Opening day of the MLS season is finally here. As we get ready for Saturday night’s matchup at BC Place, the Eighty Six Forever team gathered to make some projections about the upcoming Whitecaps season. Here’s what they had to say:
Where will the Whitecaps finish in the Western Conference standings?
Who will be the team’s MVP in 2023?
Caleb: Ryan Gauld
Andrew: Ryan Gauld
Ian: Andres Cubas
Sam: Julian Gressel. Yes, I’m going a bit off the board here for argument’s sake but I also think it could happen. If Gressel still has ambitions of a move to Europe there is no time like the present for him personally. Equally, if he is able to adapt to his new midfield role he could have a huge impact on this Whitecaps team in 2023. This is probably the best setup he has found himself in since his early Atlanta days so I think it could be a great situation for him, especially with an aerial threat like Cordova up front.
The Vancouver Whitecaps had a -17 goal differential in 2021, will they hold a positive goal differential at the end of 2023?
Caleb: I think it will be close but they will just barely be in the positives based on a strong defence.
Andrew: I think they will be at zero or maybe one or two goals below.
Ian: Negative, but not by a lot. It may come down to how quickly Mathias Laborda gels with Ranko Veselinovic.
Sam: It will be really close but I’m going to say positive. Better tactics and a more consistent back-line will really help this team, who was already much better defensively at the end of last season after some early blowouts. Also, goalkeeping just needs to avoid being historically bad for this team to see a big uptick in that department.
Who will be the team’s unsung hero or surprise performer this year?
Caleb: Sebastian Berhalter
Andrew: J.C. Ngando
Ian: Ryan Raposo
Sam: Ali Ahmed. The fullback position is the most wide-open position on this team, so it’s the best opportunity for someone to break out. Ahmed is coming off a tremendous MLS Next Pro season and looked good in Spain and California camps. That being said, he is already 22, so there’s a bit of pressure on him to prove he can take the next step. If Vancouver becomes a vertical counter-attacking team in the way I expect they will, Ahmed is a good tactical fit so long as he can hit the ground running and carve out some minutes for himself.
What is one bold prediction you would make that others might not see coming?
Caleb: The Whitecaps will concede fewer than 45 goals.
Andrew: Pedro Vite will have links to European clubs by the end of the season.
Ian: The Whitecaps will get their highest point total from their first 10 matches since the 2015 season.
Sam: Yohei Takaoka and Thomas Hasal will form a formidable goalkeeper pairing. Mining the Japanese league for talent was a shrewd move on behalf of the Whitecaps but equally, I think Thomas Hasal will have a bounce back season and still play a big role given the multiple competitions Vancouver will be involved in. Hasal’s numbers were much better later in the year with a competent defence in front of him and it looks like both keepers will enjoy that this season.
Are there any players on the current roster you don’t think will be with Vancouver by season’s end?
Caleb: Cristian Gutierrez. The left-back spot is pretty crowded, there has already been one falling out, and there have been persistent rumours of interest in Chile so it only makes sense to cash in, even if it’s a relatively small fee.
Andrew: Gutierrez is a good shout but it wouldn’t surprise me if they try and clear out Christian Dajome and bring in another attacker over the summer.
Ian: Guti may be the obvious choice, what with the falling out last season and all, but I’m going to go crazy and say Thomas Hasal. Offers from the Dusseldorfs and Genks of the world may be too big to pass up.
Sam: Gutierrez is the obvious one given the depth at the position and the past history of the relationship with the club going a bit off the rails. Equally, I think Cristian Dajome could be on the way out if Vancouver can’t find consistent minutes for him. A third under the radar suggestion is Deiber Caicaedo. I wonder if his tendencies fit the way this team wants to play, especially the way they have shifted since his injury - one would think that Deiber’s two best positions are as a winger or a second striker, but the Whitecaps don’t really have a natural fit for that type of player.
What did you think of our predictions and what would your answers be for the upcoming season? Let us know in the comments!