By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
From proven veterans and promising youngsters, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have a wealth of midfield talent to choose from in 2010.
In part three of our four-part preview series into the 2010 Whitecaps men's team, whitecapsfc.com looks at the players that will have an important role in shaping the attacking pattern of Teitur Thordarson's squad in the USSF D-2 Pro League and Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
Similar to the dilemma that occurred at centre back in 2009, the Whitecaps struggled to sufficiently fill the central midfield void that was left when captain Martin Nash was unavailable though injury or suspension last season. With Gordon Chin and Kenold Versailles moving on in the off-season, the situation left Thordarson in need of complementing Nash with quality options in the middle.
This led to the Icelandic coach signing two players with proven United Soccer Leagues First Division experience. Mexican playmaker Ricardo Sánchez joined the club last November, while former Northern Ireland youth international Jonny Steele arrived in Vancouver near the end of last year. "Both of these players have good qualities, even though they are different qualities," Thordarson told whitecapsfc.com. "Ricardo is a fantastic technical player, who is very good with his passing distribution and one of our best options on set pieces. Jonny, meanwhile, is more of a two-way midfielder. He's quite versatile and can play in a number of positions. Jonny has the ability to make deep runs into the opponent's defence, so our challenge this season will be to supply him with good balls when he makes those type of attacking runs."
Sánchez and Steele are likely to see plenty of time alongside the vastly experienced Nash, with the 34-year-old looking in the best physical shape he has been in years after an extensive off-season training program. "It's so encouraging to see the effort that Martin has made to prolong his career on this level, and to try and make the jump to the next level (Major League Soccer)," Thordarson said. "We know what he's capable of doing from a technical and tactical point of view, but to see him as fit as he is now is an achievement for him."
The Whitecaps midfield is also an area of the squad with depth. Luca Bellisomo is sure to be considered for a role in central midfield after impressing Thordarson in that position during the pre-season. 'Caps fans will also have particular interest in seeing how Canadian youngsters Philippe Davies, Ethan Gage, and Alex Semenets perform this season, with all three coming through to the men's team after being members of the inaugural Whitecaps Residency squad. "Ethan has things to develop in his game, but when he is at his best, he's an exceptional ball winner," Thordarson said. "Philippe, meanwhile, is very technical and has good qualities with his passing. He also provides a good midfield link between the defenders and the strikers. Though he needs to learn more about the physical side of his game, I feel that Phil has all the qualities to succeed as a pro. Alex is a great offensive player, but he needs to work on the defensive part of his game. Yet, like Ethan and Phil, Alex is also young. If he continues to work on his game, he also has a great future."
One of the great areas of strength in the Whitecaps squad is their attacking options on both flanks. Ansu Toure's pace and trickery will be a handful for any opponent on the left, while Semenets and Tanzania international Nizar Khalfan offer further options as attack-minded wingers. Fans should also expect Wes Knight and Blake Wagner to complement their abilities as defensive fullbacks by playing in the wide midfield positions.
Yet, for Thordarson, the availability of a fit-again Justin Moose is close to having a new signing. The former D.C. United player endured a frustrating 2009 season, as injuries restricted the Statesville, North Carolina, native to just four starts in 15 total appearances for the Blue and White. "In our championship year in 2008, Justin was vital towards the outcome of the games we played that season," said the 'Caps head coach. "To have him fit again is a major boost, as he provides us with fantastic qualities on the right flank."
In the final edition of our 2010 men's team preview, we look at the strikers that hope to fire the Whitecaps to success this season.Click here to view our men's team goalkeepers preview.Click here to view our men's team defenders preview.