Valentine: Searching for players with character
There are 70 days and counting to Vancouver Whitecaps FC's first match in Major League Soccer versus Toronto FC. As we endure the winter chill of January, let's take a closer look at the make-up of our squad right now and what can we expect in next week's MLS SuperDraft and beyond.
If I had to use a word that our coaching staff have been using when evaluating players this offseason, it would be the word 'character'.
For example, if there was blueprint for success in the league last season, you have to look no further than last year's MLS Cup final between Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. Looking through their respective rosters, you will not find any household names. Obviously, they are good players to get their respective teams to the final, but they are also players that come to play every match. Players that put the team first and will run through a brick wall for their club.
Head coach Teitur Thordarson likes his teams to play a high-tempo game, so the key is finding the right players to fit that system of play. This does not mean that a Designated Player or the first pick of next week's SuperDraft will not be someone special, but they will have to fit the make-up of his team.
As a youngster living in England, I grew up watching Manchester United FC (…thankful for that…), and I can best explain what I mean by 'character players' by looking at the reason they have dominated the English Premier League over the years. David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and the Neville brothers are just some of the names that come to mind. You would have to agree that these players are first-class, yet on the pitch, they have also been the foundation of United. They are the club's hardest workers that come to play every game and who always put the team first.
Here in Vancouver, our coaching staff is putting the foundation together with players that have great soccer character. It is these ingredients that are going to make us competitive from day one and give us the chance to do great things in our first season in MLS.