Getting to know the new 'Caps

VANCOUVER, BC — They call it an offseason, but really, it's anything but.

Over the last several months, Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson and his technical staff have been working tirelessly to round out the club's roster ahead of MLS First Kick on March 8.

Whether it was going on scouting trips, attending networking conferences, or spending hours on end watching film, finding the right players was a constant strain of time, energy, and resources.

Now, as Whitecaps FC prepares to kick off its 2014 MLS season, it’s time to reap the rewards.

In total, there are 10 new players on Whitecaps FC's MLS roster (not including those on loan). 

Get to know each of them a little bit better below. 

Mehdi Ballouchy
Birthplace: Casablanca, Morocco

Age: 30

Position: Midfielder
Height: 5’11”

Weight: 170 lbs 

Status: Domestic (Green Card)
Last team: San Jose Earthquakes

Profile: An experienced midfielder with 190 MLS appearances, Mehdi Ballouchy joined Whitecaps FC on January 27 after getting selected in Stage 2 of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Draft. According to Steven Beitashour, his teammate at San Jose Earthquakes, Ballouchy is a "true playmaker" and when healthy, "you can't get the ball from him." Robinson said he can play a wide range of positions in midfield and forward areas. Ballouchy, who has recorded 13 goals and 25 assists over eight seasons in MLS, is currently recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee.

He said it: “Obviously, I’m coming back from injury but the staff has been first class. With Jake Joachim, Graeme Poole, and Rick Celebrini, there’s a reason why they’re the best in the league. They have been great with me. I’ve been making some really good strides and I’m looking forward to getting out there and helping the team. Robbo wants to play and move and keep possession of the ball and I think I can help with that.”

Steven Beitashour
Birthplace: San Jose, California 

Age: 27

Position: Right back

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 170 lbs
Status: Domestic

Last team: San Jose Earthquakes

Profile: A right back with four years of MLS experience, Steven Beitashour joined Whitecaps FC on January 27 in a trade with San Jose Earthquakes. At the time, Robinson said he’s “arguably the best right back in the league.” Well respected amongst his peers, Beitashour was named an MLS All-Star during the 2012 season. Over the last three seasons, he has collected 16 assists – more than any other defender during the same time period. Born to Iranian parents, Beitashour made his debut with the Iranian senior men's national team in 2013 and is hoping to represent Iran at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

He said it: “We have a young team here, so I'm hoping to bring a little bit of leadership. I have a little bit of experience in MLS, so I'm hoping that can rub off on the players, as well as my work ethic not only defensively but my eagerness to get forward and help offensively. It's a two-way street. You don't just stay in your own end, you try to help the team. That's the main goal.”

Marco Carducci
Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta
Age: 17
Position: Goalkeeper
Height: 6’1”

Weight: 185 lbs
Status: Domestic

, Homegrown
Last team: Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency

Profile: A two-time Canadian U-17 Player of the Year, Marco Carducci joined Whitecaps FC’s MLS roster on March 4 after spending two and a half years with the club’s Residency program. The Calgary, Alberta native made 40 appearances in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) since joining the Whitecaps FC Residency program in September 2011, recording 14 clean sheets during that period. Carducci, who according to Robinson is "one of the rising stars in Canadian football," allowed just two goals in four preseason appearances over the last month.

He said it: "To break into the squad was my goal coming in, so I'm just really excited ... You have to take it step by step and work hard every day, but it's my goal to be a starter here eventually. Whenever that happens, it's up to me and it's up to the coaching staff. I'll work every day to push my limits and set my standards as high as I can."

Christian Dean
Birthplace: Alvin, Texas
Age: 20

Position: Centre back/left back

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 200 lbs
Status: Domestic, Generation adidas
Last team: California Golden Bears

Profile: A promising left-footed centre back, Christian Dean joined Whitecaps FC on January 16 after getting selected third overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. Dean, who is signed to a Generation adidas contract, started each of his 55 appearances with California Golden Bears over the last three seasons. His play in the preseason with the 'Caps has him "challenging for a place in the starting lineup," Robinson said last month.

He said it: “It's been a dream come true so far. Playing with players that I've watched when I was younger, like Jay and Andy … it's been really fun. Hopefully, when I get on the field, I can make an impact. I'm big, physical, and athletic so that will help. I'm more than excited to start the season off against a team like New York. They're a quality side and it will be fun for their offence to go up against our defence, which has been dominant the past few games.”

Sebastian Fernandez
Birthplace: Montevideo, Uruguay

Age: 24

Position: Attacking midfielder/winger

Height: 5’7"

Weight: 165 lbs
Status: International
Last team: Boston River

Profile: A player Robinson described as "skillful, clever, and direct," Sebastian Fernandez joined Whitecaps FC on February 5 on a one-year loan, with transfer option, from Uruguayan side Boston River. Last season, Fernandez scored five goals in 26 appearances to help Peruvian Primera Division club Universitario de Deportes claim the league championship. The 24-year-old also scored a goal in Vancouver's final preseason contest on March 1. 

He said it (through a translator): “I've really enjoyed it here. The teammates, the club, they have all really welcomed me to Vancouver really well. I like the city. I have everything I need here. Coming into the league, it's a league that's growing. It has really nice stadiums and really well-organized clubs. I feel like they have really given us everything to succeed.”

Matias Laba
Birthplace: Villa Raffo, Argentina

Age: 22
Position: Defensive midfielder

Height: 5’9"

Weight: 155 lbs
Status: International, Young Designated Player
Last team: Toronto FC

Profile: One of the league's most promising young talents, Matias Laba joined Whitecaps FC on February 26 in a trade with Toronto FC. Laba is coming off his first MLS season, in which he started each of his 16 appearances, led the league in tackles won per game, and came in at 21st on the league's annual 24 under 24 list. Robinson described him as a "hard, aggressive player" and a "natural leader on the field." Laba, who is a Young Designated Player for Whitecaps FC, represented Argentina at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

He said it (through a translator): “I didn’t really know where I was going to end up, but I’m extremely happy that Vancouver wanted me and that I’m here now. I’m just excited to show what I have on the field … Primarily, my role is to be a holding midfielder and to win balls, but also to be involved in the attack.”

Nicolas Mezquida
Birthplace: Paysandu, Uruguay

Age: 22

Position: Attacking midfielder
Height: 5’6"

Weight: 150 lbs
Status: International
Last team: Boston River

Profile: A skilled attacking midfielder with great vision, Nicolas Mezquida joined Whitecaps FC on February 5 via transfer from Uruguayan side Boston River. Mezquida, who represented Uruguay at the 2009 U-17 World Cup, picked up a goal and an assist in five appearances with Whitecaps FC during the preseason.

He said it (through a translator): “I like the club, I like the team, and I like the formation we've been playing. I've played it a lot and I feel like it helps me a lot too. The qualities I hope to bring to the team this season are moving the ball from the defence over the top, getting that pass into the top forward, and hopefully getting some assists and scoring some goals.”

Pedro Morales
Birthplace: Hualpén, Chile
Age: 28
Position: Attacking midfielder
Height: 5’11"

Weight: 170 lbs
Status: International, Designated Player
Last team: Málaga CF

Profile: Described by Robinson as a “natural number 10 who will bring a creative flare” to the ‘Caps attack, Pedro Morales joined Whitecaps FC on March 5 as the club’s newest Designated Player. The 28-year-old, who has 11 caps with the Chilean men’s national team, comes to Vancouver after spending two seasons with Spain’s La Liga side Málaga CF. Morales also scored 26 goals in 87 total appearances with Croatia’s top division club GNK Dinamo Zagreb.

He said it (through a translator): "It's a great opportunity to be here in MLS. I didn't have the chance to play that much at Málaga, so I'm happy about the opportunity to be here ... It's better for my adaptation to the club [to have other Spanish-speaking players here], but I want to improve my English so I can talk to everyone on the team ... I think one of my virtues is to finish plays, get some assists, and try to create the best opportunities for my teammates as well."

Ethen Sampson
Birthplace: Mitchell's Plain, South Africa
Age: 20
Position: Right back
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 165 lbs
Status: International

, Homegrown
Last team: Whitecaps FC U-23

Profile: An aggressive right back who Robinson touted for his "desire, versatility, and physicality," Ethen Sampson joined Whitecaps FC's MLS roster on March 6 after spending a year with the club's U-23 team. The South African defender appeared in five of Whitecaps FC's six matches during the 2014 preseason, and particularly impressed in a 1-1 draw with Portland Timbers. 

He said it: "The experienced guys always helped me and guided me through last year, because I was always thinking to myself, 'Am I going to make it?' I just kept on going and did my thing and it finally paid off ... I'm an agressive player, it's in my nature."

Paolo Tornaghi
Birthplace: Garbagnate Milanese, Italy
Age: 25

Position: Goalkeeper

Height: 6'4"
Weight: 185 lbs 

Status: Domestic (Green Card)
Last team: Chicago Fire

Profile: A former Inter Milan youth goalkeeper, Paolo Tornaghi joined Whitecaps FC on February 18 as a free agent after spending two seasons with Chicago Fire. The 6-foot-4 keeper started each of his nine appearances with the Fire, accumulating one clean sheet and a 3W-4L-2D record. Tornaghi earned a clean sheet in his Whitecaps FC preseason debut against San Jose Earthquakes.

He said it: “It's important for a goalie that in that moment is a backup to not feel like a backup. Every time you go into training, you have to push yourself like there is a chance to play. Anything can happen during the week. You have to train like you will play the following game. And then, of course, on gameday the coach makes a decision that is best for the team and everyone respects that. But you always have to be ready.”

Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349 and single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit