Remember that whole thing about tempering optimism I wrote a few days back? Well, after an entertaining and convincing effort by the first team in Orlando, I'm finding it hard to heed my own advice.
The Vancouver Whitecaps started off the 2012 Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic by handing the undermanned and inadequately skilled Montreal Impact a 3-0 defeat on Friday night. The Whitecaps held possession early and looked calm and in control with a nice mix of slow build up play and direct attacking football. Most impressive was their well-timed switches of play that seemed to keep Montreal off balance. It certainly looked like a much different team than what supporters were used to seeing last season.
A lot of things panned out just like I had expected them too. Camilo looked dangerous, as always, although still doesn't look like a midfielder to me, John Thorrington proved yet again that my grandmother would be a more durable centre midfielder, and Sebastien Le Toux is a quality player with a real strong motor.
It was also the first opportunity for fans to see the more-or-less starting eleven in a more meaningful game. One pre-season game does not a season make, but a definition of the 2012 Whitecaps is much clearer now than it was a week ago.
After the jump, I share the three things I learned from this match.
1. Young-pyo Lee is really frickin' good.
I knew he'd be an upgrade, but I wondered if he'd look sluggish or reluctant. I worried that he didn't have the juice anymore. I worried that he thought he'd come to Vancouver, be closer to home in a nice city, and once in a while play a little football.
It sure didn't take long to win me over. His touch is good, his vision is better, and his ball skills are exceptional. He doesn't so much beat players 1 on 1 like Camilo or Chiumiento, he merely wanders past them. His head is always up and he appeared to never make the wrong move.
And when he did find himself out of position, he turned on the jets and overtook a Montreal attacker to win a foul. Looks like a pretty spry 33 year old. At one point after not being given a foul after being pulled down near the Montreal end line, he slapped the ground in frustration. Yes, he still has the fire in his belly too.
Barry Robson and Sebastien Le Toux may be the big splash signings this year, but Young-pyo Lee could have the biggest impact on the team and is likely the biggest upgrade.
2. Michael Boxall is on the outside looking in. Way outside.
I haven't heard that Michael Boxall is injured. I did hear that his girlfriend made the trip to Victoria to watch the team play against the Vikes, which would indicate he's fit to play.
It's now been two pre-season games in a row without a Boxall sighting. The first of which, in Victoria, with a clearly second rate squad, in which Nuru Sulley got the nod in front of him and he didn't even pick up garbage minutes.
Now, in Orlando, instead of Boxall going in with the rest of the mass substitution, Rochat was moved to the centre and still no Boxall.
I hope for his sake he's nursing a slight knock, but this may spell the end for Boxall with the Whitecaps. He's clearly behind DeMerit, Bonjour, and Mitchell, and instead of getting a look from Rennie in a preseason game that was in control, Rochat covers so the two first choice centre backs can take a break.
Being on a international spot, it doesn't look good for the big Kiwi.
3. No matter how much things change, they always stay the same.
I thought to myself, 'Ah, it's preseason, and it's an entirely new roster. It'll be a calm game, and I wont have the same hatred for Montreal.'
Boy, was I wrong. It didn't take long before I was screaming at my TV, wishing inappropriate things on Davy Arnaud. The Whitecaps dominated possession early in the game, and it clearly frustrated some of the Impact players who were chipping away at all of Vancouver's skill players. A two handed shove to the back of Camilo right into the camera man started it all off, and the chippy-ness never seemed to subside. Camilo got his revenge with a red-card worthy sliding tackle from behind, of course, so there is no one who can claim innocence going in to First Kick on March 10th.
So, let's hear your comments. What's one thing you learned from the first true look at the 2012 Whitecaps?