Carl Robinson has always stated that he felt it was important to be at least two deep at every position on the field, to create competition and hunger to get into the lineup. This past season he was able to achieve that goal.
Where Robbo had the most depth was at left back. While Canadian youngsters Brett Levis and Sam Adekugbe were not part of the squad -Levis due to injury and Adekugbe due to loan- Robinson still had two solid and reliable veterans in Jordan Harvey and Marcel de Jong. By the end of the 2017 season, de Jong had overtaken the Caps player with the most appearances, Jordan Harvey, as the preferred starter. Marcel’s assent to first on the left back depth chart led to Jordan’s option being declined this off-season and his subsequent signing with newcomer LAFC. This off-season also saw an end to the Sam Adekugbe saga, with him finally being transferred to Europe.
A position just a year ago that was the deepest on the Vancouver Whitecaps squad is now in-line with the rest. This should not be construed as me being negative. It was silly for the Whitecaps to have four capable left backs and only be able to play one of them. However, what may be (slightly) concerning is that the Whitecaps lost their most reliable/consistent left back, in Harvey, and potentially their most promising, in Adekgube. This year, the Caps will look to give de Jong his opportunity to play game in and game out, with youngster, returning from injury, Levis backing him up. If de Jong remains healthy throughout the season, this should not be a problem. If he suffers a major injury, the Whitecaps could see themselves in a bit of trouble. Although, it is worth noting that both Brek Shea and Russell Teibert could fill in if needed.
The reason I say that the Whitecaps could be in trouble, should de Jong get injured, is that we are not sure what to expect from Levis. His injury in the final match of the 2016, his first after being signed from the USL club about a month earlier, led to him missing the entire 2017 season. While he looked good in his only MLS match, this does not mean that he will be able to maintain that level. I am certainly not saying they are equal, but you all remember the debacle that was the right back position after Steven Beitashour was sent to Toronto. If de Jong is unable to maintain the position throughout the season, the left side of the defense could end up being a sieve like the right side in 2016.
I should make it clear that I am not doubting the capabilities of Levis as a MLS left back, just that we need to be cautious and understand that it might not work out. Therefore, I feel the Whitecaps are in a perfect situation with a skilled, offensive, left back in de Jong being the primary starter and Levis getting a few starts throughout the season as a backup.
With Jordan Harvey and Sam Adekugbe moving on, Marcel de Jong has been given the opportunity to be a regular starter. He certainly has the offensive skill to be successful and is easily the best passer in the current Whitecaps defensive stable. Additionally, Harvey and Adekgube’s departures allow the Whitecaps to see what they have in Levis and, hopefully, do what all fans seem to scream for, which is to ‘let the youngsters play’. We will see how it all works out this season.
What are your thoughts on the left back situation? Do you feel that it was a good/smart move to ‘let’ Harvey and Adekgube move on this offseason and rely on de Jong and Levis? Do you feel that de Jong is going to be the main guy? How much playing time should/will Levis get this year?
Let us know your thoughts.