Let's face it, with the season now over, Eighty-Six Forever scribes pretty much have nothing to do except eat nachos and stare longingly at the calendar, waiting for the Whitecaps season to start again. (There may also be some repeated viewings of 'Victory' in there as well. Stallone is a treasure) So, we've decided to put some of that free time to good use, and will be rolling out our review and grades of the entirety of the 'Caps roster, the Head Coach, and the season over the next few days.
First up, could you call the Whitecaps season a success?
Well, Halloween is now past us, but for Vancouver Whitecaps fans, the scariest time of the year had come a few days before that; the day they had their season dashed by some uninspired play, as well as a brutal call from a referee. Still, considering all the club accomplished this season after a truly dysfunctional off-season, 2014 was a positive year in the franchise history books, and one they can be proud of.
Despite losing their best goal scorer, they stayed competitive. Sure, they never actually replaced that goal scorer, but managed to cobble together enough offence from the youthful talent inherited from the Martin Rennie era. For better or for worse, it gave Whitecaps fans a real idea of what those youthful players could accomplish, or perhaps more aptly, what they couldn't.
It's doubtful Darren Mattocks or Omar Salgado will be back in a Whitecaps kit, but each were given a fair shake by the coaching staff on the pitch. We know Erik Hurtado brings a strong work ethic, but an inconsistent offensive output, and we know Kekuta Manneh has shown flashes of brilliance, but still needs more seasoning in the league. Most of the questions around the potential of the young crop has been answered, and now they can truly re-evaluate their roster for 2015. The fact the team was able to get them so much valuable playing time, while at the same time staying competitive in the league, is a real plus.
The club was able to seamlessly replace both YP Lee and Jay Demerit, and the defensive and offensive midfield both have core players the club will hope to hold on to for as long as possible. In terms of the roster, the future looks brighter than ever, and that's another plus.
Their trophy bag swelled this season, with a CONCACAF appearance and a Cascadia Cup in tow. They qualified for the MLS post-season and they did it in style, winning their final game of the regular season to make it in. They showed something that was truly lacking in Martin Rennie's Whitecaps; the ability to bounce back. This club went through plenty of struggles in the season, the most noticeable being the lack of a regular goal scorer once Camilo and Kenny Miller both left the club. At one point, it appeared the Whitecaps were heading for their third straight 'second-half-season-swoon', and would finish outside of the playoff bubble. However, Carl Robinson was able to rally his players, and they found a way to scratch and claw their way back into the picture.
I'm disappointed how the season ended, but looking at everything considered, it's impossible to not be happy and excited for this team moving forward. As long as the club can keep players like Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, Gershon Koffie, Steven Beitashour, and Kendall Waston for the near future, they're going to be competitive. Once they add a true goal scorer, or perhaps once Kekuta Manneh takes the next step in his career, they could be elite. This club is not far away from being in the upper echelon of Major League Soccer, and that's a sentiment most of us had abandoned once Camilo flew the coop.
Overall, the 2014 season was a success for the Vancouver Whitecaps. 2015 will have to be better, but I have faith it will happen.
Tomorrow, Mark Dailey gives his take on 2014.