The Vancouver Whitecaps are forced to make reservations for tee times instead of playing in the MLS post-season, no doubt a disappointment for the fans, and for the athletes themselves, that worked so hard to try and make the dance. While we honor their effort, the club failed to meet expectations and have already started making changes.
Simply put, the Vancouver Whitecaps third season in MLS producing more ups and downs than the entire cast of characters from The Silver Linings Playbook, so it seemed fitting to take a look at both sides of the issue for 2014; so I give you, Good News, Bad News.
The Good News is... This club is absolutely stacked with young talent moving forward. Kekuta Manneh, Russell Teibert, Gershon Koffie, Darren Mattocks, Omar Salgado, Erik Hurtado; there is tons of depth up front, (Camilo is still only 25!) and the Whitecaps have proven that they seem to know what they're doing at the MLS SuperDraft. If the club is looking for an 'x' factor to knock their socks off next season, there's a long list of candidates who could do just that.
The Bad News is... If there's one thing young players are not known for, it's consistency. We saw it this year with Russell Teibert; the kid played lights out earlier in the season, but as the season wore on, teams started figuring him out, and he looked dead tired by the end of the year. If Camilo takes a step back next year, the club could be in serious trouble. Even worse, Nigel Reo-Coker is not 100% sure if he will be back with the Whitecaps next season; without him driving the attack forward in midfield, who knows if Camilo will be as deadly? Then there's Kenny Miller, who, while injured for a large portion of this season, provided a calm veteran presence and a nifty scoring touch in his return to form. With his Scottish countryman Martin Rennie, now gone, will Miller be willing to return to the club?
The Good News is... In terms of young talent, no position on the club saw more production than center back. Both Carlyle Mitchell and Johnny Leveron were forced into big time minutes due to the injuries to Jay Demerit, Brad Rusin and Andy O'Brien. Thankfully, the duo were sublime, with Leveron showcasing his quick decision making and calming influence when things get sketchy. Mitchell, meanwhile showed off his athletic ability, quick feet and ability in the air, and managed to retain his starting spot even when O'Brien was arguably ready to go. That's a real show of confidence from the club. Meanwhile, Brad Rusin showed that he can be a terrific depth option for the club, while Sam Adekugbe started just one match this season, but proved that he will have something to contribute next season. Jordan Harvey, though often a favorite whipping boy of followers of the team, did show a scoring touch unmatched by other members of the backline. Finally, Andy O'Brien looks to have a healthier 2014.
The Bad News is... First off, this will be the first time in two seasons the club will not have Y.P. Lee on the roster, a huge blow to the club on the pitch, but obviously a great addition to the front office. On the other side of the line, Harvey might have shown a nose for the net, but his defending left plenty to be desired. Without Lee on the other side, this could arguably be the weakest spot of the Whitecaps roster. While Leveron and Mitchell cushion the blow a bit, Jay Demerit's contract status in still up in the air. The thing is, while Demerit isn't a necessity to the club like he would've been without the emergence of the pair, he's still a hell of a defender who looked sublime upon his return from injury, and it would hurt to lose him.
The Good News is... The play of David Ousted may never have taken the sour taste of the Alain Rochat trade out of the collective mouth of fans (eww), but he did put in some good performances, and for the most part looked pretty solid. No doubt his distribution was better than Brad Knighton or Joe Cannon, and Ousted seemed to organize his backline better than the latter pair. Simon Thomas is in the mix as well, and has been getting praise heaped upon him for a while now. Could he be ready to take the next step? (Probably not)
The Bad News is... No position caused more grief for the club in the 2013 campaign. Inexplicably, Joe Cannon was given the starting reigns to begin the year despite losing his position in 2012 to Brad Knighton. When Knighton was finally allowed back in the net weeks later, he looked fine. Still, the club then went to David Ousted, while Knighton was left to rot on the bench. Short answer? The club pissed off a young, inexpensive keeper, doubled down on bringing in a new, expensive one, and things didn't go as planned. Technically this could be a positive; the club and whomever the new coach is will get to start with a clean slate, if Knighton and Ousted are interested in coming back.