After a year in which Whitecaps fans screamed for his head, Jordan Harvey's incredibly solid 2012 campaign raised some eyebrows. How did the much maligned defender manage to get his game together?
Let's be frank; 2011 was a god-awful year for Jordan Harvey. Strange, considering that the Whitecaps had pretty high hopes when they acquired him from the Philadelphia Union. According to reports, the Union told Harvey they didn't want to trade him, but the Whitecaps made them an offer they simply couldn't refuse. That means the Whitecaps, who were fighting the injury bug on the backline at the time, really wanted Harvey, enough to sway the minds of the Union brass. In some fitting symbolism for the 2011 year, Harvey had to miss his debut with the 'Caps due to yellow card accumulation. After that, it went downhill very quickly. He was either hesitating with the ball and causing turnovers on the ensuing challenges, or he was rushing the play too much and turning the ball over on bad passes or boneheaded decisions. The entire 2011 season was a nightmare, and many thought Harvey was as good as gone.
That sentiment was only heightened when the Whitecaps went defender hunting in the offseason, bringing in guys like YP Lee and Martin Bonjour. Suddenly the backline was crowded, and the obvious man out was Harvey. Names like Boxall and Leathers were shown the door, but Harvey stayed on. Whitecaps management felt like they were owed a second look from Harvey, that the guy they had to pry out of the Union's fingers might have something to give the club. Or maybe they just thought, like so many other pundits out there, that Harvey would be best suited as a fifth or sixth defender. Plus, at a salary of 100,000, he was reasonably priced. Whatever the case, when the doors opened for the 2012 season, the starting backline was Lee, Demerit, Bonjour and Rochat, although Harvey was used as the first substitution. He wouldn't see the pitch again until match three, when he was once again, used as a substitute.
Then, Alain Rochat suffered a serious knee injury that would keep him out of the lineup for over five weeks, and Harvey stepped up to the plate. He became a fixture on the backline, minimizing the mistakes that made him a four letter word in 2011. By simplifying his game, Harvey evolved from 'subpar substitute', to an important member of the starting eleven. He was so solid, that when Alain Rochat did come back, the Whitecaps felt confident enough to move him to midfield. While Harvey deserves a mountain of credit, there were other contributing factors to his rise.
First off, Harvey was quickly moved out from under the microscope by the play of another maligned defender, Martin Bonjour. While Harvey was an easy whipping boy in 2011, that role soon fell to the yellow card-prone Bonjour, who seemed more adept at an NHL-caliber hipcheck then an MLS worthy slide tackle. With much of the defensive scrutiny tossed on Bonjour, Harvey's improved play flew under the radar.
Harvey's improvement can also be traced back to an immensely improved roster. Instead of playing with the likes of Leathers and Boxall, Harvey now comprised that same backline that was too deep for him to crack on opening night. Better players to help bail him out lead to less mistakes, less turnovers and happier fans.
The best part of Jordan Harvey is his personality. I've had the pleasure of interviewing him several times, and he's always been incredibly courteous, friendly and eager to speak. For me, it's easy to root for him. I think that given how well 2012 went, his confidence has to have risen like a freaking phoenix. Given that the backline (barring injury) is staying relatively strong, Harvey should continue to flourish.
Agree? Disagree? Comments section people.