Management for the Vancouver Whitecaps have got to pleased with themselves after the busy, fruitful off-season the club has had so far. In addition to bringing in new faces like Masato Kudo, Christian Bolanos, Fraser Aird and Blas Perez, the Whitecaps also locked down important, core members of the club, like Matias Laba, Kendall Waston, and most recently, David Ousted.
For Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi, getting a deal done with the Great Dane was a pretty easy decision.
"I think he's gotten better in each season, and what you look for your goalkeeper is you look for him to pick up points when he makes a save you would assume he wouldn't be making," says Lenarduzzi. "There were definitely games last year when he won us points. In addition to that, David has become one of the leaders on the squad, and we have a very young squad, so his willingness to step up and know that as a result of his experience in Europe and in MLS, he's in a position to impact other players. I think that's something he's taken on and done very well."
Lenarduzzi also shared his thoughts on the Tucson, Arizona pre-season camp, where the Whitecaps went 3-0, and some of the new pieces the club has added.
"We don't want to get too carried away with the three wins, but having said that, winning is habitual and so is losing" says Lenarduzzi. "I think in general, there's cause for optimism. There's a lot of competition for places."
On Christian Bolanos and Masato Kudo:
"Both are players that can play in different positions, Bolanos can play pretty much anywhere across the midfield, either flank and centrally, and Kudo is similar. He's played up top, likes to play up top, is a clinical finisher but he can play wide as well."
On Blas Perez:
"Perez is a player that we know well, and our fans know well, and he's been a thorn in our side ever since he joined Dallas. It's nice to have his MLS experience as a part of our club, and I think what he also provides for us too, is he has a little bit of an edge. I think, for the most part, we're a group of good guys, and sometimes you need something a little different. From a positional point of view, he's a big target man we really have lacked, good with his back to goal, and provides Carl and his staff with options when it comes to the personnel and the formation he decides to play.
On the role Perez will play:
The feedback that we've had from our counterparts at Dallas, and this was even before we made the move, and we were chatting with them about their players, our players and Perez came up, and one of the things they said to us how different he was off the pitch in terms of his willingness to be community minded and to do a lot of player appearances when the opportunity arose.
The other thing they said was he was great with the younger players. I've seen quotes from (Fabian) Castillo and (David) Texeira, both commenting on how much of a good mentor Perez was. So, he's going to have the same opportunity here. I think it's important to note too, that he had identified us as a club he wanted to come to. He understands he may not be a starter, but that being said, it's up to him, and if he takes the minutes he gets and does well, he probably will start. He'll be competing for a place, he knows his role here is to tutor the younger players and at the same time, push the attacking players on our squad, with the knowledge of if things aren't going well, he can come in and provide us with a different look."
Lenarduzzi adds he thinks Fraser Aird had a good Tucson camp, and he says he liked what he saw from youngsters like Deybi Flores and Alphonso Davies.
"Flores has looked good, he seems to have matured even in the short period of time since last season, and then there's Alphonso Davies, who made the jump from residency to pre-season minutes and he certainly hasn't looked out of place. We're a club that prides our self on wanting to develop our own players, and we're starting to see the fruits of our labor with the composition of our MLS squad."
Lenarduzzi also touched on his expectations for the club this season.
"Last year we were quite public with our objectives; To win the Amway Cup and to host a home playoff game. What happens when you start to evolve as a club and you tick the boxes along the way, is that the margin for continued evolution gets smaller, because you're starting to achieve things along the way. For us, clearly winning a championship is something we would love to do. Having said that, we'll keep our objectives internal this year, but with the knowledge that we'd like to take another step forward from where we were last year.
For us, We look at the season ahead and we know that as a result of our success in Amway, we'll be in Champions League again. We know there's going to be fixture congestion, and long before we get to the MLS playoffs, there are plenty of processes we'll need to go through. I'm a big believer in, you can say you want to win a championship, but talk is cheap and what you need to do along the way is set yourself up for the best opportunity of success, by staying on task and understanding the things we need to do in order to have success in the multiple competitions that we're in."
The Whitecaps resume pre-season action on Sunday, when they take on the Chicago Fire to kick off the 'Simple Invitational'.