In just 44 days, the 2021 MLS season will be underway. Time moves quickly as a season approaches, and quietly, the Vancouver Whitecaps are only a day away from completing their first week of training camp.
The secluded nature of the camp hasn’t provided too many storylines worth focusing on, so naturally, attentions have turned to the club’s movements away from the pitch. Last week, twitter was abuzz with Bruno Gaspar rumours, but over the last couple days, attentions have shifted to another (albeit former) Sporting CP man, and someone who looks like he’s about to be a former Whitecap for a second time.
Fredy Montero truly had a strange relationship with the Whitecaps last year. At times, he was their best player. At others, he was nowhere to be found, not even making the Orlando roster for the MLS is Back tournament. Whatever Montero had lost in athleticism over the past few seasons, he was more than capable of making up for with his superb awareness and underrated passing touch. That being said, it felt like the Colombian was continually disgruntled in Vancouver, and oftentimes far more interested in running his Seattle coffee business than putting in extra reps on the training ground. It will be a shame to see him move on, but to be honest, I can’t blame him for choosing his adopted hometown over a potential 4+ month bubble setup in Utah (no offense to the RSL fans out there).
I'm told Fredy Montero has come to terms with the Seattle #Sounders and will be signing with his former team soon.— Niko Moreno (@ELROLONW) March 4, 2021
Additionally, it sounds like the forward could keep his number 12 jersey which he used during his time with Vancouver Whitecaps.@SportsPulso#MLS pic.twitter.com/pqIWcpi9pf
I asked Marc Dos Santos about the interactions the club had had with Montero and his Agent during the offseason, and it seemed clear that Dos Santos knew early on during talks in January that the two sides were unlikely to get a deal done.
“When you are in negotiations, everything needs to fall into place. You need to find an agreement that everyone is going to be happy with, but it didn’t get to that point...If it is confirmed that he goes to Seattle, I wish him all the best.”
Just after this article went live, the Sounders made the move official, penning Montero to a a one-year deal with club options in 2022 and 2023.
Moving to on-pitch storylines, an area that I’m going to be watching with keen interest this year is the Whitecaps’ strikers. Specifically, the two Canadian Men’s National Teamers in Lucas Cavallini and Theo Bair.
For one, Lucas Cavallini feels poised for a breakout year. While a lot was made of the poor service he received during 2020, he also failed to capitalize on many of the opportunities he received - performing well below his expected goals rate. If what we saw last season is Cavallini’s floor in terms of potential (it feels like it is) then that has me very excited. Obviously, the addition of a number ten would make a big difference here, but again, I think we could see improved outputs from Cavallini even if someone like Leo Owusu slots in at the ten to start off the year.
Lucas spoke not only of the opportunities he’s going to receive with the Whitecaps in 2021, but also those through Canadian Men’s National Team duty:
“I’m really excited for this year. We’re going to be playing a lot of games, not only for the club but also for our country...It’s going to be a lot of playing time for me, hopefully.”
Cavallini is usually rather stoic during his interviews but it was obvious that he’s excited about the prospects of a busy schedule. It seems like the more he is a able to play and see the ball in the back of the net, the easier it comes to him. So that should be good news for Whitecaps and CANMNT fans alike.
Equally, Theo Bair looks ready to take a big step, not only in terms of his play, but also in terms of his demeanor. He’s generally been a pretty quiet and understated guy, but he seems to have arrived at camp this year with a new level of swagger, and I, for one, am totally here for it.
Theo explained his new off-season training regimen, as well as why he thinks this could be his most important year as a pro:
“Honestly, I think it might be the most important [this year]. It’s a big chance for me to come in and prove that I can contribute at a high level. I’m ready for whatever opportunities present themselves. Last season, I went home and took a bit of a break at the end of the year. This season, I decided that wasn’t good enough. If you want to be a pro, then you’ve got to be a pro all year round. I went for runs every day, I played a lot. I came back to Vancouver early because I wanted to train more and stay fit. I’m coming into this year with a different mindset.”
Bair has already showed a lot of positives over the last two seasons, but this new attitude should have MLS defenders everywhere on notice, it’s time to “Feed the Bair”!
While Theo’s determination is without question, what still remains up for discussion is what role he is going to have within the team this year.
Given the offseason addition of Deiber Caicedo, and Marc Dos Santos’ desire to play a 4-3-3 (especially if they add a number ten), that might not leave a ton of room for him in the starting lineup when at full strength. Despite this, the back-and-forth shuffle between Canadian Olympic and Men’s National Team duties should leave Bair and Cavallini both with ample opportunities at the club level in 2021, so long as it’s managed in the right way.
Stay tuned as we continue to keep you updated with the latest from Vancouver Whitecaps training camp.