The Vancouver Whitecaps 2017 MLS season was a confusing one. Heading in, few game the Caps a chance to even make the playoffs. A slow start, due in part to competing in CONCACAF Champions League and being without their key acquisition (Yordy Reyna), suggested it might be a long season. While 2017 may have not been an amazing season, the Whitecaps were able to be consistent, only losing back-to-back matches once. That consistency saw them flirt with finishing first in the Western Conference.
Despite finishing well above where the pundits (expect Hercules Gomez) had thought the Caps would be at season’s end, there were some major disappointments. The Caps failed to return to Champions League, and were actually eliminated in the first round by Montreal. They also lost the Cascadia Cup to Portland. Finally, after a strong 5-0 elimination match showing against San Jose, the Caps fizzled out against Seattle.
Our writing team looked back at the season and determined whether it should be consider a success, and what were the highlights and lowlights of the season.
Was this a successful season?
Based on the metrics I used (Playoffs, Cascadia Cup, Voyageurs Cup, CCL), No it was not a success. For a team that went 7 weeks where they only dropped 1 point a week and spent 5 weeks on top of the Conference, only to crash and burn in a fantastic way, renders everything else meaningless
Yes. It ended disappointingly but when I saw the ‘Caps roster at the start of the season I thought they were going to finish dead last in the West. After the disappointment of 2016 the ‘Caps must feel it’s mission accomplished. Now this doesn’t mean that the season was the biggest success it could possibly be. The organization needs to face some criticism for not having their squad full assembled in time for the start of the season. If they’d started the season with squad they finished it with who knows what they might have accomplished.
Overall, I think you have to say this was a successful season. It turned out far better than we anticipated during preseason when it looked like the glaring ineptitudes of 2016 weren’t going to be addressed. Two semi-final appearances and a strong run at first in the west give the appearance of a successful season. But if you look deeper you see that the CCL semi-final was thanks to a pretty easy round robin pool, followed by a Red Bulls team that clearly didn’t have their act together. Still, they beat the teams in front of them, and they weren’t embarrassed by a superior Tigres team. Their trip to the MLS semis was similarly easier than usual due to a weaker Western Conference. I think the doubt cast over the season for most fans is how poorly the team showed in its three failures to clinch the conference, its total lack of offence against Seattle in the playoffs, and how it was never really in contention for the CCL title, never mind the VCC or the Cascadia Cup. It would be harsh to call the season a failure, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like a resounding success.
Absolutely. The end was a disappointment, with the club squandering the opportunity to close out first in the West, but the 'Caps ultimately finished the season far, far better than expected, particularly by the MLSSoccer.com editors. I'd take 8th-best over 3rd worst every day of the week.
The way the season ended will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans but from where I sit it was still a successful campaign. It’s easy to forget that this Caps’ side was widely panned by analysts to finish among in the bottom half of the Western Conference. They also missed arguably their best player, Yordy Reyna, for almost half of the season. Given that, the fact that they were even in contention for the Western Conference title is impressive in its own right. Could this team have gone further? Yes, of course and the fact that they didn’t means that this season cannot be termed an unmitigated success. But given my expectations in March, I am pleased both by this season and this team’s potential for the future.
Highlight of the season
Playing Tigres at BC Place. Keeping a respectable score line over two legs against the Liga MX Champions
Has to be the 2-1 win against Seattle in April. A win against Cascadia rivals is always good and two goals from Montero sweetened the deal. On a personal note this was also my girlfriend’s first time attending a professional soccer game, so it holds a special place in my heart.
As a fan, my highlight of the season was the knockout round win against San Jose Earthquakes. Yes, another weaker opponent, but it was fun to cheer those goals in a playoff win at home. The bigger accomplishment for the team, and a truer highlight, has to be the stretch of wins in September and October that vaulted them into first place in the Western Conference.
That first Yordy Reyna goal. At that point in the season, the Whitecaps' 6-7-3 record had them flirting with the red line and were fresh off a 4-0 clunker against Chicago. Things weren't looking all that much better with NYC FC coming to town, but the diving header Reyna powered home to seal a 3-2 win against one of the top teams in the East could be considered the club's turning point this season.
While FC Dallas wound up being the exact opposite of the Whitecaps (widely predicted to win the division, then proceeded to flop), the thumping Vancouver handed them in Frisco over the summer is still one of the best displays I’ve seen out of the side in my time as a fan. Given the history between the two sides, beating Dallas will always be sweet and that win served to put the league on notice that the Caps were a contender. Other wins were rewarding but, for me, this one was the best.
Surprise of the season
1) Smashing FC Dallas in Dallas
2) Losing to Portland, or should I say T2, at home.
Probably the 5-0 playoff win against San Jose. Yes, the team was expected to win but not in such a dominant manner.
Is it Yordy Reyna or the emergence of Jake Nerwinski? Reyna arrived with little fanfare, even though fans got excited over his potential in the few pre-season games he appeared in. However, no one expected to see a rookie out of college make right back his own over an established MLSer in Sheanon Williams. I think the biggest surprise needs to go to Jake.
The Kekuta Manneh trade. It may have come early on, but after an off-season of imagining a Whitecaps attack with Manneh and Alphonso Davies attacking on either wing, it was quite the gut punch to witness Manneh's departure after only three games. His finishing may not have been the best, but Manneh's speed truly opened up the pitch if you let him run. To his credit, he's now on the cusp of an MLS Cup final (even if it's as a late-game sub).
For biggest surprise, I will turn to the club’s CONCACAF Champions League campaign. While it ended in disappointment, I think the fact that Vancouver was able to see off NY Red Bulls and play against a team of the caliber of Tigres was an unexpected bonus of this season that I tend to forget about. While the Champions League in North America is not at the same level of prestige as Europe, it is good visibility for the club and a great way to measure its talent against the top teams on the continent (aka Liga MX clubs).
What Do You Think?
Those were our takes on the Vancouver Whitecaps 2017 season. What were your takeaways? Do you consider it a successful season? What were your favourite and least favourite moments?