Much of the recent roster movement talk surrounding the Vancouver Whitecaps has concerned their Captain, Pedro Morales, and rightly so. He’s been making some less-than-ideal comments in the wake of the Whitecaps failure to qualify for the post-season, and his performance overall during the season left many with a sour taste in their mouths. I think many would agree with the sentiment Morales won’t be back, especially not at the salary he commanded last season.
However, as the Whitecaps look at the major problems that haunted their roster all season long, all the blame cannot be placed at the feet of Morales. After all, the Whitecaps had their struggles on the backline just as well in the attack. In 2016, the club allowed 52 goals, second only to the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference. The year before, they only allowed 36.
Looking at the Whitecaps backline, it’s clear change must be made; But where?
At the Center Back position, the Whitecaps have a real question mark in Kendall Waston. He’s one of the most well-known players on the Whitecaps, and his first season here was absolutely smashing. Like Morales however, he faltered heavily last season, and the entirety of the Whitecaps backline was worse as a result. Now, with all that being said, we’ve seen what Waston can bring to the table. The question is whether 2016 was an aberration, or if this will be Waston’s game going forward. Sadly enough, these are the same questions asked about Pedro Morales before his listless 2016 campaign, so we know there is an inherent risk on hoping Waston can regain his form. Thankfully, the Whitecaps look like they have some options at the position, with Tim Parker, David Edgar (if he returns), Cole Seiler, and even the versatile Andrew Jacobson showing some proficiency there.
Looking outside, Jordan Harvey had a very solid 2016, en route to his BMO Player of the Year award from the Whitecaps. The 32 year old, for the first time ever in a Whitecaps kit I think, could actually enter the off-season with some confidence about where he stands on this team. It seemed like he was just a stop-gap for younger players like Sam Adekugbe the last few seasons, but his strong play has enabled him to not only stay in the starting lineup, but thrive. Another positive in my opinion was Fraser Aird. He had a slow start, but was starting to show some real comfort in MLS before he started battling injury. Looking at the negative, Jordan Smith continued to prove he is nothing more than a depth player, if that, and late season addition Marcel De Jong was average at best.
Clearly, if there is a gaping hole on the Whitecaps roster, it begins and ends with the search for a consistent right back. The Whitecaps thought Steven Beitashour could be replaced when they traded him last off-season, but that proved to be a mistake. Now, after a season with no answers, the Whitecaps absolutely cannot come up dry again in their search this off-season. Robinson has promised change on his roster, and this is my pick for top priority.
Overall, the Whitecaps have plenty of work to do this winter. After a pretty frustrating season, I’m hopeful and excited to see what they can dig up.