We’re just over a third of the way through the first season of the Rennie-sance. Under head coach Martin Rennie’s tutelage, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have had an optimistic start to 2012 in Major League Soccer (MLS). With the next home match against Houston Dynamo just a week away, now is a perfect time to reflect on the strides made by the team in the season so far, as well as look forward to the exciting things on the horizon.
MAKING WAVES RE‘CAP
Whitecaps FC underwent a number of personnel changes this season beginning, with the notable key addition of coach Rennie. Positivity is the key to Rennie’s philosophy and his glass half-full outlook provides the right type of environment to build towards the future. His ability to galvanize the team and motivate his players to want to give their all is inspiring for both team and fans alike.
The addition to the line-up of former South Korean international Young-Pyo Lee, centre back Martin Bonjour, and the return of a healthy Jay DeMerit and Alain Rochat has completely revitalized the ‘Caps backline. Together with the goalkeeping proficiency of Joe Cannon, the stalwart defenders helped hold the fort and set a new record for their run of 427 minutes (nearly five games) without conceding a goal to start an MLS season.
Speaking of clean sheets, Cannon has proven a force to be reckoned with for opposing strikers. The veteran shot-blocker’s talent between the posts hasn’t gone unnoticed, having twice won out of his four nominations for MLS Save of the Week. One of those wins was for making a diving fingertip save to knock away a curling strike from Chivas USA’s Casey Townsend that seemed destined for the top corner in Week Two.
That victory on the road against Western Conference rivals Chivas USA was a feather in the cap for the club with the team going on to earn their first-ever road win in MLS. Making the accomplishment even sweeter was that the winning goal came from none other than captain DeMerit, his first ever for the Blue & White and in MLS.
It isn’t only their defensive abilities that have shown promise, the ‘Caps offence has also provided some extremely memorable moments so far. The depth of talent in the arsenal of strikers is something to envy with Camilo Sanvezzo, Sébastien Le Toux, and even defenders YP Lee and Rochat all earning nominations for MLS Goal of the Week. Eric Hassli’s wonder-strike against Toronto FC in Amway Canadian Championship action made highlight reels worldwide, as did his equally admirable extra-time winning goal against San Jose Earthquakes.
A BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD
Mark the date on your calendar because eagerly anticipated Designated Player (DP) Barry Robson will finally be eligible to play with the team when the North American transfer window opens on June 27. Robson’s impressive resume includes spending time with Scottish clubs Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC, Dundee United FC, and Celtic FC, as well English side Middlesbrough FC. Given the calibre of talent he possesses, it would not be surprising if the Scottish international becomes a fan favourite with the club.
A bevy of ‘Caps younger players have already shown tons of promise this season. Omar Salgado’s move out to the left wing has opened up a world of possibilities for the creative striker that we’ve likely only just seen the beginning of. Another youthful player to keep an eye on is striker Darren Mattocks, who tallied his first league goal last week after a late equalizer against Portland Timbers.
The team’s MLS high for this point in the season currently puts them in possible playoff contention. Now the squad will attempt to ride the crest of its success and maintain their place on the table. One of the best ways for the ‘Caps to do that is by continuing to make Bell Pitch at BC Place a fortress against the opposition. You too can contribute to a winning atmosphere by helping cheer the team to victory next Sunday afternoon when Whitecaps FC play host to Houston Dynamo! Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. PT. For tickets, visit ticketmaster.ca/whitecapsfc.