With 2008 well under way, the Vancouver Whitecaps coaching staff are already busy preparing for the new season.
The new campaign will see changes made to both the men’s and women’s teams at the club, with Teitur Thordarson looking to shape his men’s team squad before the start of the new USL First Division season in April. With a number of positions to fill, both Thordarson and his assistant Todd Wawrousek have been working hard to identify new players.
As part of the pair’s search for new players, Wawrousek will be looking for potential talent when he attends this weekend’s Major League Soccer Play Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Some of the top graduating players from NCAA Division I colleges will be taking part in the event, as they look to impress the 14 MLS clubs ahead of the league’s SuperDraft in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 18.
Though the Whitecaps are members of USL-1, Wawrousek revealed how important it is for the club to have a presence at such an event. “We know that most of the players on show this weekend will go into the MLS draft and that most of those players will be selected in the draft,” Wawrousek told whitecapsfc.com. “Yet, these events allow you to make connections with the players, their agents, or their college coaches. Being able to do this kind of networking can be highly beneficial now and in the future.”
Though the players at the Combine will have aspirations of landing an MLS contract, Wawrousek believes there may be opportunities for the Whitecaps to attract promising talent to Vancouver. “I think there are a lot of extenuating circumstances with players that can come into play, whether it be geography or monetary issues,” he said. “There is also the player’s development and their availability in terms of their academic commitments, so you never know how that’s going to turn out. Some of the players on show may be offered developmental contracts by MLS clubs, and although they may have aspirations to play in MLS, it may not be in their interest to be a developmental player on a nominal salary. It is those players that may have the tools to come into the USL and then potentially make the step up to MLS in a year or two. A good example for us is Lyle Martin. After being drafted by Chivas USA, he opted to come here last season and earned his spot in the team. If we can get those kind of players with the right attitude and the right work habit, then they can become a valuable commodity to the club.”
Wawrousek revealed some of the areas that will need boosting in the squad, with the club having taken a particular focus to find talented youngsters. “We need another centre back and a good central midfielder that is a two-way player,” said the assistant coach. “I think our highest need is to get good wide players with good pace, as that is a deficiency that we have right now. We’ve released a pretty high percentage of the roster and we need to replace those players with good young talent. Teitur and I have a keen interest in our Residency program, as we both like what we see there at the moment. We aim to selectively bring in some of those players into our first team during the season.”
Though the new campaign is just around the corner, Wawrousek is pleased with where their player recruitment currently stands. “I think we are in a very good position right now, in spite of the sheer number of players that we have to sign at this point,” he said. “I feel very confident that we are going to acquire that talent and I anticipate that in the next two to three weeks, we will be making great strides in those areas. I like where we are at the moment and excited to get things going.”