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State of the XI: 2016 Pre-Season Camp Opens

The 'Caps begin a little more than a month of pre-season activities on January 22nd, culminating with the end of a Vancouver-based training camp on March 5th.

If there is any justice in youth development, Bustos vs. Ulloa will be a regular fixture in the Western Conference for a decade - and it will be glorious.
If there is any justice in youth development, Bustos vs. Ulloa will be a regular fixture in the Western Conference for a decade - and it will be glorious.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If you wanted to know how the Vancouver Whitecaps will be spending the weeks leading up to the start of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, good news - today, the 'Caps released their pre-season schedule. Notable highlights include:

  • Fitness testing on January 25th at UBC; get ready for the horror and agony of the beep test!
  • The Desert Friendlies in Tucson, AZ from January 31st to February 10th; and
  • The Simple Invitational in Portland, OR from February 19th to 27th.

Not included in this year's stable of pre-season festivities is the Whitecaps vs. UVic Vikes friendly in Victoria. I'll let you imagine the range and depth of emotions islanders like myself are spewing out when we see tweets like this:

Well, so much for that staple of the island soccer calendar. How many months until the USL PDL season starts?

But I digress. The 'Caps are heading into pre-season with a roster close to capacity, not including their unsigned draft picks from the 2016 SuperDraft. It's not too far a stretch to imagine most, if not all, of the draft picks being signed to MLS contracts and loaned to Whitecaps FC 2 in the USL - or just outright signed by WFC2 - regardless of their training camp performance. Still, many eyes will be focused on youngster Cole Seiler, whose positive endorsement from head coach Carl Robinson has supporters envisioning a second coming of Tim Parker. In that respect, Seiler seems the most likely to get an MLS contract over a USL contract, just in case he needs to be called back up due to injury (Kah), retirement (Kah) or any other unforeseen circumstance (Pa Modou Kah).

As for the rest of the team, let's see how the projected XI lines up, shall we? Players are chosen from the Whitecaps' press release, linked above.

THE STARTING XI (4-2-3-1)
ST: Octavio Rivero
AM: Cristian Techera, Christian Bolaños, Masato Kudo
DM: Matias Laba, Pedro Morales
FB: Jordan Harvey, Jordan Smith
CD: Kendall Waston, Tim Parker
GK: David Ousted

Well, that addition of Bolaños sure throws a monkey wrench into the whole 4-2-3-1, doesn't it? We all saw how disjointed a really-deep-lying Morales was last season when injuries forced Robbo's hand; fingers crossed that doesn't become the standard operating procedure going forward. Well, unless it works, in which case, yay! That said, I'm not so positive a Laba-Morales midfield duo works; heck, it might not even materialize. If Robbo keeps the 4-2-3-1 in place, does Bolaños go to the bench? Does he push Kudo to the top, send Rivero to the bench and put Bolaños on the right? Pre-season can't come fast enough to answer these and other pressing formation questions.

Oh, what the hell - let's get crazy!

THE STARTING XI (4-1-3-2)
ST: Octavio Rivero, Masato Kudo
AM: Cristian Techera, Pedro Morales, Christian Bolaños
DM: Matias Laba
FB: Jordan Harvey, Jordan Smith
CD: Kendall Waston, Tim Parker
GK: David Ousted

Oh, mama. Five attackers going ham? Good luck, Diego Chara. See you in hell, Osvaldo Alonso. Trawna Gonna Trawna™, Will Johnson.

For more on Robbo's options at D-mid, be sure to read AtlantisB's article from Thursday.

THE SECOND XI
ST: Darren Mattocks
AM: Kekuta Manneh, Nicolas Mezquida, Russell Teibert
DM: Gershon Koffie, Deybi Flores
FB: Sam Adekugbe
CD: Christian Dean, Cole Seiler
GK: Marco Carducci

Yes, I think Seiler immediately unseats Kah in the depth chart - possibly even Dean. Kah isn't getting any younger and he picked up (and played with!) yet another injury down the stretch in 2015. By all accounts, Kah's presence and wisdom in the locker room and on the training pitch is an enviable asset; let's allow him to use it fully in 2016. Also, as much as I want to see Adekugbe unseat Harvey as the starting left-back, Robbo has yet to indicate this will be happening. Again, we may see a change during pre-season - in which case, fasten your seatbelt, CanMNT fans! Prospect comin' though!

OUTSIDE THE XI
ST: Erik Hurtado, Christopher Hellmann, Thomas Sanner
AM: Kianz Froese, Marco Bustos
DM: Ben McKendry
FB: -
CD: Pa-Modou Kah
GK: -

I figure we can pencil in Spencer Richey as the third GK at this point, right? It's not official but you have to think it's coming. Meanwhile, Hurtado is still here, so, that's something. Not sure what "something" it is, but it's something. Oh, and I really, really, really want this to be the year that Froese and Bustos move up to the second XI and make regular sub appearances. Bustos and Mezquida fighting for the role of Morales' heir apparent would undoubtedly be great motivation off the pitch and great entertainment on the pitch.

That's my take on the XI as the 'Caps prepare for Tucson, Portland and beyond. How do you see the XI as the team stands right now?