Which Vancouver Whitecaps FC player is going to have a breakout year in 2013? Which ‘Caps player is going to take his game to the next level and establish himself as a force in MLS?
There are a number of players that could fit the bill and I am interested to hear your thoughts.
Here are three in particular I think you should look out for this season.
My first player to keep an eye on is versatile midfielder Matt Watson. Matt played in 15 regular season matches last year, starting in 10. While he did not have a goal or assist during the regular season, he did put in some solid performances and showed the fans that he had the work ethic to make it in this league.
The native of Bromsgrove, England, is a fantastic team-first guy, so we were all just waiting for him to step up his game and make a real impact at this level.
That impact finally came in the playoffs against LA Galaxy. Watson started the match by making a mazy run down the left wing to set up the opening goal for Darren Mattocks in the third minute – Watson’s first point with the ‘Caps.
This was by far Watson’s finest game in a Blue and White uniform. He played with power and skill and the MLS champs could not handle him. They say confidence is a wonderful thing, and on this night he had it in abundance.
This was a game where the former Carolina RailHawks midfielder really convinced himself that he belonged in MLS. He was one of the best players on the park playing against the best team in the league in the playoffs, and he was able to raise his game to another level. This will provide a great foundation for him going into his second season with the ‘Caps and I expect him to play an even more prominent part in the team this year.
My second player might surprise you as a “breakout player”, as he had a team MVP type year for us last season. He is midfielder Gershon Koffie.
The thing is that Koffie is still only 21-years-old, but already he has played in nearly 60 matches for the ‘Caps in MLS and previously in the second division.
His first year in MLS was an up and down season as he worked to establish himself. The thing that impressed me the most about his game was when he did make mistakes he never stopped making himself available for the ball.
There was more maturity in his game under Martin Rennie and his coaching staff last season. He limited his mistakes and was consistently one of our best players when he stepped out on the field. Helping him of late has been learning from assistant coach Carl Robinson – a former MLS and English Premier League midfielder himself.
So you may ask how can he have a breakout year after last season? Well that is because he has the potential to be one of the very best midfielders in the league on a regular basis. Koffie has the power and strength to compete with any midfielder in MLS. His passing and decision making has greatly improved and he is now able to see and make the decisive pass to set up teammates like the speedy Darren Mattocks.
The native of Koforidua, Ghana, does get himself into good shooting and scoring positions and if he can finish more of them off he will become a complete midfielder for the ‘Caps. What I like most about Koffie is that he is so keen to learn, he is so brave on the field, and he has the skill to back it up.
The third player to watch out for is Niagara Falls, Ontario native Russell Teibert. Teibert started in our first ever game in MLS in 2011, and arguably had his best game in a Whitecaps FC jersey to date as he helped the ‘Caps get off to a winning start by beating our Canadian rivals 4-2. Unfortunately he picked up a couple injuries that would plague him for the rest of the season, and when he did play it was in a team that was struggling and playing without confidence.
The second year under a new coach could have been one of frustration for Teibert, as he did not see many minutes on the field early on. However, the Canadian international kept a positive attitude and kept on working hard for his chance. Part way through the season things began to change and he began to play a few minutes.
Teibert is an exciting player who has good speed and dribbling skills and is probably the fittest guy on our team, if not in the league. Still only 20, he has shown he can play at this level, he just has to do it on a consistent level and I believe this will be his year.