The Vancouver Whitecaps team that will take to the park this Saturday afternoon is a team that is vastly different than the one that thrashed the Colorado Rapids 3-0 on the final day of the 2013 season. Among the people that are no longer with the club include Martin Rennie,
Camilo Sanvezzo Futboldemort, Brad Knighton, Daigo Kobayashi, and Jun Marques Davidson to name just a few.
Fast forward a couple of months and the Caps' roster, which at one point didn't have enough players for a game day eighteen, has filled out nicely. Carl Robinson built on the squad that he inherited by re-signing the popular Jay DeMerit to a new contract and then shortly thereafter adding Andre Lewis, Mamadou Diouf and Christian Dean at the MLS Super Draft. Young goalkeeper Marco Carducci has also been added to the first team which nicely completes the Caps' goalkeeping corps.
Robbo has continued his ambitious offseason rebuilding program by adding the type of players that should be well suited to the style of football he intends to play. Steven Beitashour, Mehdi Ballouchy, Matías Laba, Sebastián Fernández, Nicolás Mezquita, Paolo Tornaghi, Pedro Morales and finally Ethan Sampson have all joined the Blue and White in recent weeks and are the exactly the type of players that Robbo will need to play a more attacking, fluid style of football.
Vancouver Whitecaps Record Preview:
With all the changes this winter predicting how the Whitecaps will fare in 2014 is a little difficult. Last season's record of W13-L12-D9 (48 pts) was the club's best showing since joining MLS, but still wasn't enough for Rennie to keep his job for another year.
My biggest concern, despite the Caps finishing the preseason with a strong four-game unbeaten streak, is whether or not the team has had time to gel and become a cohesive group. Simply put: if the team is still "figuring it out" to start the season they may struggle initially to get results. With all the changes both on and off the pitch is it too soon to expect these changes will translate into wins? We'll know soon enough.
Never being one to shy away from the opportunity to make a prediction (though rarely do I get it right) I believe that the Caps will finish the 2014 season with a record of W11-L12-D10 (43 pts).
Who Will (Must) Break Out This Season?
I'm changing this part up from who "will break out" to who "must break out". Therefore, I believe that goalkeeper David Ousted must have a good season. He was brought in under the previous manager because of his talent and ability to make game changing saves. Hopefully Ousted has seen enough of MLS since joining Vancouver last summer and is now in a much better position to take his game to the next level.
The Whitecaps Season Will be a Success If:
This is simple: better road performances will lead to more points (hopefully wins) on the road, which in turn will take the pressure off the Caps to maximize the number of wins at home. The Whitecaps' road record since joining MLS has been abysmal and in my opinion it is an important key to any successes that Vancouver will have this year or in the future.
With a load of new signings and a new footballing philosophy being implemented by Robinson and his coaches the Whitecaps finished the preseason on a promising note by winning the Rose City Invitational. Will they be able to build on this preseason momentum and start piling up the wins in MLS? It is, of course, all speculation until the the Caps play a "real" game, but this writer in particular is looking forward to what Carl Robinson and his team can achieve in 2014. Go Caps!
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