The first leg of the preseason has come to a close. The Vancouver Whitecaps failed to continue their proud history of winning preseason Micky Mouse trophies. Carl Robinson mostly used the Pacific Rim Cup to get players fitness up, so it wouldn’t really make sense to draw any kind of conclusions about who will be in the starting XI come March 4th. But it would be a lot of fun, so let’s do it anyway! This is the starting XI that I would pick based on the performances we’ve seen so far. Obviously subject to change and to be taken with the grain of salt that would appear in the world of forms as described by Plato.
Based on what we’ve seen so far it will be another year of 4-2-3-1 (p.s. stay tuned for next year’s preseason think piece on the possibility of the ‘Caps switching to a three at the back system). Three at the back has been played a few times but it’s mostly been with players who you’d expect to be second choice. We may see three at the back at some point but i’d expect 4-2-3-1 to be played; at least to start the season.
Goalkeeper: Stefan Marinovic
Has yet to concede a goal and has made some good saves in the process. It’s a pretty clear choice. Brian Rowe hasn’t filled me with confidence, though he’s not been terrible. Rowe wasn’t really at fault for the one (extremely offside) goal he conceded, but his distribution left something to be desired, When Rowe has been in net, things just didn’t feel as secure. Although, I’d betraying the goalkeepers union if I didn’t point out that coming in at halftime as a goalkeeper is incredibly challenging.
Right back: Jake Nerwinski
I mean there’s not really anyone else is there? Mark Bloom was shambolic against Iwaki; Sean Franklin was fine but nothing special; Lucas Stauffer did pretty well for a second round draft pick, but is never going to unseat Nerwinski; and Justin Fiddes is more of a left back. Of the unsigned players I think Stauffer is currently just edging out the competition to be the second choice right back. He’s younger than Franklin, was way better than Bloom, and I thought he was better than Fiddes.
Centre backs: Tim Parker and Kendall Waston
I thought Doneil Henry looked pretty good, but I still think Parker and Waston are the consensus starters. The only other centre back is Aaron Maund and he didn’t really stand out at all.
Left back: Marcel de Jong
Again, is there really anybody else? The other two left backs are Brett Levis, who hasn’t played yet, and Justin Fiddes who was fine but not exceptional. Neither is likely to unseat de Jong.
Centre midfield: Efrain Juarez and Russell Teibert
Juarez has shown that he’s good, but not outstanding, on the ball and hard in the tackle. He looks like a solidly above average MLS midfielder. He’s not as smooth on the ball as a Christian Bolanos or Pedro Morales, but he’ll get the job done.
Teibert has, in my view, looked significantly better than either Aly Ghazal or Tony Tchani. This may be partially down to fitness. Say what you will about Rusty but the man is a machine when it comes to fitness, and so far he looks much more up to pace than anybody else. Teibert has looked excellent in the tackle and tireless in pursuit of the ball. I suspect Ghazal will ultimately rise to take this spot but it would be nice to see Teibert succeed. Honourable mention to David Norman Jr. who showed some good flashes but looks like he’s still adapting to the speed of this level.
Right midfield: Cristian Techera
Techera has come into camp looking fit and dangerous. It will be an exciting season now that Techera has some big target men to aim at with his crosses.
Attacking midfield: Yordy Reyna
Only played 45 minutes due to having a knock but still looked a lot more dangerous than Mezquida. There’s really not a lot of depth at this position so Reyna is the go to choice.
Left midfield: Alphonso Davies
Davies looks back to his best so far in preseason. He’s linked up well with Kamara and teams have struggled to deal with his physicality. I think he’s been head and shoulders above Brek Shea and Bernie Ibini and I’d start him on March 4th if he keeps up like this.
Striker: Kei Kamara
Kamara has been by far the most effective striker in preseason. He’s scored a goal, won a penalty, and has been extremely difficult for opposition defenses to deal with due to his size and power. Anthony Blondell picked up a knock in his first day of training and as a result looked well off the pace against Iwaki. I thought he looked much better in his second outing but Kamara is in the drivers seat at the moment.
What are your thoughts so far? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.