The Vancouver Whitecaps name has been around for more than three decades. But for the Major League Soccer expansion team, everything is new.
After a gruelling season, most MLS squads took a well-deserved rest. As one of the league's two incoming expansions sides for 2011, however, Whitecaps FC are perhaps a step behind. So while their future opponents were taking a break, Vancouver were busy conducting an offseason training camp in Ventura, California.
During their last year playing in USSF D-2, the franchise worked to form a core group of players for 2011 to help avoid the perils of throwing a bunch of players together for the first time. But with many new faces coming in, the club deemed it vital that it hold a camp to establish some early chemistry.
“It was a very good experience and very useful for me - and hopefully for the players also,” head coach Teitur Thordarson said about the team’s time in California. “We have gotten to know each other, and for me, it’s been extremely important to get to know the new players coming in.”
One player who Thordarson was keen to get into camp was center back Jay DeMerit. The USA international was captain at English club Watford FC for several years, piloting them to the English Premier League, and he will surely be counted on to provide leadership on a young Whitecaps FC squad next season.
“That’s part of what this camp was all about, to come in and integrate myself,” DeMerit said. “It was important to get to know the rest of the guys and have them gel with the players that have come in, so I think we’ve done a good job with that so far, and now we’ll continue that into the preseason.”
DeMerit had been out of contract and hasn’t played a meaningful match since the FIFA World Cup ended last summer.
“I’ve had a few months off, so this was good for me especially to get back and get my legs moving,” DeMerit said. “I’ll take this break, but we’ve all got our offseason programs to make sure we’re staying fit and I’ll definitely take that on board.”
Thordarson is pleased with the results from the Ventura training camp, and with the season essentially spanning from January until December for players from last season’s USSF D-2 squad, everyone on the team will finally get a six-week break.
Thordarson, though, warns that players mustn’t slack during their time off.
“We have had many trainings with an intrasquad game and two games against the [PDL side Ventura County] Fusion, so it’s been a tough training camp, but good,” Thordarson said. “It’s important that we can go away from each other for a while, but they have to train during that period. If they come back, and after six weeks they haven’t trained, they will really be in trouble."