In 2015, Vancouver Whitecaps players were continuously lauding their great dressing room atmosphere. As the disappointing 2016 season marched on, that tune changed. Not that it was a poor dressing room, but no longer was it continually discussed in the media. A bit of an aside, but I think that the retirement of Kah was felt more in the dressing room than on the field.
While unable to be substantiated completely, there were rumors that the locker room was divided between those from Latin/Central America and not. I don't think that was the root of the issue, but it probably played a role. I also think that the nominating of Pedro Morales as team captain, so quickly after his arrival to the team, also played a role. I had written in the past about my feelings that Morales was not a suitable choice for team captain and that he was chosen simply because he was the highest paid player. With Pedro Morales' contract not being renewed, it appears that a new team captain will have to be announced.
There is little doubt in my mind that David Ousted will be named team captain. I am not necessarily opposed to this idea as he has shown himself as a team leader, is passionate, interacts well with the fans, and, like Harvey, is always open and honest with the media about his and the team's performance. I think he is a great leader and, of course, is always on the field. However, I am going to play devils advocate here for a moment and say that maybe another choice should be made.
While Ousted's passion and heart is never in question, I am one of those traditionalists that feels a keeper is not always the best choice as team captain as it is the Captain that communicates with the referee. That is difficult to do in the offensive zone, when you are on the opposite end of the field. I feel that it means him running back and forth or the team not having 'proper' representation with the referee.
If Ousted is not the suitable choice, given he is a keeper, what other names come to mind? The problem I see is that I do not believe there are a lot of other suitable options. I feel that one of the major issues with the Vancouver Whitecaps last season was a lack of team chemistry and discipline. I think that part of that starts at the top. No, not the top of the Whitecaps organization, but from the top of the players. The major issue I had with Morales is that he never struck me as a player who would lead by example or go to players that were not doing what they were suppose to and chewing them out. We know, from the end of the regular season, that Ousted will do that; even if it is to the existing team captain. However, I feel the Vancouver Whitecaps currently lack a lot of leadership options.
Another thing to keep in mind with the decision is that soccer is an international game and the Vancouver Whitecaps are comprised of international players. As a result, we need to be careful not to focus on North American leadership values/traits. For example, there were many times this year that I heard people complaining about Bolanos and his apparent lack of work ethic on the field. I was always confused by this because, in my opinion, he was one of the best Whitecaps players this season and was a fantastic signing. Just because he did not fit the North American perceptions of hustle and work ethic does not mean that he was not doing those things. As a result, we need to remember that a player like Ousted, who is always vocal and wears his passion/heart on his sleeve, may meet OUR needs for team captain but may not fit the needs of the team.
With the Vancouver Whitecaps shedding the team of DP contracts (if Barnes is moved and Laba is paid down), there are opportunities to bring in some high-caliber players and I could see Carl Robinson making the same mistake as last time and anointing one as the team captain. I do not think that is likely, given the obvious choice of David Ousted, but it might still happen.
Playing devils advocate, let's consider some other options for team captain. I mentioned him briefly above, but my first choice would probably be Jordan Harvey. I think he fits the qualities that are needed as a team captain. The problem I see with that choice is that there are questions as to whether he will even be protected in the expansion draft and if he is with the Whitecaps next season, whether he will be the regular starter. Hard to imagine given that he was named the Whitecaps Player of the Year, but I understand the viewpoint.
Another obvious candidate is David Edgar. However, I worry that he is too new and he would be a poor choice given the other options that have been with the team longer. Along with Harvey, I could also see the argument that is made similarly about Ousted: that these players are not in the offensive zone as much so they would not be a strong team voice to the referee.
Russell Teibert was previously touted as a team captain, but he has seemed to fall out of favour with Robinson and rarely is on the field. So his ascension to the captaincy seems unlikely. I believe that Andrew Jacobson or Christian Bolanos would be suitable choices, but both are still fairly new. In addition, Jacobson is not regularly on the field while Bolanos is often away on international duty.
There are other players that could fill the role, such as Matias Laba or Kendall Waston, but I feel that they have even more question marks surrounding them than the aforementioned players.
Therefore, I pose the question to you, outside of David Ousted (the most obvious and likely choice), who else do you believe is suitable for captaincy in 2017?