This past Wednesday afternoon, Carl Valentine and the Vancouver Whitecaps hosted a handful of media members at the training ground for ‘Winger Wednesday.’ Those in attendance were granted a short, and enjoyable panel with the winger group of the 2019 ‘Caps including one of the few returnees to the team Yordy Reyna, and new faces Lucas Venuto, Victor ‘PC’ Giro and Lass Bangoura.
As the players were coming in from another cold training session, Maxime Crepeau took some time to chat with the media. Max shared that at this point it’s been a different preseason, but that he felt it was “important to start on a good foundation and we established one.” Keeping with a theme that’s become somewhat of a recurrence during the off-season rebuild, Crepeau told reporters that “it’s like building a new expansion team when you have 15, 16 new players. Basically we just need to focus on our game plan” and that the ‘Caps “trained really well and now it’s crunch time, it’s when it counts finally. So we’re excited to start it off now.”
With a new system in place, the goalkeepers will be key to starting attacks and controlling possession when necessary, with the likes of Crepeau, Zac MacMath and Sean Melvin asked to play with the ball at their feet far more than previous Whitecaps ‘keepers. Maxime added that the group of goalkeepers have embraced the new challenge, and that “[they’re] the first attacker,” and at each moment whether it’s himself MacMath or Melvin starting on Saturday, they “need to be really focused on which ball is playable in which moment of the game, so… it’s a question of focus there and the quality and execution.”
Ahead of the aforementioned Winger Wednesday, both Marc Dos Santos and Felipe took some time to chat with the media.
With only two training sessions to go before the home opener against Minnesota, Dos Santos said “the methodology of work and the commitment between the technical staff, the performance group what we have in the club has been very coherent.” Despite the recent injury to Brett Levis, “it was a very healthy preseason, so it’s good to have everybody available, unfortunately not everyone’s at the same stage, some guys only have 30 minutes in them, others 60, others 15, so we have to be smart in the decision making [with] the lineup going into this game.”
Speaking further on the Levis injury, Dos Santos added that “we’re very frustrated at the injury of Brett, because we have a pride of finishing preseason without muscular injuries and that one hurt us.” Levis had an MRI to confirm the extent of the injury, and results were expected back on Wednesday.
While the Levis injury is a setback, with only PC currently seen as the other option at left back with the current squad, Dos Santos told reporters that the left back spot “was a position that we were always open to improve because both Brett and PC are fullbacks/wingers, and we were always open and committed to find a left back that could be more natural there.”
In the meantime, with the current personnel in the squad, Derek Cornelius has been seen playing left back in training, and Dos Santos continued to say that the Canadian “could be an option.” Right now in training the Whitecaps are working on “using a hybrid back 3 when we’re in the buildup and then a back 4 when we defend, the important thing is to have other solutions, because if you imagine we’re in training and working with PC and then PC gets injured in training, Brett is not there, then what do we do? We need to have a player that lives a little bit in that position in case something happens.”
Lastly, before launching into Winger Wednesday, Felipe took a few minutes of his time to speak to the media about what we can expect heading into Saturday.
With so many new faces coming in, Felipe was asked what he thought of the new additions, to which he noted Lucas Venuto, who “is a very dynamic player and you guys are going to enjoy him, and of course In-beom… he’s shown that he has a quality, and John [Erice], he’s a great player to have.” With preseason coming to a close Felipe said that “those are the players that I think stand out in the preseason, and they showed that they’re here to help us, and I think they’re going to be a big hand for us.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s home opener, Felipe added that “It’s very important for us to start in the right way and not a better way to start than playing at home.” With Minnesota United coming to BC Place after bringing in some new faces of their own this offseason, he said “we know that they’re a new team as well, they’re a lot of new pieces. Opara is a very good example, Alonso for me is one of the best holding midfielders in the league.”
As someone that yours truly pegged as a player to bounce back in 2019 in our Pre-Season Roundtable, Felipe added that “I’m going to get forward much more, I’m going to be in a more offensive role, but it’s more a box to box.” Under Dos Santos in the ‘Caps midfield “the two number 8’s need to play box-to-box and give the balance that the team needs between the back [and] the forward line.”
While it will be taxing on those midfielders, they’re going to be very important to the success of this team in 2019.
To wrap up the afternoon, the Whitecaps brought out the players they themed the afternoon around for Winger Wednesday, and PC, Venuto, Reyna and Bangoura came to share some smiles with journalists. Carl Valentine, who hosted the event, opened with some questions of his own including who was the fastest player in the group, and which players they most looked up to.
Speaking through a translator, Lucas Venuto noted that he always looked up to Ronaldo (the original Ronaldo for reference) as a player who showed great perseverance in his career. With the injuries that he battled through, he always came back to the top and managed to become World Champion.
Yordy Reyna in the meantime shared an affection with Lass Bangoura for another great Brazilian in Ronaldinho. After seeing Bangoura start the preseason with a seal dribble, you can definitely tell that the flair of the former seleção great is something he tries to emulate.
PC in the meantime chose to point to Cafu, as one of the all-time greats to ever don the famous yellow for Brazil. When speaking about where the club is having wrapped up their preseason friendlies, and whether there was any concern about the lack of goals or wins, PC commented that “we don’t care about what happened in the preseason, we care what’s going to happen on Saturday.”
We’re now less than 72 hours from kick-off to the 2019 season, and I’m sure the next couple days will fly by.