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 forwards.
As promised, this is an area that Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson bolstered in the offseason with the additions of Masato Kudo and Blas Perez, which all of a sudden gives the ‘Caps all sorts of fun options. Add those two to the returning group of young forwards and it’s hard not to get excited about what could be in store.
#9: MASATO KUDO (AGE: 25, HOMETOWN: TOKYO, JAPAN)
Masato Kudo joins Whitecaps FC after spending his entire professional career at Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol, where he was the club’s all-time leader goalscorer with 92 goals in 260 appearances.
He was also a fan favourite – as you can see here.
The Tokyo, Japan native had a very good offer to stay in his home country, as well as interest from a few Dutch and German sides, but he chose Vancouver. This is where he wants to be.
Kudo says he hopes to be a trailblazer for Japanese talent coming over to play in MLS.
#11: DARREN MATTOCKS (AGE: 25, HOMETOWN: PORTMORE, JAMAICA)
Darren Mattocks, 25, has been with the ‘Caps since 2012.
He has 20 goals and six assists in 96 MLS appearances over that period, including the club’s first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Portmore, Jamaica native is second on Vancouver’s all-time goalscoring list in MLS.
Mattocks also has 12 goals in 35 appearances with the Jamaican national team and is expected to be on the team at this summer's Copa America.
#19: ERIK HURTADO (AGE: 25, HOMETOWN: BEAVERTON, OREGON)
Erik Hurtado is entering his fourth season as a member of Whitecaps FC - he was drafted by the team back in 2013.
The 5-foot-10 winger/striker has wheels, as confirmed by this year’s fitness testing results, and he’s shown that he can put the ball back of the net – back in 2014 he scored in four straight games.
Last year, Hurtado spent the second half of the season on loan in Norway. It will be interesting to see how his game has progressed after that experience abroad.
#23: KEKUTA MANNEH (AGE: 21, HOMETOWN: AUSTIN, TEXAS)
He’s also got some sick moves – not necessarily on the dance floor, however. The 21-year-old winger is coming off a year in which he set career-highs in goals (7) and assists (6). This will be his fourth year in MLS.
Born in The Gambia, Manneh moved to the U.S. in 2010 and was adopted by a family in Austin, Texas. He’s now in the process of obtaining his U.S. citizenship.
#27: BLAS PEREZ (AGE: 34, HOMETOWN: PANAMA CITY, PANAMA)
You may have heard of Blas Perez.
The 6-foot-1 striker has been a thorn in Vancouver’s side over the past four years as a member of FC Dallas. He was the villain of all villains. But now he has joined Whitecaps FC and the players “absolutely love him to bits,” according to Robinson.
Turns out he’s a pretty good guy – and a pretty good player, too.
Perez, who had a goal and assist in the preseason, celebrates every single one of his goals with a horns up celebration in honour of his late father, whose nickname was “The Bull.”
Learn more about the “two sides” of Perez, hero and villain, here.
#29: OCTAVIO RIVERO (AGE: 24, HOMETOWN: TREINTA Y TRES, URUGUAY)
This will be Octavio Rivero’s second year in MLS.
Last season, he led the team with 10 goals after a blistering start in which he scored five goals in his first six matches. If he can improve upon his goalscoring record from 2015, it will go a long way. Rivero had two goals and an assist during the preseason, including this beauty.
Watch Rivero closely and you’ll appreciate all the little things he does. His hard work, and ability to hold up the ball, is second to none.
The 24-year-old comes from a small town in Uruguay – one of his dreams is to buy a home for his family.
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