VANCOUVER, BC – A year ago, Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s key priority for the upcoming season was fairly clear: more goals with an eye on a deeper MLS Cup Playoff run than ever before.
The team banged in 45 goals during the regular season, three more than the previous year, but were held scoreless in their two-leg Western Conference Semifinal playoff series against Portland Timbers. It wasn't quite the extra goal output head coach Carl Robinson had targeted for his young team, but it took the 'Caps to their most successful season to date in MLS.
Good, but not good enough for Robinson, who has once again made increasing goals, and bolstering Vancouver's attack, his offseason priority.
"We need goals because goals win games," Robinson bluntly admitted on a conference call to reporters on Wednesday. "It affected us last year down the stretch. We played some great stuff, but we missed out on a few goals in the last couple of games."
While other teams have been busy making additions this offseason, Whitecaps FC have taken their more familiar, slower approach, choosing first to tie up some of their existing core talent to longer deals. It's a formula that's proved successful in the past, with Robinson happy to be patient to make sure he gets the personnel he wants.
Matias Laba, Kendall Waston and Cristian Techera have all signed new, multi-year deals to keep them in Vancouver, while the only new signing of the offseason has been Japanese forward Masato Kudo. But team brass says there’s more on the way.
"We're still looking to add to the roster as we speak," Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi said. "We're still exploring other primarily offensive opportunities in terms of players, although clearly the right-back position is one that we need to pay some attention to as well.
"Based on last year, we didn't go as far as we wanted to, primarily because we didn't score goals when we needed to, so we'll continue to look to reinforce the attacking positions and understand that we need to address other spots on the field as well."
Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero was tasked with filling the goal-scoring hole last season. His 10 goals helped but fell short of what was perhaps desired. This season he'll have some help up front in Kudo, a 25-year-old striker and the all-time leading goalscorer of J-League club Kashiwa Reysol.
Kudo clearly knows how to find the back of the net, and Robinson is delighted to have him bolster the 'Caps attack.
"In my eyes, he was the top forward in that league," Robinson said. "Out of contract, perfect age, great background. We know the attributes that he has, his goal-scoring record. He likes to be in the box, which is something I think we missed last year.
- WATCH: Masato Kudo highlight reel
"It's about players and it's about scoring goals. The game is pretty simple. He's someone who can score goals. He's someone who can play up front. He's someone who can play wide. Add in to the players that we've already got; he's different to what we've got."
Kudo is also different from the Latino players Robinson has previously coveted these past two seasons. The 'Caps coach joked about throwing media a "curveball" with the signing, but he could be heading back to familiar territory for his next one, with reports coming out of Costa Rica suggesting that veteran right winger Christian Bolanos could be the next addition to Vancouver's attack.
Robinson used the first of his Targeted Allocated Money (TAM) on re-signing Techera and still has "money to play with.” Bolanos rumors aside, the 'Caps coach is also keen to add someone to his attack with attributes not found elsewhere in his current team, and that player could be a big target man to come off the bench.
"That's something we'll look at, as well," Robinson admitted. "We're always looking at trying to bring people that are different to what we have. You need to have a bit of flexibility and something different in your squad.
"A big target guy. There are options out there that we have looked at, but it all comes down to money and whether we're able to fit people in within the cap, within the budget, using our TAM. So watch this space."
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