To start things off - I’ll add a personal note that this was an event I wasn’t sure how it would unfold. It was my first media day - ever - and not just as a writer for 86Forever. While making my way to the stadium I had no clue how I was going to get in, who would be in attendance, or if the Canadian tuxedo I selected as my wardrobe would be completely under dressed compared to a sea of suits once inside.
By some combination of luck and coincidence - I was running a bit late and grabbed a cab to get downtown in time. The taxi that brought me to BC Place dropped me off on the east side of the stadium, which, well, happened to be right in front of the security gate where media personnel were being admitted.
Walking into BC Place from the back tunnels was pretty cool, I must admit. I’ve spent plenty of time in the concourses and the stands, but on our walk-in, we came straight out from behind the South goal and onto the pitch. In other parts of the world, gaining this kind of access requires passing an excessive amount of security screening, and probably getting through a metal detector or two. Yesterday though - none of the above. I mean, I have some family south of the border and I think it’s harder for students to get into their own high schools from what they tell me.
After some fluff about sustainability on the menu and a new intro video to be played in stadium in the build-up to each match, Bob Lenarduzzi briefed the press on the upcoming season, starting with Sunday’s home opener, “On Sunday we will have a record setting home opening crowd,” and not just in the history of the MLS era Vancouver Whitecaps. “Going back to 1980 we had [roughly] 25,700 at our home opener” and Sunday’s match is on pace to eclipse that figure.
If you’re making your way down this weekend, safe to say it will be a loud, raucous kick-off to the 2018 season.
On the 2017 season and where the club is now, Lenadruzzi added that heading into 2017 the club was expected to be an also ran, but managed to put together a great campaign. Tha is, despite some obvious disappointment that the ‘Caps failed to clinch the first place spot in the West across the final three games of the season. Moving into 2018, the club is “looking to build on that,” with “11 new faces coming into the squad and some players that we think provide us a chance to get back to the playoffs… and then have more success during the playoffs.”
It’s been noted that the team could be unbalanced with so many changes after last season, Lenarduzzi added that after being around the team in Hawaii and in Los Angeles, that the club feels that “there’s a great chemistry around the guys,” and that “it’s a talented group that will be prepared to roll up their sleeves and make it difficult for the opposition.”
Lenarduzzi went on to give a brief interview regarding the trade with New York Red Bulls involving Tim Parker and Felipe, during which he was asked if there would be any concern about breaking up the centre back partnership between Parker and Waston. He was quick to dismiss this saying “with no disrespect to Tim or Kendall, we’ve leaked a lot of goals over the past two seasons,” and “ideally with a different pairing, hopefully we’ll [improve] that.”
He went on to add that there will be opportunity now for the likes of Jose Aja and Aaron Maund to stake a claim to Parker’s position in the starting line-up, and if push comes to shove even the likes of Aly Ghazal could potentially step into the back line having played there during his time in Portugal.
As far as the newest Whitecap, Felipe Martins, and whether he could be in line to feature this weekend, Bobbo added that he wasn’t sure whether he could slot in right away. Felipe has been playing so far this season, so he shouldn’t be lacking in fitness, but as of yet it’s too early to tell if he will get a run out against the Impact on Sunday.
One curious thing to note is that, at this point, the ‘Caps appear much deeper in midfield than, well, this time last week. The arrival of Felipe and Jordon Mutch, mean that Carl Robinson now has a wide variety of players to get involved and keep happy with their playing time. With in-house options now including Ghazal, Russell Teibert, Efrain Juarez, David Norman Jr., and the aforementioned duo, the centre of the park is certainly full of players capable of contributing.
Finding a balance between pairings that can protect the backline, and build up play beyond simply hoofing the ball into the box will be very important. Of course, keeping players involved and motivated so that they’re ready when called upon will be a precarious balancing act and should be an interesting story line to watch in the early part of the season. Lenarduzzi mentioned that during his playing time he “may not have liked that there were other good players in [his] position, but [he] felt that it actually made [him] a better player.” For the likes of young Norman Jr., hopefully that will be the case.
All-in-all, the media day provided a bit of extra meat to sink into before kick-off tomorrow afternoon, some of which was even served up by club captain Kendall Waston himself. So,with that - I’ll leave you with a shot of the captain enjoying himself while showing off his cooking skills. Hopefully your appetite for the new season has been thoroughly whet.