MLS Preview: Team By Team, Vancouver Whitecaps Look To The Future

Posted In Features - By Kevin McCauley On Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 With 0 Comments

Unlike the Seattle Sounders who tried to hit the ground running in their first season in MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps are acting a bit like an expansion site, with a couple of differences. The main difference is the presence of their own youth academy, which, with their newfound first division status and Major League Soccer’s new homegrown player rules, will allow them to start producing their own talent immediately. Another difference is the fact that they’ve largely disregarded the Expansion Draft, usually the means for new MLS sides to build a team. A majority of the players selected were traded away, though a couple of their selections remain as key pieces. The rest of the roster is made up of draft picks and players they went out and found themselves.

Currently, only 16 players are signed to Vancouver’s roster, with a plethora of other players in camp but yet to be signed. Five of those players come from last year’s Vancouver Whitecaps USSF Division 2 squad, while two members of the Whitecaps Residency academy are currently in camp. Though Vancouver have enough camp bodies to fill out a roster, in addition to the fact that they’re probably not done negotiating with foreign players, they’re noticeably thin in some areas. Obviously, they’re a team who is unworried about success next year and focusing on the future. Much like the Philadelphia Union last year, only in a much more extreme way.

One area that they are noticeably thin is forward. When Omar Salgado was selected with the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, it was seen as yet another signal that Vancouver are a team building for tomorrow, not today. Conventional wisdom states that Salgado will be brought along slowly and not thrown into the fire. However, a quick look at Vancouver’s roster indicates a staggering lack of depth in Salgado’s position. Unless they’re deep in negotiations with a foreign center forward, Salgado might find himself starting games sooner rather than later. Currently on trial are former FC Tampa Bay man Long Tan and Brazilian striker Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo, who not even Eighty-Six Forever can tell us anything about. My man Ben Massey is the Whitecaps authority, so that highlights the serious obscurity of this guy. Either they’re seriously reaching or Tom Soehn has himself one hell of a find.

If there’s one area where Vancouver should excel this year, it’s defending. Their back line looks solid and deep for an expansion team, and they’re set at goalkeeper with Joe Cannon and Jay Nolly. Whoever starts will be competent, and whoever is the backup will be arguably the best backup in the league. Vancouver has taken a good deal of their defense over from D2, but there’s little question that those players are MLS quality. Additionally, they’ve signed Jay Demerit, who should become one of the best central defenders in the league instantly. Vancouver is lacking in many areas, but their first choice defense and goalkeeper should be above average.

Vancouver lacks known quantities in the center of midfield, but they might just need intelligent bodies based on the fact that they should be surrounded by some talent. Vancouver lack forwards as well as two-way and defensive central midfielders, but they’ve done a good job of picking up some wingers and attacking midfielders that can make an impact right away. Rookie winger Michael Nanchoff looked like a pro-ready player in his time at Akron, while established pros John Thorrington and Shea Salinas have speed to burn. Atiba Harris does well sitting behind one or two strikers, and they have a couple of players in camp who can play in that position as well.

So, there are pieces there. Unfortunately for Vancouver fans, the unknown players and obvious glaring holes stick out for Vancouver much more than their good pieces do. There’s no reason to believe that Vancouver will be embarrassing, but a trip to the playoffs in their expansion season seems incredibly unlikely.

About Kevin McCauley - Kevin McCauley is the Editor in Chief of The Allocation Order. He is also the managing editor at World Soccer Reader and a contributor on multiple levels to SBNation

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