Five storylines to watch in Casa Grande

What to look out for in Vancouver's first preseason trip of 2014

Omar Salgado - training

Photo Credit: 
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

VANCOUVER, BC – After a week of training at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are off to Casa Grande, Arizona, on Monday for their first preseason trip of 2014.

The ‘Caps will spend 10 days in Arizona, where they will play exhibition matches against North American Soccer League side Indy Eleven on February 5 and Seattle Sounders FC on February 6 and February 9.

Here are five storylines to watch in Casa Grande as the ‘Caps continue preparations for their season opener on March 8 against New York Red Bulls.

How will the 'Caps play under Carl Robinson?

It’s no secret that Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson wants his team to play an attacking and entertaining brand of soccer. That’s part of the reason why the club acquired fullback Steven Beitashour, who is known for his ability to push the play forward and join the attack.

But what formations will Robinson use? How will the ‘Caps respond to a new head coach with a new philosophy?

We’ll likely have to wait a little longer to truly find out the answers to these questions, but the upcoming preseason matches should start giving us an idea.

Which youngsters will step up?

“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”

We’ve heard Robinson use that catchphrase more than once since he took over the head coaching position. Now, it’s time to find out which players fit the bill.  

There are a number of youngsters vying for a spot on Whitecaps FC’s opening day roster. Some of them are already signed, like left back Sam Adekugbe and midfielder Bryce Alderson, while others like Marco Bustos, Ben Fisk, and Kianz Froese are hoping to earn an MLS contract.

There are spots to be had, but who will take them?

What should we expect from Omar Salgado?

A two-time fractured right foot prevented Omar Salgado from playing limited minutes in 2012 and none in 2013, but the 20-year-old has been given a clean bill of health and is ready to “make a big impact” this season.

It will be interesting to see how Robinson chooses to use the 6-foot-4, 210-pound striker, who could be an option out wide on the left or as a target man up front.

Salgado, who has been training in full since last October, has looked sharp in preseason training thus far and will look to carry that over into this week’s matches.

Which two centre backs will separate themselves from the pack?

The ‘Caps currently have five centre backs under contract: Christian Dean, Jay DeMerit, Johnny Leveron, Carlyle Mitchell and Andy O’Brien.

DeMerit and O’Brien started Whitecaps FC’s 2013 opener, but both missed a significant period of the season due to injury. In their absence, Leveron, Mitchell and Brad Rusin filled in admirably. Rusin is no longer with the club, but the ‘Caps now have Dean – a 6-foot-3, 200-pound centre back with great upside. 

With DeMerit and O’Brien healthy, how will Robinson use the experienced duo?

How will the new faces fit in?

‘Caps fans will get their first look at a number of new faces this week, including Beitashour, midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, and recent draft picks Mamadou Diouf and Andre Lewis – among others.

Beitashour, who Whitecaps FC recently acquired from San Jose Earthquakes, is a 2012 MLS all-star and according to Robinson, “arguably the best right back in the league.”

It will be particularly interesting to see how the midfield battle plays out, with players like Ballouchy and Lewis hoping to make an impression and secure a spot in that attacking midfielder position.

Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.