Vancouver's roster: A look at 16 signees

In Part One - 'Caps under contract

With less than a month before their first game, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will soon finalize their roster. The club are certainly not done bringing in players, as the search for an experienced striker remains a top priority.

Here, we take a look at the 16 players the club have officially signed (MLS clubs can carry up to 30 players in 2011). The roster so far shows a balanced blend of youth and experience, with the team’s average age clocking in at 25 years old. Five players are 22 years or younger, and three players are older than 30.

Two international players, two Generation adidas draft picks, and one homegrown player are included in the group.

The most interesting part of the team’s make-up is the unknown, though. Nine players are newcomers to MLS (marked with an asterisk).

Several of them played at a high level in Europe, a few are young players from Vancouver's D2 roster, and some are just starting their professional careers.

In an upcoming article, we’ll look at the unsigned players that remain in training camp, but without further ado, here are the current Vancouver Whitecaps FC:

Goalkeepers

Jay NollyEntering his fourth season in Vancouver, Nolly is a familiar face for local fans. The 6-foot-3 goalkeeper came to the ‘Caps to get more playing time after struggling for minutes at D.C. United and Real Salt Lake. Since arriving, he played nearly every match for the D2 ‘Caps and was named team MVP for the past two years and USSF-D2 Goalkeeper of the Year last season. He must now prove he can translate this success to MLS.

Joe CannonOne of the most experienced goalkeepers in the league, Cannon will be a stabilizing force. The former MLS Cup winner brings a pair of Goalkeeper of the Year awards with him to Vancouver, but he’ll be in a dogfight with Jay Nolly for the starting spot.

Defenders

Jeffrey Farrar

*Jay DeMerit - A hard-nosed World Cup veteran who should be a rock at center back. DeMerit’s leadership will likely prove integral to the success of this first-year squad. Expect him to be named team captain, a role in which he excelled at English club Watford FC.

Greg Janicki - Like Nolly, Janicki came to Vancouver to get more playing time after seeing his prospects dwindle at D.C. United. The 6-foot-3 center back saw a career resurgence in his lone season with the D2 ‘Caps, winning USSF-D2 Defender of the Year in 2010. Look for Janicki to start the season alongside DeMerit at center back, giving him an early shot to prove that he belongs at this level.

*Alain RochatA Swiss-Canadian defender with a European pedigree and a quiet confidence. Rochat spent the past five years with Swiss Super League club FC Zurich, winning two league titles and playing in the UEFA Champions league against the likes of Real Madrid and AC Milan. Rochat should not only start at left back for the ‘Caps but also be in the running for the league's top newcomer.

Jonathan LeathersHaving been in and out of the lineup during his first three seasons in Kansas City, Leathers will try to lock down a starting spot with his new team. He’s proven to be a consistent defender at training camp and looks on track to start the season at right back.

*Wes KnightA speedy defender who loves to jump into the attack. Knight is a fan favorite in Vancouver, and now he’s out to prove his qualities to the rest of the league after every team passed on him during the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. The Easley, S.C., native will push Leathers for playing time at right back.

Midfielders

*Terry DunfieldThough DeMerit will likely be team captain, Dunfield may very well be the team’s heart and soul. A child prodigy at Manchester City during his youth, Dunfield saw his career slipping as he battled injuries and fell to the lower English leagues. The Vancouver native, however, has been rejuvenated by a return home and will be a workhorse for the ‘Caps. He will be a certain starter at center mid.

 

Courtesy of WhitecapsFC.com

John ThorringtonOne of the few players on the roster who can boast significant MLS experience, Thorrington arrives on the West Coast after spending the past six years with the Chicago Fire. He will likely pair with Dunfield in the center of the ‘Caps midfield to form a gritty tandem that should suit Teitur Thordarson’s preferred playing style.

Shea Salinas An MLS journeyman, Salinas hopes to settle down with his new club. This will be Salinas’ third expansion team in the last four years, having suited up for the returning San Jose Earthquakes in 2008 and the first-year Philadelphia Union last season. The speedy winger looks the favourite to start on the right-side of midfield.

*Michael NanchoffThe eighth pick in the MLS SuperDraft comes to the ‘Caps after three exemplary seasons at the University of Akron, culminating with an NCAA National Championship last year. Coaches expect Nanchoff to compete for a starting spot on the left wing, but he’s spent the entirety of preseason sidelined with injuries and has yet to make an imprint.

*Gershon KoffieAn aggressive 19-year-old center midfielder from Ghana who has impressed his coaches since Day One. Koffie is an excellent ball winner with strength and passing ability well beyond his age. He is more than capable of starting for the ‘Caps, but he may begin the season behind the more experienced Dunfield and Thorrington on the depth chart.

*Nizar KhalfanFirst spotted by Thordarson on a preseason tour of Tanzania, Khlafan has become a versatile attacking weapon for Vancouver. The 22-year-old can play on either the left or right wing, as a center midfielder or even up top as a striker. Khalfan is a dangerous player but consistency will be the key to earning minutes for him in 2011.

*Philippe DaviesA product of the Whitecaps residency program and Vancouver’s first ever Home Grown player signing. The 20-year-old Canadian came into his own last season with the D2 ‘Caps and will hope his ascension in MLS continues. He can play on the right wing or in the center of midfield and is one of the best crossers on the team. He will likely start the season behind Salinas in the pecking order at right wing.

Forwards

Atiba HarrisThe 6-foot-3 striker will be relied upon heavily as Vancouver search for more attacking options. A native of St. Kitts and Nevis, Harris helped FC Dallas reach the MLS Cup final last year, but he bagged only four league goals over the course of the season. It looks as though Thordarson will be counting on this target man to have a career year.

*Omar Salgado Most people were shocked by Salgado’s first overall selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, but the truth is that he was destined to land in Vancouver long before the draft. Salgado impressed the team’s coaches so much when he trained in Vancouver during the summer that they determined that they had to get the 17-year-old. The 6-foot-4 striker has all the tools to become one of the top goalscorers in MLS, but a FIFA rule will likely prevent him from playing until he turns 18 in September.