Martin Rennie is gone, Darren Mattocks currently finds himself in the dog house, and Nigel Reo-Coker might not be back with the club next year. The Whitecaps off-season has barely begun, but drama seems to be encountered around every corner. Before we bid adieu to the Whitecaps disappointing 2013 season, the 86forever writing team does have a few questions they'd like to answer.
Q: Who was the Vancouver Whitecaps biggest surprise this season?
JON SZEKERES: Jay Demerit
This answer might be cheating a little bit, but the Whitecaps Captain and best defender defied expectations by returning from a crippling injury in almost no time at all. That's hyperbole of course, when you consider that Demerit missed so much of the season, however an Achilles injury can be devastating to any athlete (ask Kobe Bryant), and Demerit managed to return to the team way ahead of schedule. Even better, Demerit was absolutely sublime upon his return, showcasing all of his typical Demerit toughness but without many of the costly positioning mistakes.
For a guy that is supposedly entering the final legs of his career, Jay Demerit proved he still has plenty of gas in the tank, and he that he could still be a valuable part of the Vancouver Whitecaps moving forward.
ROB SCOTT: Kekuta Manneh
Well, this one's definitely a no-brainer: 18-year-old Kekutah Manneh, the 4thoverall pick in the 2013 SuperDraft bides his time, works hard in training, and eventually bursts onto the MLS scene in a big way - capping it all off with a late-season hat-trick performance versus the Seattle Sounders.
There's no question that whoever's coaching the Caps next season will want to take advantage of the youngster's sheer speed and stone cold finishing. A Manneh-Camilo tandem opens up a raft of attacking options for the Caps, keeping opposing defenders honest, and creating space for the midfield support to slip into. I can't wait to see his progress in 2014.
MARK DAILEY: Kekuta Manneh
We all heard good things about this kid at the start of the year. Despite not seeing much of the field the young Gambian made his mark early in the year when home to FC Dallas when he came on as a substitute and helped secure a point with a goal and an assist. Since then we only had glimpses of the talented youngster, but his hat-trick against the Sounders at the end of the season was a statement: Kekuta has arrived. The big question for next season is will he see more playing time under the new head coach?
Q: Who should be the Vancouver Whitecaps Head Coach next season?
JON SZEKERES: Richie Williams
Marc Weber of 'The Province' wrote a great piece the other day on the possibility of the 'Caps hiring Richie Williams, the Coach for the U.S. under 17 National squad, as he was apparently in Vancouver for an interview. Here's the thing; the 'Caps should have kept Martin Rennie because he was young, and knew this squad.
However, what's done is done, and the 'Caps now need to bring in someone that can handle young players a bit better than Rennie did. Manneh, Adekugbe, Leveron, Mitchell, Hurtado, Mattocks, Salgado; these are all names that could become major pieces of the 'Caps puzzle moving forward combined with Gershon Koffie and Russell Teibert, whom already are. They need someone that can grow with them, groom them, and Williams makes sense. He has MLS experience as well, coaching DC United to three championships, the last occuring in 1999; however, that was a long time ago.
ROB SCOTT: Carl Robinson/Schellas Hyndman
Legitimately, this should have been Martin Rennie's side to work with in 2014. Looking at what he accomplished in his brief tenure, and at the lousy cards he drew last season, a more dispassionate observer could rightfully point to a quick trigger held by Whitecaps management. The Caps said they wanted to bring in someone with MLS experience, and Frank Yallop seemed like a fit - until he signed on in Chicago. In the meantime, a number of players have voiced their support for Carl Robinson.
The Caps will have to act fast to secure someone in the MLS coaching merry-go-round if they really want an experienced guy - maybe someone adept at dealing with injury woes, and younger players, as well as someone who can command a room. 2010 MLS Manager of the Year Schellas Hyndman comes to mind, but at 62, he might be carrying perhaps too much experience.
MARK DAILEY: Carl Robinson
Despite failing to meet all the ‘benchmarks' set by the club at the beginning of the year I thought Martin Rennie deserved one more kick at the can. Having said that I'm (currently) not a member of the Whitecaps FC"football committee", but if I were I would suggest Carl Robinson. From all accounts he is well liked by the players and very familiar with MLS. The club has shown over time that they aren't really willing to spent big bucks on players or coaches and perhaps Robinson could be a good choice to build on this past season without completely blowing everything up.
I, like mostly everyone else, had been expecting Frank Yallop to get the tap on the shoulder, but when he was seemingly poached by the Chicago Fire it left me scratching my head. Sure there are plenty of other names being tossed around out there, but the problem is they're all currently under contract to someone else or "in the mix" for every other coaching vacancy out there.
Q: What was the Vancouver Whitecaps worst performance of the season?
JON SZEKERES: 9/1/13 VS Chivas USA
Ugh. This match. Regarded as one of the more exciting matches of the season thanks to a Tommy Heinemann late equalizer, the Whitecaps would lose two points they desperately needed in the month of September, drawing with an abysmal Chivas squad by a score of 2-2.
Was it a fun match to watch? Yes, when you disregard absolutely every storyline heading into the match. The Whitecaps needed points, were going up against an awful team, and had to scrape and claw just to earn a draw. Again, this blemish on the 'Caps already pock marked record is somewhat covered up because of the 'Caps late game heroics, but remember that the club missed the playoffs by three points. This match could have really helped.
ROB SCOTT: 9/28/13 VS Real Salt Lake
If you missed this one, consider yourself lucky. The Caps were already behind the eight-ball in the playoff race, and had just returned from a three-game road swing that had ended with Vancouver's first convincing win in six weeks (3-0 over Montreal). Back at BC Place, and needing the win in the worst possible way, the Whitecaps faced Real Salt Lake - who had the luxury of resting just about every starter on the squad.
The Caps laid a massive egg, falling 1-0 after an early goal in a match where they managed just one shot on target, and could only hold possession just long enough to give it away again. God, I love it when Baldomero Toledo comes to town.
MARK DAILEY: 9/28/13 VS Real Salt Lake
I'll go a step further than just "Worst Performance" with this one and call it"Worst Performances". Interestingly (or sadly) enough they were both matches against Real Salt Lake: firstly at the Rio Tinto back at the beginning of May and secondly the home loss to the RSL "reserves" at the end of September which effectively ended our 2013 playoff drive.
I'm still so upset at the disappointing performance that we saw that afternoon at BC Place that I can't bring myself to rehash it one more time.