VANCOUVER, BC – It’s going to be a busy offseason for Vancouver Whitecaps FC after the club announced this past week that it had declined the contract options of eight players.
The team’s roster now stands at 19 players – Major League Soccer clubs have rosters between 28 and 30 players – meaning Whitecaps FC’s incoming head coach will have a major opportunity to put his stamp on the roster in advance of MLS First Kick in March.
There are a number of different player acquisition mechanisms the new coach could use to shape the squad, such as the upcoming MLS Re-Entry Draft, which will take place following the MLS Cup, the 2014 MLS SuperDraft in January, in which the 'Caps hold the third, seventh, and 30th picks, free agency, trade, or the graduation of Residency players.
In this two-part series, whitecapsfc.com will breakdown Vancouver’s current roster and examine what holes need to be filled this offseason. In Part I, we looked at the club's goalkeepers and defenders. Today, we discuss the midfielders and strikers.
Breakdown: This will be one of the most intriguing positions to watch in the offseason. Aside from veterans Nigel Reo-Coker and Matt Watson, it’s a very young group with a lot of potential.
Gershon Koffie, who could possibly move back into the holding midfield position with the departure of Jun Marques Davidson, and Russell Teibert, who led the team with nine assists this past season, have both proven to be more than capable MLS starters.
Although they are still in their early 20s, they are two of the team's longest serving players, having both played first-team minutes during the club's final season of division two soccer. Now, with three years of professional experience in the rear view mirror, they will both surely be looking to take their game to the next level in 2014.
It will also be interesting to follow the development of Reo-Coker, a nominee for the league's Newcomer of the Year award, now that he has a full season of North American soccer under his belt.
Players like Aminu Abdallah, Bryce Alderson and to a lesser extent Erik Hurtado are still relatively unknown commodities, but if they impress the new head coach in training camp there are spots to be had. A healthy Omar Salgado, who has shown potential as an attacking winger, could also help bolster the ‘Caps midfield on the left.
At any rate, the ‘Caps only received six goals from midfielders this past season, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they look for external reinforcements. Whitecaps FC announced last week that they did not pick up the contract option of Daigo Kobayashi, which creates a significant amount of cap space and an opening for an attacking midfielder. Teibert has played centrally in the past, so he is an option, but the 20-year-old Canadian was also very productive out wide.
At the Residency level, two midfielders to look out for are Marco Bustos and Kianz Froese. Both players have impressed at the club and international level and could be ready to make the next step. They also fit the bill as attacking midfielders, though at 18-years-old it may be a little early for them to make a major impact.
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Breakdown: With reigning MLS Golden Boot winner Camilo Sanvezzo, promising 18-year-old Kekuta Manneh and veteran striker Kenny Miller, this may be one of Whitecaps FC’s strongest positions. The three players combined for 36 of Vancouver’s 54 goals this past season.
Youngsters Caleb Clarke, who recently earned his first call-up to the Canadian senior men’s national team, and Darren Mattocks, who is only a year removed from a seven-goal season, should not be overlooked either.
Despite Mattocks’ comments earlier this month, Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi said the Jamaican could still be an important piece of the puzzle for the Blue and White.
“I’ve had a good discussion with him and he understands that he was out of order and he’s looking forward to coming back and winning back perhaps some of the people he’s upset,” Lenarduzzi told reporters. “As far as the club is concerned, we see a lot of potential in him and we want to give him the best chance of success in Vancouver.”
One player to watch next season will also be Salgado, who has been given a “clean bill of health” after a devastating run of injuries that has kept him out of the lineup for most of the past two seasons.
Lenarduzzi suggested that Salgado could be a good fit as a target man up front, which would add a different dimension to the ‘Caps attack with Tommy Heinemann no longer in the fold.
“He has between now and January to get ready to come into camp and show what he can do,” Lenarduzzi said. “If you look at Omar now versus what he looked like a year and a half ago, it’s a big difference. He’s turned into a man, he’s got a massive upper body … we still feel like he’s got a huge upside. Now it will be up to him.”
Whitecaps FC 2014 season tickets are now on sale and start at just $349, subject to applicable fees. The club is also offering a flexible range of additional products, including half-season packs, 5-packs, student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.