have been pretty poor at communicating with their fans, even their season ticket holders, all off-season. Most of us don't even yet know where we'll be sitting at Empire, let alone what the view's line (the Whitecaps commissioned a lovely and no-doubt expensive virtual seat preview tool... that was only valid for BC Place). A sixty-minute tour would be great for everyone. Come see your seats and, if you have any concerns, know that you can get them dealt with before the season instead of trying to fix problems with angry customers while games are actually being played. This is just common-sense customer service so, naturally, it's the most unlikely item on this list.
Shoot Joe Cannon out of a cannon. Or should I say "#shootjoecannonoutofacannon". This half-joking initiative was struck up by the Vancouver Southsiders on Twitter and given a boost by Cannon tweeting, presumably without consulting his insurance agent, that he'd consider being shot out of a cannon if ten thousand people re-tweeted the cry.
Now, being shot out of a cannon is relatively safe with sufficient care and training. Still, this feels like the sort of thing I shouldn't be condoning for my soccer club's presumptive starting goalkeeper. On the other hand, that would be so awesome. If the Whitecaps are going to be as mediocre as I fear they might be in 2011, shooting Joe Cannon out of a cannon might be the most exciting moment of our season. Actually, even if we won the MLS Cup shooting Joe Cannon out of a cannon would probably be the most exciting moment of our season. How can this not happen? I mean, besides the obvious, perfectly sensible reasons, how can this not happen?