A new approach with fresh personnel may be the best way to describe the Vancouver Whitecaps men's team midfield for 2008.
In part three of our four-part preview series into Teitur Thordarson's squad, whitecapsfc.com takes a closer look at how the Whitecaps intend to line up in a vital part of the pitch.
Like other areas of the men's team squad, the midfield was not immune to turnover in the off-season. Jay Alberts and Ze Roberto headed through the exit door at the end of last season, while two promising youngsters that shined at the NCAA Division I college level have come to the club in their place. Former Bolivian U-20 international Vicente Arze and former Oregon State University standout Mason Webb provide Thordarson with added depth in a midfield that already includes several options.
Arze comes to Vancouver after an impressive four-year college career with Mercer University. The skilful South American is seen as an attacking threat on the left-hand side. "He's a highly technical player that plays with a lot of imagination," assistant coach Todd Wawrousek told whitecapsfc.com. "He's very good in possession and bringing players into the combination of play. He's also a very good crosser of the ball."
Considered an option on the right-hand side, Webb's tricky skill and application will also provide the Whitecaps with added energy. "Mason has done very well since arriving and is getting better everyday," Wawrousek said. "He has a tremendous attitude and approach to the game."
Preseason has not only seen new faces in midfield, but familiar faces in new roles. Steve Kindel and Lyle Martin were mainstays in the club's fullback positions in 2007, but both men are set to see action in midfield this term. Last season's Newcomer of the Year, the fleet-footed Martin has been used in a more advanced role on the right side of midfield this preseason, as Thordarson looks to make the most of the 23-year-old's athleticism. "We've entertained the notion of Lyle as a winger simply because of his extraordinary pace," Wawrousek said. "He has got better in the quality of his crossing, but it's still not to the level of the consistency that we would like. Still, his pace is so good that cutting that distance to goal in half will be of great benefit to us."
Martin, Webb, and the returning Stefan Leslie will all have a chance to impress Thordarson on the right flank, while Arze, Kindel, and Alfredo Valente are in consideration on the left side for the Icelandic tactician. With Japanese import Takashi Hirano expected to play at left fullback, Kindel is in line to influence proceedings in left midfield. "I feel Steve did well on left wing in our exhibition matches, as well as in left central midfield," revealed Thordarson. "For me, that has been a very positive thing."
Whitecaps fans should also expect a change of roles for the experienced central midfield pair of Jeff Clarke and Martin Nash. While Nash will be looked upon to provide his usual quality distribution of the ball, Clarke is expected to give more support to the strikers this term. Another central midfield option will be Tony Donatelli, who is expected to join the Whitecaps squad in the near future after completing his second Major Indoor Soccer League season with hometown club Philadelphia KiXX on Saturday. "Tony is a very good player and I'm looking forward to getting him in and working with him," Thordarson said. "He is a player that has different qualities from some of the other players that we currently have."
In the final edition of our 2008 men's team preview, we look at the strikers that hope to find the back of the net on a frequent basis this season.
Click here to view our men's team goalkeepers preview.
Click here to view our men's team defenders preview.