The 2018 Major League Soccer season is just around the corner, with the Vancouver Whitecaps kicking-off their season on Sunday, March 4th (3pm) against Canadian rival Montreal Impact. As is tradition in any sport writing team, the start of the regular season means it is time to make meaningless, wild, predictions about the season that is coming.
We asked each of our writers to give their thoughts on a couple of key stories heading into the season, as well as some over/under predictions. Because we have SEVEN! writers at 86Forever, we have broken the roundtable up into three articles. We will begin by getting their opinions on who will have a breakout 2018; excluding Alphonso Davies; who will be the Whitecaps 2018 MVP; who was the biggest offseason acquisition; who was the biggest offseason loss; and what will the club’s record at BC Place be.
In Part II of our roundtable, we will examine what we believe the biggest strengths and weaknesses are, what formation will the Whitecaps play; the trophies the club might win; and the always fun final standings prediction. In Part III, we will look at some fun over/under predictions for the season.
Make sure to join us in the comments, answering our roundtable questions and making your over/under predictions!
Breakout Player (Not Named Davies)
AtlantisB: Marcel de Jong. He has always been consistent throughout his career, and maybe a bit under-rated. He will be a surprise standout by the end of the season.
CWilkins: Bernie Ibini: He showed some flashes of quality last year but never quite got it going. Now he’s had a full preseason and has looked very lively.
TDahl: Anthony Blondell. He has imposing size, and great wingers to play balls in, or from set pieces. He is already developing some chemistry with Techera and can learn the MLS game from Kamara.
Jitsuo: My money says Anthony Blondell brings the goals. He’s shown some early season chemistry with both Reyna and Techera – the goal he scored against LA Galaxy behind closed doors showed him play a neat one-two on the edge of the box before making a great run to get on the end of the cross. He also showed some very clinical finishing, scoring a pair of goals off of what were half-chances in the match against LAFC.
Andrew Bahl: Maybe I have misplaced optimism that Anthony Blondell will succeed where Octavio Riveiro and Masato Kudo have failed but I think the Venezuelan has the tools to be a quality MLS forward. A proven poacher, Blondell has both the physicality and athleticism to complement Kei Kamara up top and (hopefully) improve.
Samuel_Rowan: Perhaps a bit of an off-the-board pick, but if injuries or inconsistency plague the Whitecaps midfield at points this season I can see 19-year-old David Norman Jr. stepping in and making an impact. He played terrifically as a box-to-box midfielder last year for Whitecaps FC2 and has looked comfortable and confident throughout the preseason.
Most Valuable Player
Andrew Bahl: Bank on Kendall Waston delivering a similarly captivating performance this season. I’m willing to wager that the captaincy has given Kendall Waston a permanent discipline that can anchor a backline that may well be without his longtime deputy, Tim Parker. Any goals Waston can bang in are a bonus but he figures to be a key piece in bolstering Vancouver’s set pieces as well.
Jitsuo: Waston is the key. It’s going to be downright painful if/when he goes to Russia, but now that Tim Parker is almost certainly on his way out of the club, Waston will be the man in defence, and keeping the ball out of the net one more time than the other team is going to be key for this Whitecaps team.
TDahl: Kendall Waston. With the uncertainty surrounding the CB situation at the start of this year, it will be on the Towering Tico to solidify the back end. I also expect him to chip-in on the offensive side of the ball.
Samuel_Rowan: Goalkeepers union here, I’m going with Stefan Marinovic. Despite a very limited sample size, his athleticism and physical presence in the box gives him every chance to be one of the premier keepers in MLS. At 26, his first full MLS season is the perfect opportunity to establish himself.
AtlantisB: Stefan Marinovic. Offensive guys are great, but in a bunker and counter approach, your MVP is a defensive player. I was a fan of Ousted, but I feel Marinovic will fit in nicely. I see a return to many clean sheets and spectacular saves.
Ian Jones: Kei Kamara. I genuinely believe he’ll add even more offensive pop than Fredy Montero created last year. The guy is great in the air, and the Whitecaps are dead ball beasts. Bread, meet butter.
CWilkins: As we saw last year, the ‘Caps fortunes rest largely on the play of Yordy Reyna. Unless Alphonso Davies has a breakout year and dominates the league (not totally out of the question) I think it will be the same in 2018.
Best Offseason Addition
CWilkins: It really depends on who pans out and who doesn’t. Could be any of Juarez, Kamara, and Blondell.
AtlantisB: Efrian Juarez. While Marinovic is my MVP, Juarez is a runner-up. Linking the defense with the offense will be key. Pending an amazing addition, Juarez will be central to that link-up.
Jitsuo: Anthony Blondell has shown an eye for goal, a willingness to get into the box and the ability to finish in a number of different ways. I think he’s going to make fans quickly forget about Fredy Montero.
Samuel_Rowan: 23-year-old Venezuelan striker Anthony Blondell has the potential to develop into the well-rounded finisher the ‘Caps have lacked since expansion. The obvious chemistry between Blondell and Reyna only adds to this potential.
Worst Offseason Subtraction
Ian Jones: The swap of Montero and Kamara. Both are proven goal scorers, and it’s biting to see players of Montero’s caliber disappear into the ether, but what Kamara brings to the table will hopefully exceed what we were given offensively last season.
CWilkins: Fredy Montero. It’s going to be tough to replace those goals.
Jitsuo: Jordan Harvey, even if he’s now in the autumn of his career. Marcel De Jong is a good left back, but the depth behind him is definitely missing. Harvey’s work rate down the left was always excellent, and should anything happen to De Jong, his presence will be sorely missed.
Samuel_Rowan: The imminent departure of Tim Parker. Orlando City fans didn’t seem too upset about parting ways with Uruguayan CB Jose Aja and Doniel Henry and Aaron Maund have yet to prove themselves as reliable starting options. This potential hole in the roster could really test Carl Robinson’s managerial skills.
2018 Home Record (They Haven’t Been the Best Lately)
Jitsuo: Last year, the ‘Caps turned in a respectable 9-5-3 home record. One thing you don’t want to see is numbers in the third column -losses. I expect to see a team that works incredibly hard and doesn’t take a loss without a fight. I’m going to pick a slight improvement on the home record of 10-5-2. With the ability to put big bodies in the box and lob in long balls or set pieces, I expect to see a lot of important goals coming late - that includes equalizers and winners. I just hope my heart can handle the stress levels.
CWilkins: There’s apparently quite a bit of demand for tickets this year. I’m not quite sure why but I’m not going to complain. I’ll say slightly better than last year.
Andrew Bahl: 8-5-4.
Ian Jones: They’ll be on the happy side of .500, pretty close to last year. Let’s call it 9-3-6.
Samuel_Rowan: The biggest issue over the past couple seasons at home has been dropping points in winnable games. I don’t really see this changing much. But, with the addition of Blondell on attack and a possible breakout year from Davies, I can see them improving from 9-3-5 to 10-2-5. The ‘Caps should continue to be one of the best road teams in the league.
TDahl: Whitecaps home record this year will be: 10-3-4.