When coach Carl Robinson first ascended to the helm of the Vancouver Whitecaps, his message was clear from the beginning - that there was indeed hope for the good ship Blue and White, and that the future was indeed bright for the vessel with which he'd been entrusted.
For those were truly tumultuous times: the good ship had been rudderless for many a fortnight, and in the darkness, the Sirens' call could be heard both port and starboard. Scarcely had he taken the wheel when one of the main cannons, of Brazilian origin I believe, went overboard - never to be seen or spoken of again. Unfazed, Robinson stayed the course, proclaiming to all that youthful vigour would be given every opportunity to win the day.
Carl Robinson had seen the future, and it lay before him in the likes of Leveron, Laba, Manneh and Mattocks, among others. Just seven games into the 2014 campaign, and Darren Mattocks has already played more than half the total of 911 minutes he got all last season.
Kekuta Manneh played in only 20 matches last season. He's figured in each of the seven contests the Caps have played in this year. The kid's only 19.
And Johnny Leveron, at 23, has been counted on to cover for both Jay DeMerit and, more recently, Andy O'Brien this season. All indications are that Leveron will again be taking DeMerit's CB spot this weekend on the road against Real Salt Lake.
Last season, the acquisition of midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker was considered a near coup. Reo-C was former EPL star, under 30 years old, and by all accounts at the time a solid force as a holding mid. Vancouver have come through two consecutive matches without the $400,000 man on the pitch, and scarcely looked much worse for it thanks to Mathias Laba (22), Gershon Koffie (22), and Russell Teibert (21).
Uruguayan additions Sebastien Fernandez and Nicolas Mezquida are 24, and 22, while the Caps' newest DP, and probably the most talented player on the squad, Pedro Morales is still relatively spry at 28.
Two weeks ago, Robinson sailed into Los Angeles with a decidedly youthful crew. There they took on the Galaxy, including Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, both of whom have been playing professionally for almost as long as Manneh's been on this earth. LA edged Vancouver 1-0, and had to settle for a 2-2 draw against the Caps the week after.
True to his word, Robinson has given some of his young guns opportunities to gain experience, if not wrangle away starting jobs. The youth movement is starting to take hold in Vancouver - and we've barely seen a glimpse of Christian Dean. And young Canadian talent in Sam Adekugbe and Bryce Alderson is waiting below deck.
There's plenty of seas to be navigated this season for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but from up in the crow's nest I like what I've seen so far.