The defenders: Season preview

The defenders: Shuffle in the middle


With Vancouver Whitecaps FC set to kick off the 2015 MLS regular season this Saturday, March 7 against Toronto FC, 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 feature the defenders. 

Part 1: The goalkeepers: If it ain't broke, don't fix it

DEFENDERS (9): SAM ADEKUGBE (LB), STEVEN BEITASHOUR (RB), CHRISTIAN DEAN (CB), JORDAN HARVEY (LB), PA-MODOU KAH (CB), TIM PARKER (CB/RB), DIEGO RODRIGUEZ (CB), ETHEN SAMPSON (RB), KENDALL WASTON (CB)

IN

OUT

Pa-Modou Kah

Johnny Leveron

Tim Parker

Carlyle Mitchell

Diego Rodriguez

Andy O’Brien

 

One thing you’ll notice about this year’s roster is the number of returning players from 2014. There are a total of 22 returning players, which is a new Whitecaps FC record in MLS.

However, one area that did get a little bit of a makeover is the back line – or more specifically, the centre backs. Pa-Modou Kah, Tim Parker and Diego Rodriguez are in, replacing Johnny Leveron, Carlyle Mitchell, and Andy O’Brien. The other two centre backs on Vancouver’s MLS roster are of course Kendall Waston and Christian Dean, who had a busy offseason training with Liverpool FC, Rangers FC, and the U.S. senior men's national team. 

One thing all five of these players have in common is the physicality they bring to the table.

“You look at the best teams in the league, Seattle have had Zach Scott and Chad Marshall, LA had Leonardo and Omar Gonzalez. They’re all physical players. That’s the way it is,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told whitecapsfc.com. “They can all play, as mine can, but now we’ve got a physical side. I wanted to bring that element to this group. Obviously, we have to be careful, which we know. But I want us to play as well so we’ll find that balance.”

So who starts against Toronto FC on Saturday? Considering the impact he made down the stretch last season, you’d have to think Waston will occupy one of the two spots (which should make for a juicy matchup with Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore). But what about the other?

Robinson went with Kah in two of Vancouver's three matches last week in Portland and the 34-year-old repaid him with a goal in each game. There's also the stuff you don't see with Kah, Robinson said, such as his work with the younger players on the team. But the 'Caps manager is also high on Rodriguez, a 24-year-old left-footed centre back who "loves to defend." 

Whichever way he goes on Saturday, both players are in line to get plenty of minutes this season – especially considering Vancouver will play no fewer than 40 matches in all competitions.

While there weren’t any changes at fullback, it should be noted that Parker played some right back in the preseason, and didn’t look out of place, offering Robinson another option in that position. Additionally, you can bet that youngsters Sam Adekugbe and Ethen Sampson will be pushing left back Jordan Harvey and right back Steven Beitashour for more minutes in 2015.

Harvey and Beitashour were two of Vancouver’s most reliable players last season and they both reported to camp in tiptop shape. The Californian duo also add an important veteran presence to what is one of the youngest rosters in MLS.

But Adekugbe and Sampson both impressed in limited minutes last year and appear to have taken another step forward.

“That’s what I want in my squad all over the park,” Robinson said. “I want talented young players pushing for spots and I want good, experienced veterans who are able to cope with competition from younger guys. I’ve got that with Beita and Jordan – both very highly thought of MLS players and good characters off the field as well. But I’ve got two talented young players, 18 and 20 years old, who are going to push them every minute of the way.”

Participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver! The 2015 Whitecaps FC season kicks off on March 7 versus Toronto FC at BC Place. Whitecaps FC Season Tickets are now on sale. In addition to Season Tickets, Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, Student Half-Season Tickets, and a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket. For more information on 2015 Season Tickets, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.

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