Whitecaps 2013 season preview
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
After last season’s miserable finish, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to build off of their first two years in the league and finally get it together. While getting their first playoff appearance under their belt looks good on paper, anyone who followed the team was perfectly aware of how little that achievement really meant. The club was downright awful, but there’s definitely hope for this year.
Starting from the back, the Caps are set at keeper. With Brad Knighton as the starter and the experienced Joe Cannon backing him up, the team shouldn’t have any issues. While many criticize Knighton for struggling down the stretch in the playoff push, it has to be noted that he didn’t really have much support. Leave someone hanging out to dry and they generally do just that. Knighton’s no star, but he’s a capable starter.
On the back line, the Whitecaps’ most important move in the offseason was convincing Lee Young-Pyo to return. The talented right back is a reliable defender and on the attack, he shows a poise unlike any other player on the pitch. The Caps are set at left back as well, with the solid Jordan Harvey manning the spot. It’s a little more suspect in the middle. I’ve never had complete confidence in Jay Demerit; he’s a tough central defender who can get stuck in, but he’s often horribly out of position. Past clubs he’s played on have always provided him with the necessary support to allow him to be himself, but in Vancouver he’s been expected to be the guy. Andy O’Brien looks to be the other centre back to start the year, but don’t be surprised if newly-acquired Brad Rusin and Johnny Leveron force their way into the lineup at some point.
Now, onto the midfield: with the cancerous Barry Robson removed from the squad, there’s finally hope for there to be some continuity where it’s needed most. Replacing him in the middle of the park are two exciting signings: Nigel Reo-Coker and Daigo Kobayashi. Reo-Coker brings a wealth of English Premier League experience to the team, but questions have been raised about which Reo-Coker the Whitecaps are getting. Will it be the uninspired one who was consistently blamed for team failings or will it be the player who’s shown he truly has quality as evidenced by his captaining the England U-21’s. One has to think it’s the latter. With Jurgen Klinsmann hinting at the possibility of Reo-Coker playing for the USA’s National Team, he’s got every reason to give it his all.
Kobayashi is the attacking threat from the middle that the Whitecaps have been sorely lacking in the past. The former J-League player can pick out a pass and can finish his chances; that’s just what they need. Kobayashi is expected to sit in the hole behind the striker to start the year. The other central spot is supposedly Alain Rochat’s to lose. On the wings, the Whitecaps have Camilo and Paulo Jr. to start, but draft picks Kekuta Manneh, Omar Salgado, and Erik Hurtado could find their way onto the pitch if they falter. Depth is good this year, with Gershon Koffie, Jun Marques Davidson, Matt Watson, and Russell Teibert also available for selection.
Up front, the Whitecaps have the dynamic Darren Mattocks as the lone striker. The Jamaican showed flashes of brilliance last year whenever he managed to avoid throwing himself theatrically to the ground at the slightest breeze. He has the potential to be the best player in the league one day, but he has to find some consistency. Sitting behind him on the depth chart, most notably, is Scottish Designated Player Kenny Miller. Miller was horribly disappointing in the few games he featured in and I can’t say I have much faith in his abilities at this stage. He’s well over-the-hill but will at least provide some experience. Sitting behind Mattocks and Miller are fresh faces Tom Heinemann and Corey Hertzog.
The 2013 Vancouver Whitecaps have the chance to go deep into the playoffs this year if everything goes right. They’ve got talent, depth, and an enthusiastic fan base. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining.