The TWO ONE: Outlook after Arizona

Carl Valentine tells us what he saw in Casa Grande

Arizona 2013

Photo Credit: 
(Grande Sports Academy)
With the Arizona portion of Whitecaps FC training camp now over, I thought I would share my initial outlook on how the team is looking so far.
 
This was my third consecutive year going to Casa Grande for the early part of preseason. It is one of the few trips I go on with the team and a very important one for me. 
 
It's a great opportunity to meet the new members of the squad, talk to the coaches about the upcoming season, and get a feel of what this group of players can do in the upcoming Major League Soccer (MLS) season.
 
At this time of the year most teams are excited and optimistic about the upcoming season and I am no different, but this year really does feel like it will be even better than the last, and I will tell you why.
 
Our all. Our honour.
 
With a year already under his belt, this really feels to me like Martin Rennie’s team – everyone is on the same page. In his previous jobs, Martin has been able to do a complete overhaul of the team and build his squad from scratch, and he did the same last year.
 
He walked into a team coming off a losing season, and he had to work on building a winning mentality.
 
That is not the case this year. Without having to worry about implementing that basic groundwork, he and the rest of the coaching staff have been able to focus on adding other key elements that they feel are needed to complete in MLS.
 
Talent abound
  1. Young and fast

One big improvement has been the speed and athleticism added to the group with players like Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado, who both look fearless and hungry. While this new talent is young, the coaching staff need not worry since they’ve already built leadership into the team and instilled that winning mentality.

  1. Players in their comfort zone

On the opposite end, I would also expect even better seasons from our experienced players who’ve now gone through a year in MLS. Players like Andy O’Brien and Young-Pyo Lee were fantastic last year, but I really do think they will be even better with their playing time and travel better managed. In midfield, Jun Marques Davidson looks even more composed, and Matt Watson is full of confidence.

Another big positive is that Kenny Miller is starting to look like the Kenny Miller who has been successful at every level he’s played. He’s definitely benefitting from a full preseason and has been very influential in training. He certainly looked himself in the preseason match vs. New England.

  1. Koba’s creativity

Helping get the ball to these attacking weapons will be new addition Daigo Kobayashi, who has really showed his class in training. I got my first look at him in a Whitecaps FC uniform in a 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo. He is definitely a player that will add that creativity in midfield we lacked sometimes last year.

  1. Confident Canadian

Daigo teamed up well with Russell Teibert, pulling the strings in the second half against Houston. It was Teibert’s first real action in the centre of midfield, and he looked like a player who has gained a load of confidence from playing two recent games for Canada’s men’s national team.

  1. Hungry and humble

Last but not least, it was very pleasing to see that Darren Mattocks has started right where he left off last year, scoring four goals in preseason already. Yes all the other teams will know about him now, but it will be very difficult to key on him with the many offensive weapons the ‘Caps now have in attack.

I’ve also been really impressed with Darren’s demeanor. He is confident, yet still very humble and dedicated to working hard and improving.

Conclusion

The week of training in Casa Grande left me excited for the start of the season for many reasons, but the main one is Martin Rennie.

As I said at the beginning, I feel this is finally his team and he's begun putting together a number of pieces to the puzzle.

Whether it is players or formations, this squad is more dynamic and has the chance to become one of the top teams in MLS.

And that’s all you can ask for.