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Know Your MLS Teams: Vancouver Whitecaps

 Posted by on August 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm  Blogs/Media
Aug 282013

vancouver whitecaps nasl logo 194x300 Know Your MLS Teams: Vancouver Whitecaps

To the tune of the old Canadian unofficial anthem.
Of blue and white, our flag unfurls,
Beneath the mountains capped with snow,
A scent of victory in the air,
O’er the emerald fields below.

In you we keep our hopes and dreams,
For you we stand together.
A team that’s feared throughout the land,
The blue and white forever.

Long may you play, and grace our ground,
Blue skies and stormy weather,
Whitecaps FC, you’ll do us proud,
The blue and white forever.

Founded: 1974 (Vancouver played from 1974-1984 in the North American Soccer League, 1987-1992 in the Canadian Soccer League as the Vancouver 86ers, and from 1993-2010 in the American Professional Soccer/ United Soccer League. Since 2011, the Whitecaps have played in Major League Soccer.)

Pedigree: 4-Time Champion of the Canadian Soccer League (1988-2001,) 2-time champion of the United Soccer League (2006 and 2008,) and 3-time winner of the Cascadia Cup (2004, 2005, and 2008.)

Supporters: Vancouver Southsiders, the Curva Collective, the Rain City Brigade, and La Doce.

Rivals: Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders (the Cascadia Cup,) Montreal Impact,  San Jose Earthquakes, and Toronto F.C.

Record this Season: 10-9-6 (Second Place in the Western Conference.)

Coach: Martin Rennie

Key Players Returning this Season: DEF Jordan Harvey, DEF Lee Young-Pyo, MID Jun Marques Davison, FWD Camilo Sanvesso, FWD Russell Teibert, and FWD Kenny Miller.

Key Additions: DEF Brad Rusin (H.B. Koge-Denmark,) DEF Jonny Leveron (Motagua-Honduras,) MF Daigo Kobayashi (Shimzu S-Pulse-Japan,) MF Nigel
Reo-Coker (Ipswich Town-England,) and FWD Paulo Jr. ( Real Salt Lake.)

Key Departures: MF Barry Robson (Sheffiled United,) FWD Atiba Harris (Colorado Rapids.)

Young Player to Look Out For: Darren Mattocks- should he return from knee surgery this season. If not, Russell Teibert looks to be a very promising player.

Outlook: One of the great things that I have found in working on this series is being exposed to the Canadian teams in Major League Soccer. While the main problem with watching the Whitecaps is geography (most of their matches are on at 11pm EST,) it is also difficult to watch them because American television does not really cover the Canadian teams. While Toronto F.C. is terrible, both the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps are both quality squads that have a real chance at making the playoffs. The Whitecaps in particular are a very compelling team, having been the first Canadian team to make the MLS Playoffs last season. Although they ran into the Playoff buzzsaw that is Los Angeles Galaxy last season, they are in prime position to make another playoff run this season.  Sitting only a point behind fifth place Seattle and sixth place F.C. Dallas, the Whitecaps should be in the mix until the end of the season.

The strength of this team is without question their attacking set of strikers and midfielders. Head Coach Martin Rennie likes to employ a 4-1-2-3 with two attacking midfielders, two wingers, and a striker down the middle. Their main distributors, Daigo Kobayashi on the left and Nigel-Reo Coker, are both very good at making crisp concise passes to the likes of Left Winger Kenny Miller and Russell Teibert. Vancouver has done a great job in upgrading their midfield, which last year had difficulties in making that final pass to their forwards.  Both Miller and Teibert have prospered from this arrangement, scoring 7 and 2 goals respectively this season.

Reo- Coker in particular, has shown his value to the squad as a box-to box midfielder (controlling the midfield, using his height and size to gain possession,) and is able to control the flow of the game. Having watched him for many years as a midfielder for English side Bolton, I was concerned that he was coming to MLS to cash a paycheck and enjoy the beautiful Vancouver weather. But he has shown himself to be integral to Vancouver’s counter-attack, feeding the ball on the outside to speedy players like Teibert and Left-Back Jordan Harvey (4 goals this season.) In their June 20th match against Chivas U.S.A, both of their goals was a direct result of Reo-Coker setting up Teibert and Harvey for their respective goals. At 26, he has shown that he will be an important part of Major League Soccer for the near future.

Vancouver’s attack is centered on the touch of Forward Camilio Sanvesso. With 14 goals this season, Savarese is tied for second in Major League Soccer, only trailing Montreal forward Marco di Vaio (16.) If you are looking for a goalscorer in form check out Camilo’s stretch between June 6th and July 20th where he scored in 9 goals in 10 matches. It is no coincidence that during this span that Vancouver had a record of 5-1-3.  What makes Camilo such a special player is that he is comfortable with both of his feet. As a striker, you do not need to have both feet equally as strong and accurate, but your weak foot needs to be able to control the ball and set the other foot up for a strong shot.

The Whitecaps main problem though this season is that the club is a very poor road team. In 2013, they have only road win (against D.C. United,) and have scored only 10 goals away from home. In comparison, they have scored 25 goals in Vancouver.  What is to blame? The first problem, seems to be a lack of composure.  In the match against Colorado, the team made far too many defensive errors, including Reo-Coker slapping the ball away in the penalty box. Also, Midfielder Gershon Koffie made a terrible tackle on Colorado midfielder Nathan Powers that could have seen him ejected from the game.

They also lose their form on defense far too easily. In the June 6th match against Real Salt Lake, the Whitecaps defenders often gave RSL attack an extra 2 or 3 feet which allowed them space to create 2 goals and win the match. Losing Left-Back Jay DeMerit earlier in the season with a torn ACL has hurt the squad, but they should be playing better. Although it is great that Harvey has proven to be such a quality attacking option, his presence may be needed more along the back then making long runs to the front.  The bright spot on their backline this season has been Right Back Lee Young-Pyo. The former South Korean international is one of the best players in Major League Soccer at marking his man and halting an offense’s progression.  At 36, he obviously can no longer catch the fastest strikers on a breakaway, but he is still excellent at reading plays and filling in gaps to break up passes.

The club has also not found a solution as to who is their starting goalkeeper. Last year’s starter, Joe Cannon, is out for the rest of the season with injuries and his replacements, Brad Knighton and Michael Ousted, have provided mostly flat performances. Knighton looked pretty good in his first few appearances, but in the 4-3 win over New England his confidence seemed to fall apart. During the match, New England was killing Vancouver on second chances which led to two goals and since then he just not seem to be the same keeper. Although David Ousted has extensive experience playing in the Danish Super League, he still seems like he is match fit for a playoff run. I have serious misgivings about a team changing their goalkeeper so late in the season. It would be one thing if it was a backup goalkeeper, because at least there is a rapport between a defense and a goalkeeper. Adding a new goalkeeper could prove to be disastrous for Vancouver’s playoff run.

There are many questions for the Vancouver Whitecaps entering this playoff stretch. Can they finally get some results away from home? How will Ousted adapt to his defense and the physical style of play of Major League Soccer? Can they cut down on the mistakes on defense and develop second and third options outside of Camilo Sanvese. Although I would hate to put so much emphasis on one player, let alone one substitute, this team’s success depends on goalkeeping. This club can score goals at will, but needs to refocus on defense and finding the right keeper to lead this team in the playoffs. Seattle signing Clint Dempsey changes everything in the West; Vancouver needs one of its stars now to step up to meet this new challenge if they have plans for the playoffs.


Beer of Choice: Black Hops, Parallel 49 Brewery Company

In June when I was planning on watching the Seattle Sounders-Vancouver Whitecaps Cascadia Cup match, I ran into a quandary: I could not find a Vancouver beer! Given how far I am from Vancouver this should not be unexpected. So I did one of the true unholy things in soccer and I taped the match until I could find a beer that was fitting for such a match. Although I could have had a Vancouver beer later, it would have kind of defeated the point of finding a quality beer and telling you how great it is to drink it while watching a Whitecaps match.

I found Parallel 49 at one of my old liquor stores in Washington D.C.M, Modern Liquors. Although alcohol there is insanely expensive (it is expensive in all of D.C., to be fair) they always have a very good selection of beer and wine.

After an hour ride on Maryland Public Transportation, I cracked open the beer and turned on the match while eating a nice piece of Alaskan salmon (it is the Northwest.) The first thing I noticed about it was how smooth the beer was. Although it claims that it has has Hops, I thought it tasted more like a Black Lager. It was certainly strong, but by no means was I sauced after one beer. I think why I liked beer so much was because the style of beer matched the style of the game. Both teams played a smooth style of attack, almost like a chess match. Both were incredibly pleasant to watch and drink, and made the entire experience enjoyable.

Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today, Soccerly, D.C. Soccer, Soccer Without Limits, and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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