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Preseason Roundtable - Upcoming Season

SOCCER: OCT 06 MLS - Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In part three of our preseason roundtable, our writers tackle the questions of the upcoming season. Who will be here by the end? Who will be starting where? Don’t forget to check out Part I - Management and Part II - Off Season of our roundtable

MDS stated that he intended to play 4-3-3, emphasizing that point by using it to close out the 2019 season. In the preseason, we have seen a lot of 4-2-3-1. What WILL be the formation of choice for MDS to start the season? What SHOULD be the formation of choice for MDS to start the season?

Andrew: OK I get MDS really likes the 4-3-3 (it isn’t immediately clear why because we sucked in it but whatever). But the 4-2-3-1 just makes so much more sense given a) we didn’t move on Yordy Reyna, b) the midfield right now is a massive dumpster fire, c) we’re still being linked to wingers in the transfer market and d) it appears MDS rates Ryan Raposo as a CAM. You would need another actual, honest-to-God DM to slot in but I think that if (and I get this is a big if) happens, this could be a pretty effective formation going forward.

Caleb: With the current squad only a 4-2-3-1 is really viable. But I think if they could get another good midfielder a 4-3-3 might be better since they don’t really have a natural number ten.

Sam: Can’t really play with three midfielders when your depth is so thin at that position. It looks like MDS is going to favour a formation that gets his wide players involved in the build-up, so the 4-2-3-1 looks like the best bet at the moment. I’d second his choice.

AtlantisB: Many of us were confused by MDS’ staunch desire to play 4-3-3. It just didn’t seem to make sense with the players that were present. With In-Beom and Owusu, 4-2-3-1 makes more sense.

Which, if any, young Caps will make the jump this season like Bair did last season? Baldisimo, Colyn, Facchineri, Hasal, Metcalfe, Mukumbilwa

Caleb: If you had told me a year ago that Theo Bair would be the established squad player and Baldisimo would be the one on the outside looking in I would not have believed you. Baldisimo lost a year to injury but he’s the same age as Ryan Raposo and I really like his game so I remain a believer in his long term viability as an MLS player. It’s possible he goes on loan first and that might be for the best, since he didn’t play much football last year.

Sam: Seems unlikely, maybe Mukumbilwa will get a few minutes, but my hopes aren’t set too high.

AtlantisB: None. The Caps state that they want to develop talent but they have given no indication that they can develop their own. I think we see a lot of young talent get wasted…again.

Andrew: Is “none of them” an acceptable answer? Colyn may not even be on the roster soon and Facchineri seems destined for Voyageurs Cup minutes, at best. The others have gotten little game time to date, like Bair had at the end of the prior season. I think minutes are there for Georges Mukumbilwa to take and it wouldn’t shock me to see Hasal on the bench some. Beyond that? Your guess is as good as mine.

Who will/should be the two centerbacks to start the season?

Sam: Depends on fitness levels and how long Veselinovic has to get ready. I’m going to say Godoy and Cornelius are the Day One starters.

AtlantisB: I think MDS goes with the safe choice of Godoy and Cornelius.

Andrew: Given that Milinkovic is not yet in camp and that it is not yet immediately clear whether Jasser Khmiri can go a full 90 minutes, I’d expect the most seasoned MLS defenders to get the start on opening day: Derek Cornelius and Erik Godoy.

Caleb: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Who will/should be the two centerbacks to end the season?

AtlantisB: Play your best players at their best positions. In my opinion, Khmiri and Godoy are the best CBs the Caps have. If Veselinovic comes in and changes that, then he is in with Khmiri at CB with Godoy out wide.

Ian: Godoy and Veselinovic will most likely start the season, but if things go well we’ll see the young CBs, Cornelius and Khmiri, starting by the season’s end.

Andrew: Ok, I also believe that the long-term plan is to move Erik Godoy to right back. I could also easily see Khmiri and Milinkovic both passing Cornelius on the depth chart. Given that, I would say we’ll see Milinkovic and Khmiri starting by this fall, with plenty of rotation.

Caleb: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sam: Veselinovic will have likely established himself and I’m going to say that Cornelius keeps his spot, while Godoy moves to RB.

Who will have a bigger (positive) impact on the field: Montero, Ricketts, Bair?

Ian: Strangely, I feel like it’ll be Montero, through chance creation as opposed to direct scoring. Not having the onus of spearheading the offense could be a great thing for Fredy.

Sam: This is an easy one. Theo Bair.

AtlantisB: I am going to say that Ricketts surprises and contributes more than the others.

Andrew: This is a tough one because I think all of these guys have something to offer and I still am not convinced Fredy Montero’s long term future lies in Vancouver. That being said, I think Montero could thrive in a two-striker approach or by playing as a borderline attacking mid in a 4-2-3-1. His age prevents him from going a full 90 consistently but he has the potential to be a real asset off the bench (again, assuming he sticks around all season).

Caleb: Bair actually outperformed Montero in xG metrics last season, if you took out all the penalties, while dealing with the same crappy service. So perhaps if that service improves (N.B that this is very much not a guarantee at this point) he could have a bit of a breakout season.

MLS Draft pick, and Generation Adidas player, Ryan Raposo has looked strong in the preseason. How much does he play this season?

Caleb: A very unsatisfying answer but: It depends. If Milinkovic and/or Dájome don’t work out then potentially quite a lot. He’s certainly making a good case for himself in preseason so far.

Sam: Word is that Raposo will be staying with the squad this year (not loaned out), so hopefully he gets some good minutes and maybe some starts in double-week fixtures. He’s been fun to watch so far.

Ian: Because it’s the MLS he’ll have to pErFoRm iN tRaInInG first, but I think Raposo will hold his own when given the chance. It’ll come down if he can establish himself as a super sub first, then build to a spot starter.

AtlantisB: MLS SuperDraft is archaic and needs to go extinct. However, that doesn’t mean that gems can’t be found there. Remember how much we all wanted Gressel this offseaon? He went 8th overall in the 2017 draft. There can still be good finds.

Andrew: A lot of this, I think, depends on how much MDS rates him as a CAM, given the potential glut of wingers that could be on the roster come opening day. I still think he is a rare rookie that can make an instant impact in the first season, much in the same way Chris Mueller came in and got a lot of minutes instantly on a bad Orlando City team a couple years back. I predict a similar impact from Raposo this season.

Who will be in the Starting XI come opening day?

Caleb: Crepeau Godoy, Cornelius, Veselinovic, Adnan, Owusu, In-Beom, Milinkovic, Reyna, Dájome, Cavallini

Sam: Crepeau, Nerwinski, Godoy, Cornelius, Adnan, Owusu, In Beom, Milinkovic, Montero, Dajome, Cavallini

Andrew: Crepeau, Nerwinski, Cornelius, Godoy, Adnan, Teibert, In-Beom, Milinkovic, Montero, Dajome, Cavallini

AtlantisB: Crepeau, Nerwinski, Cornelius, Godoy, Adnan, Teibert, In-Beom, Milinkovic, Reyna, Dajome, Cavallini

Ian: Crepeau; Adnan, Cornelius, Godoy, Nerwinski; Owusu, Hwang; Bair, Reyna, Dajome; Cavallini

Will Ali Adnan and/or Hwang In-Beom be Vancouver Whitecaps players by January 1st, 2021?

AtlantisB: If they play well, the Caps do well, and they are gone. If they play poorly, the Caps do poorly. Seems we are kinda screwed no matter what. I say at least one is gone, with In-Beom being the most likely…which creates an even bigger hole in midfield.

Ian: Naaaaaah. I mean, if the club can, say, make the Conference Final, there may be enough residual goodwill to keep them around. But if the club tanks, one (or less likely both) of the two will be sold in the summer.

Andrew: If one or both of them are still under Whitecaps control, it will only be because they’re waiting for the European transfer window to open.

Caleb: I think it is very unlikely that In-Beom is still around by then. I figure it’s a coin flip on Adnan

Sam: I expect both to be moved in the summer window, so likely not.

Will Jake Nerwinski be the starting RB by season’s end?

Sam: I think that when Khmiri and Veselinovic get up to speed, there’s a good chance Godoy could take Nerwinski’s RB spot.

Ian: Yes, but I get the feeling that’ll have more to do with a thinned out centerback corps. He’ll play well when given the chance, but if he finds the bench, it’ll most likely be because Godoy slid to the corner.

AtlantisB: After plenty of promise to start his career, Jake seems to have plateaued. It is a shame, but when you look at his production, offensively and defensively, since that first season, it has been pretty underwhelming. If the Caps want to compete, they need more from their fullbacks. Need to keep teams honest when defending Adnan.

Andrew: Personally I have always liked Jake. He’s the kind of guy that is an asset to every MLS team because he’s young, cheap and a serviceable starter. But I think we’ve seen his ceiling and I would rather see what Erik Godoy can do. I suspect MDS feels the same way, and thus we’ll probably see at least a timeshare at RB by year end.

Caleb: I think the chances of that are about 30%. It could happen but I think the writing is on the wall that they are look for an upgrade.