BURNABY, BC – Depth and versatility.
Those are two attributes Vancouver Whitecaps FC hope apply to their squad after a busy offseason that saw the club bolster a number of positions.
“Any time I talk about the team with anybody – players around the league – anyone, the first word that comes to mind is ‘competitive,’” Jordan Harvey told MLSsoccer.com following training at Burnaby Lake on Tuesday. “You have a tough task for [head coach Martin Rennie] to pick the roster this year. It’s a very competitive roster from top to bottom.”
As players addressed the media for the first time since the club’s preseason training stint in Casa Grande, Arizona, it became apparent the added competition brought in by the likes of Sébastien Le Toux, Young-Pyo Lee, Lee Nguyen, Darren Mattocks – to name just a few-- will add a dynamic within the squad that perhaps lacked at times in 2011.
Following the team's inaugural season, director of soccer operations Tom Soehn admitted that depth had been an issue at times, especially given the dilution that occurred in the expansion draft with Portland Timbers joining in the same season.
This year, there’s a different feeling.
“If guys know they’re going to play, they don’t have to push themselves through the week, and then when it comes to the weekend they’re not always as ready to play as they think they are,” Rennie said. “Any environment that I’ve ever coached in, when it’s competitive and hard, that’s always been a good thing.
“That’s what we’re building here. There’s a lot of depth and a lot of guys who can play and that’s important.”
The plethora of attacking options in particular caught the eye of starting goalkeeper Joe Cannon during the club’s first preseason encounters against Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake.
“I thought we played very competitive, but there were times when it seemed like we needed to be a bit more on the ball organization wise,” Cannon said. “But you can just tell – with Eric [Hassli], Sébastien [Le Toux], Atiba [Harris], Camilo – it’s pretty fun to watch.”
Pretty fun to watch is right – but will a squad boasting eight players more predisposed to forward roles lead to a selection headache for Rennie?
“No, not really,” Rennie said. “That’s always an issue or a problem I want to have. That’s never been something I’ve been scared of – I’ve always hated it when I didn’t have choices. It’s much better to have those options.”
- Irish trialist Patrick Cregg has returned to his residence in Manchester.
- Ghanaian central defender Nuru Suley, who comes from the same region as promising youngster Gershon Koffie, is on trial with the club. Soehn spotted him during a scouting trip shortly following the conclusion of the 2011 season.
- Trialist Floyd Franks, who has played under Rennie with the Carolina Railhawks and Cleveland City Stars will “possibly” travel with the team to Florida for the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, with the coach only saying “he’s done well and we just want to keep working with him and see how it goes.”
- The club will most likely carry a 28 or 29-man roster going into opening day to allow for flexibility, with defensive or defensive midfield players still a priority, according to Rennie.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.