Talented through the middle
By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
An abundance of speed and skill can best describe the young talent that make up the Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfield.
In part three of our four-part preview series into the 2009 Whitecaps men's team, whitecapsfc.com takes a closer look at the changes that head coach Teitur Thordarson has made in order to boost his options in what is a vital part of the pitch.
Though the Blue and White have the experience of captain Martin Nash to anchor the team's midfield, a combination of new faces and promising youngsters from the Whitecaps Residency program provide Thordarson with a fresh outlook. "The midfield is the area where we do not have the same level of experience as in our backline or in our attack," the Icelandic tactician told whitecapsfc.com. "However, I felt with the experience we have behind these players in defence, alongside them in Nash, and up front with Charles Gbeke and Marlon James was worth giving these young midfielders the opportunity to play for us."
One of the new arrivals is Haïti international Kenold Versailles. The 25-year-old is expected to partner Nash in central midfield this season and will have big boots to fill following the offseason departures of former captain Jeff Clarke and fellow Whitecaps veteran Steve Kindel. "I was looking for another central midfield player who could cross the ball, play strikers and wingers through from that position, and keep good possession of the ball," Thordarson revealed. "We were also looking for a two-way player who can win the ball, support the attack, as well as defend. We feel Kenold can provide us with an important physical presence in that area of the pitch."
The most exciting part of this season's midfield, and possibly of the men's team squad as a whole, is Thordarson's varied options in the wide midfield positions. Whitecaps fans were left dazzled by the speed and trickery of returning players Vicente Arze and Justin Moose last season, but with experienced campaigner Alfredo Valente moving on from the club, the USL First Division champions still needed players on the flanks. In experienced USL-1 man Ansu Toure and Bermudan youngster Tyrell Burgess, the Whitecaps believe they have added two players with real attacking flair and potency. "Ansu was one of our toughest opponents when we played Atlanta Silverbacks last season," Thordarson said. "He's the type of player that I really like because he's a physical winger who can run at defenders and cross the ball well. As for Tyrell, I feel he is a young, but very interesting talent. He has very special qualities with his speed and ability to cross the ball, so for me, he fits well with our system of play."
It is also in midfield that the Whitecaps may give fans a real glimpse into the club's future, as four members of the Residency program have trained with the first team this preseason. Winger Alex Semenets and playmaker Gagandeep Dosanjh were part of last month's historic trip to Tanzania, while Ethan Gage surprised many by his holding midfield displays in last season's playoff run to the USL-1 title. Quebec native Philippe Davies, meanwhile, will also be in consideration after starting in all three of Canada's group matches during last month's CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Trinidad & Tobago. "Ethan proved last year that he is good enough to be in our squad and be a starter," said Thordarson. "He will certainly be a player to count on. Philippe is also coming along. Even though he has not played a game in our league, he has grown as a player over the winter months and with a little bit more time, should be part of our plans."
In the final edition of our 2009 men's team preview, we look at the strikers that hope to fire the Whitecaps to success this season.
Click here to view our men's team goalkeepers preview.
Click here to view our men's team defenders preview.