The Vancouver Whitecaps began their preseason playing campaign two weeks ago in Hawaii. The results were maybe not what fans were hoping for, but I think that Marc Dos Santos was not too concerned with wins and losses and rather about seeing what he had and getting youngsters an opportunity to impress. That was reinforced by MDS playing many young, academy, players for at least half of the matches; although he didn’t really have many other bodies to choose between. This past week, the Whitecaps traveled down to California to meet up with several new faces and to close out the preseason.
MDS announced earlier this week that the roster we currently see is what we are going to get to start the season. With only one preseason match remaining before the start of the season we thought it was a good time to have a look at the Whitecaps depth chart. First, we look back at how the club lined up in their first four matches.
Missing many of their new signings in Hawaii, Marc Dos Santo used the opportunity to play a lot of his youngsters. Their first match against Nagasaki saw a mix of youngsters and veterans, familiar faces and new. For some, the match went well. For others…well…
The second half was where many of the young academy/residency players had their opportunity. Where Colyn and Habibullah shone, Escobar certainly had a match to forget…by the way, it didn’t get better against Iwaki FC
Against Iwaki FC, MDS began again with a veteran lineup, and sprinkled in some of the younger players later. One interesting observation from the first two matches was Levis and PC each playing a match at left back and left wing.
Last weekend, against LA Galaxy, Marc Dos Santos continued with his more veteran lineup, getting them reps, while sprinkling in residency players. The match also started to help us see some of the potential starters come March 2nd, when they open up against Minnesota FC.
30th minute: Mukumbilwa for Bangoura
65th minute: Sutter for Nerwinski, McDonough for Henry, Bair for Reyna
73rd minute: Venuto for Levis
78th minute: Metcalfe for Rose, Colyn for Martins
The Whitecaps most recent match was against Club Tijuana. Crepeau started over MacMath, giving him three starts to MacMath’s one. Godoy played his first match for the club, even if only for 30 minutes. Erice appears to have locked down the center position of the midfield-three, while Bangoura has the same claim in the front three. Reyna is starting up top…for now. Colyn appears to be impressing, and Rose is playing far more than I thought he would.
MDS made substitutions at the 31st, 45th, and 63rd minutes, with some of the younger players, and probably backups (aside from Nerwinski) seeing time.
31st minute: Mukumbilwa in for Lucas Venuto, McDonough in for Erik Godoy
45th minute: MacMath in for Crepeau, Metcalfe in for Rose, Norman in for Erice, Felipe in for Colyn
rd minute: Nerwinski in for Sutter, Escobar in for Bangoura, Cornelius in for Henry, Bair in for Reyna, PC in for Levis
With the first four matches out of the way, let’s look at how I see the depth chart currently. Note that this does not point to who will start come opening day, but rather who is probably at the top. Marc Dos Santos has stated that he plans to play a 4-3-3, so we are going to analyze the depth chart in a similar fashion.
Forward: Fredy Montero, Joaquin Ardiaz, Theo Bair
There is reason to be excited in Vancouver! Montero makes his return while youngsters Ardiaz and Bair give fans hope for the future. For now, Reyna has been occupying the position, but that is more because he needs to play and they don’t have anyone else for the striker position. Expect when Fredy and Joaquin are able to play they will see the field.
Wingers: Yordy Reyna (LW), Lass Bangoura (RW), Lucas Venuto (RW)
Reyna is playing up-top right now, but expect him to swing out to the left-hand side once Montero and Ardiaz are healthy. Bangoura appears to be ahead of Venuto on the depth chart, but both could start on opening day with the strikers still getting integrated into the team.
Hwang In-beom (CM), Jon Erice (CM), Felipe Martins (CM), Andy Rose (DM), Russell Teibert (DM) -Injured
Prospects: Simon Colyn (AM), Michael Baldisimo (DM), David Norman Jr. (CM)
Thus far, MDS has shown that he is willing to integrate the youngsters into the squad; however, Carl Robinson said the same thing when the manager and we didn’t really see that occur. We will have to see whether the integration actually occurs, but with Colyn, Baldisimo, and Norman Jr. all performing well, I would be very disappointed if we do not see them several times throughout the year (150-200 minutes?). As the prospects are a separate entity, I have left them out of the depth chart discussion here.
Without the prospects, the Whitecaps have five players that are likely to compete for the three midfield positions. Designated player In-beom must be at the top of that list while Erice has been a fixture throughout training camp and has proven his ability. Felipe had a bit of a rough 2018, but he has the skillset to be effective and I believe he will flourish under MDS. Depending whether it is a road or home match, and probably who the opponent is, we will see Rose and Teibert, once healthy, given starts. Rose is an interesting case. While not the same in playstyle, I am going to liken Rose to the role that Jacobsen played here several years ago. Jacobsen wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t your go-to, but whenever a hole needed to be filled you could count on him to jump in and do a respectable job; he would not be the weak link. I feel like Rose will end up filling that role, to some degree, this season.
Defensive Back Four (and Keeper)
Left Back: Brett Levis, Victor ‘PC’ Giro.
Returning Brett Levis probably has a leg-up on the newcomer PC Giro, but to be honest, neither elicits a lot of confidence from me. Don’t be surprised if reinforcements come as there were rumors that the Whitecaps were in on talented left back Greg Garza before he eventually went to FC Cincinnati.
Central Defense: Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Jasser Khmiri -Injured, Derek Cornelius
Central defense is quite strong despite what some might think. It is tough to replace guys like Kendall Waston and Tim Parker, but Godoy is a fantastic central defender while Khmiri is expected to excel. Some have their feelings about Henry but he had a very good year last season. The problem is, when he makes a mistake they appear to be big ones. Cornelius is the wild card here. Probably fourth on the depth chart currently, there is no reason why he could not move up and overtake any of the guys ahead of him. He will probably start one of the first two matches, most likely replacing Godoy (as Khmiri is still recovering from injury).
Some team news: Montero is expected to arrive in LA tomorrow, Ardaiz is in Vancouver and awaiting his U.S. visa before joining the team in LA, Khmiri is listed as week-to-week after undergoing meniscus surgery in November.#VWFC— Farhan Devji (@farhandevji) February 20, 2019
Right Back: Jake Nerwinski, Scott Sutter
Jake Nerwinski had the proverbial sophomore slump last season, but has shown that he has the tools to be successful. He will be pushed by veteran (newcomer) Scott Sutter, but if Nerwinski plays like he did in 2017 rather than 2018 he should hold down the position.
Goalkeeper: Maxime Crepeau, Zac MacMath, Sean Melvin
As CWilkins pointed out in his recent article, the battle for the goalkeeper position is really up-in-the-air. You could argue that there is a 1a and 1b situation and I would not disagree. However, if we are to take anything from the preseason matches thus far, Maxime Crepeau is slightly ahead of Zac MacMath as he played the entire preseason match against LA this weekend and the first half of Wednesday’s match against Club Tijuana. It could be an injury situation, so they are resting MacMath, but thus far Crepeau has three starts to MacMath’s one. At this point Crepeau is 1a.
There you have it. My thoughts on the depth chart thus far. What are your thoughts? See it differently? Let us know your positional rankings in the comments.