In evaluating the degree to which a season can be deemed a success, more often than not we tend to apply a measuring stick that allows us to compare final results against initial expectations. And whenever the empirical stacks up better than the ethereal, we come away with a smile.
By most measures, the 2012 MLS season was a successful one for the Whitecaps: They became the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs - doing so in just their second season, they improved significantly over their 2011 benchmark, and they finally managed to win one on the road.
Still, Whitecaps fans tend to forget that 2012 was once again a losing season, with Vancouver posting a less-than-stellar record of 11 wins, 13 losses, and 10 draws. Overall in MLS, Vancouver's record sits at an unenviable 17-31-20.
Thus far in the off- and pre-season, the Caps look to have addressed many of the issues that plagued them in 2012. The team has taken steps to facilitate continuity, add speed out wide, supply creativity in the middle, and provide depth, particularly at the back end. And nobody should be surprised to see at least one more big move before the season gets under way. But given the unmitigated disaster that resulted from Vancouver's mid-season re-tooling, nobody should expect Martin Rennie & Co. to do anything more than minor tweaking once the season begins. So, at this very preliminary stage, what can reasonably be expected from the Caps for 2013?
Will a winning record be sufficient to be "successful"? Is a Canadian Championship the yardstick? Or will Vancouver need to continue improving at the same rate that they have to date? Extrapolating on their data over seasons one and two, that would mean reaching 58 points - which would have been good enough for second place in the Western Conference last year, just ahead of RSL and Seattle.
As the saying goes, the competition never sleeps, and a number of MLS teams have done more than minor tinkering to their rosters. The Caps appear to have improved, but how many Western Conference foes have done the same - and on the flip side, who have hit the skids? Things are never static in a football league.
The one thing likely to remain constant through the 2013 season is the expectation level in this market. So with that in mind: If you had to choose, what would be your overriding measure of success for the 2013 Whitecaps?