With Vancouver Whitecaps FC set to kick off the 2016 MLS regular season this Sunday, March 6 against Montreal Impact, whitecapsfc.com will take an in-depth look at the club’s roster with a different piece every day leading up to First Kick. Today, we introduce the midfielders.
PART 1: Goalkeepers
PART 2: Defenders
The addition of two-time FIFA World Cup veteran Christian Bolaños should help increase the production of a midfield group that already includes the likes of Pedro Morales and Cristian Techera. It will be interesting to see how the ‘Caps cope with the departure of Gershon Koffie, which potentially leaves a spot open alongside Matias Laba in central midfield. Deybi Flores, Kianz Froese, and Russell Teibert are all prime candidates to stake hold of the starter’s shirt. Head coach Carl Robinson could also decide to play Morales in a deeper role or move to a single holding midfielder formation.
#7: CHRISTIAN BOLANOS (AGE: 31, HOMETOWN: SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA)
brings a wealth of experience to Whitecaps FC, including seven appearances in two FIFA World Cups, and a whole lot of quality.
His ability to control the ball and slow down the game is second to none.
Teams Bolaños has played against include Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea and Liverpool. Speaking of Liverpool, Bolaños was invited to join them on a 10-day trial after playing against the English Premier League side in the 2005 FIFA Club World Cup.
#13: CRISTIAN TECHERA (AGE: 23, HOMETOWN: PAYSANDU, URUGUAY)
Meet Cristian Techera – also known as The Bug.
Techera, who at 5-foot-2 is the shortest player in MLS, had the second highest goals (7) and assists (5) total on the team last season – despite just playing 22 games.
The 23-year-old Uruguayan was on loan last season, but it was announced in January that the ‘Caps had completed his transfer and signed him to a multi-year deal. “He's the type of player that gets fans out of their seats,” head coach Carl Robinson said at the time.
#15: MATIAS LABA (AGE: 24, HOMETOWN: VILLA RAFFO, ARGENTINA)
Matias Laba won’t often make the headlines, but you won’t find many players who make a bigger impact on the game.
Laba, a 24-year-old from Argentina, is a defensive midfielder. He’s primarily responsible for shielding the back line, breaking up plays, and getting the ball back up to the attacking-minded players.
And he does it quite well.
Case in point, Laba led the league in tackles in each of the past two years.
He’s also probably the biggest clown on the team.
#20: DEYBI FLORES (AGE: 19, HOMETOWN: SAN ANTONIO, COLON, HONDURAS)
Deybi Flores, a box-to-box midfielder with a big upside, returns for a second season.
The 19-year-old Honduran grew up in San Pedro Sula, one of the most violent cities in the world. He left home at the age of 12 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
“I was put in circumstances that not a lot of people my age have gone through,” he said through a translator. “I went hungry at times, I had to sleep out on the street at times, but these sacrifices were all for my objective of becoming a professional footballer.”
Flores, a member of Honduras’ U-23 team, is in the mix to represent his national team at this summer’s 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
#30: BEN MCKENDRY (AGE: 22, HOMETOWN: VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA)
Ben McKendry is as “homegrown” as it gets for Whitecaps FC.
Born and raised in Vancouver, McKendry joined the ‘Caps youth set-up at the age of 14 before spending five years with the Residency program. He then went off to the University of New Mexico before signing an MLS contract with Whitecaps FC in January 2015.
McKendry, the reigning WFC2 Player of the Year, appeared to be knocking on the first team door towards the end of last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
#31: RUSSELL TEIBERT (AGE: 23, HOMETOWN: NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO)
Russell Teibert is the longest serving member of this club.
He may call Niagara Falls, Ontario home, but Teibert bleeds Blue and White. He joined the Residency program at the age of 15 and has been with the club ever since.
He’s the only player on the current Whitecaps FC roster who has been with the ‘Caps since the start of the MLS era.
The 23-year-old midfielder has 17 appearances with the Canadian senior men’s national team.
#32: MARCO BUSTOS (AGE: 19, HOMETOWN: WINNIPEG, MANITOBA)
“Win, play, score.”
Asked to describe his goals for the upcoming season in three words, that’s how Bustos responded. The 19-year-old Winnipeg native is coming off a year in which he made his MLS debut, as well as his debut for the Canadian senior men’s national team, and scored seven goals in 17 appearances for WFC2.
The future sure looks bright for Bustos, a graduate of Whitecaps FC’s Residency program. The question is: how quickly can he become a regular on the first team?
The upcoming year could give us some answers.
#33: NICOLAS MEZQUIDA (AGE: 24, HOMETOWN: MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY)
Nicolas Mezquida is entering his third year as a member of Whitecaps FC.
The 24-year-old Uruguayan has contributed three goals and one assist in 32 MLS regular season appearances, but perhaps more telling is the team’s 8W-3L-5D record when he starts.
Mezquida is one of three Uruguayans on Vancouver’s roster.
He always has a smile on his face. You could say he “doesn’t worry, about a thing.”
#38: KIANZ FROESE (AGE: 19, HOMETOWN: BRUNKILD, MANITOBA)
Last year, Kianz Froese scored his first MLS goal and made his debut for the Canadian senior men’s national team. How will he follow that up?
The hope is that the 19-year-old Whitecaps FC Residency graduate, who appeared in nine MLS regular season appearances last season, will continue to push for minutes on the first team. It will be interesting to see where he gets those minutes, too, as Froese has been used as a winger and central midfielder during his time at the club.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Froese moved back and forth between Cuba and Manitoba in his youth.
#77: PEDRO MORALES (AGE: 30, HUALPEN, CHILE)
Last, but certainly not least, we have Pedro Morales.
Call him The Maestro. Or El Capitan.
Morales, 30, is entering his third season with Whitecaps FC. He got off to a dream start, recording 10 goals and 12 assists, and was named the 2014 MLS Newcomer of the Year. Things didn’t go as smoothly for Morales in 2015. The Chilean dealt with a swarm of injuries, but still managed to record eight goals and six assists in all competitions.
On his day, Morales is one of the best in MLS. Keep an eye on him and you’ll be entertained.
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