Wednesday in Spain, the Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off 2023 at the Marbella Football Center with a 2-0 loss to Hamburger SV.
The classic preseason conundrum is how much can be taken away from fixtures like this. In this case, the difficulty was only exacerbated by the fact that HSV is halfway through their league season. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps only congregated in Vancouver last week before jumping on a flight to Spain.
Admittedly, Vancouver looked rusty, and they were scored on inside the first five minutes. What was a big positive for Vancouver though is that we saw a reasonably full strength lineup to start the match, including the new duo of Mathías Laborda and Ranko Veselinovic in the centre of a back four.
At least at present, Vanni Sartini looks intent on building around the shape which vaulted Vancouver near the playoff line in the final weeks of the 2022 season, where Luis Martins played a hybrid role which shifted the Whitecaps from a once familiar back three to four at the back.
While Martins only lasted 32 minutes in this match, his replacement was probably the Whitecaps MOTM. Ali Ahmed, having just inked a first team deal this past off-season, shone near the end of the first half, and was a bright spot amongst the chaos of massive squad rotation in the second half. Ahmed’s athleticism and ambition on the ball gave the Whitecaps a spark when many times in this match they looked out of ideas on the ball. With Ahmed on the rise, Raposo moving to the fullback spot, and Gutierrez coming back into the squad, fullback could be a very competitive position this preseason.
Equally, without putting too much stock into preseason performances, I do think another player to watch during the preseason is Alessandro Schopf. After a disjointed back-end of 2022, the Austrian midfielder needs to find his footing with VWFC quickly in 2023. The Whitecaps desperately need him to fill a box to box role in the centre of the park, especially with Caio Alexandre out of the picture. I do have my concerns as to whether or not Schopf has the motor and work-rate to give the Whitecaps what they will need in that spot. We can revisit this 10 or so matches into the regular season and I think we’ll have a lot more to say on this.
Overall, it was just good to see the Whitecaps back on the pitch. Also, it was great to see so much interaction on twitter for a match that was only broadcast on YouTube and started at 6am Vancouver time.
For those of you who missed the match live, you can find it here:
What were your thoughts on the first match of 2023? Let me know in the comments and keep an eye out for more preseason content on the site.