The 2021 Major League Soccer season is upon us, as players across the league report to their respective clubs this week, with preseason camp kicking off with volunteer training following a quarantine period.
Here are a number of things to watch out for as Whitecaps FC begin preparations for first kick on April 17.
- MLS preseason schedule: Details on dates and protocol
LEADING THE WAY: For the first time in their decade-long history in MLS, the 'Caps are holding the majority of preseason camp on home soil, while the club continues to work with league and public health officials in finalizing their home base when play begins in a little over a month. With various elements of the season still being completed, watch for the veteran 'Caps to provide stability and standard for the young players during the 2021 Training Camp, presented by Enerex. Ali Adnan (finalizing paperwork before arriving back in Vancouver), Erik Godoy, Jake Nerwinski, and Andy Rose are holdovers from Marc Dos Santos' first season in Vancouver in 2019, as well as Canada MNT players Derek Cornelius, Maxime Crepeau, Tosaint Ricketts and Russell Teibert.
JOINING SOON: New to the club are young Colombian winger Déiber Caicedo, experienced goalkeeper Evan Newton, and a pair of rookies in forward David Egbo and right back Javain Brown. Newton is completing his quarantine and the other offseason acquisitions are finalizing their paperwork, and they will look to get incorporated into the 'Caps style of play and chemistry ASAP. Meanwhile, VWFC CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster, head coach Marc Dos Santos and his staff, as well as the entire recruitment department, led by newly-appointed director of recruitment Nikos Overheul and first team scouts Dave Dir and Kevin Antunes, continue to look into making improvements to the roster.
ON THE MEND: A theme that emerged last season was the shuffling in net for the 'Caps as Crepeau and Thomas Hasal each had their season cut short due to injury. Both have spent the offseason recovering and are back in training with the team. The pair, along with seven-year vet Newton and Homegrown prospect Isaac Boehmer, form the 'Caps GK union.
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: There may be a few faces missing some parts of the camp. Canada MNT are scheduled for a pair of FIFA World Cup qualifiers, while the U-23 national team are competing at the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, both slated for March. Final call-ups have yet to be announced but five 'Caps took part in the Canada MNT camp last January in preparation for the March fixtures, while seven have been included in the 50-man preliminary roster for the U-23 competition.
SETTLED IN FOR SECONDS: 24 of the 28 players on the roster are returning from last season, affording the 'Caps continuity after seeing remarkable offseason turnover in recent years. Back for their second season with the 'Caps are Janio Bikel, Lucas Cavallini, Cristian Dajome, Cristian Gutierrez, Leonard Owusu, and Ranko Veselinovic - each of whom made valuable contributions in their first go-around last year. Bikel, Owusu, and Veselinovic missed part of camp last year as new arrivals - having a full preseason under their belts could prove very beneficial for the 'Caps coming out of the gate.
ANOTHER YEAR WISER: A number of young prospects took their chances by the horns in a rollercoaster 2020, and report to camp ready to build on last season. Theo Bair, Michael Baldisimo, Cornelius, Patrick Metcalfe, Ryan Raposo, and Jasser Khmiri, each age 23 or under, hope to prove that Dos Santos could count on them during another unique season that could test the squad's depth. Homegrowns Gianfranco Facchineri and Damiano Pecile enter their second season as a pro and similar to previous seasons, a number of BMO Academy System players will join the first team for camp and it will be interesting how midfielder/centre back Matteo Campagna, midfielder Emiliano Brienza and midfielder/forward Kamron Habibullah will fare against the pros this preseason.
About Enerex Botanicals
Born and bred in Vancouver, Enerex Botanicals are proud to be the official vitamin supplement partner of Vancouver Whitecaps FC and presenting partner of the club's 2021 Training Camp. Enerex help promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle with premium, natural, performance-geared supplements. A formula for success both on and off the pitch, Enerex are committed to sourcing the best raw materials and most advanced production processes. Learn more about Enerex supplements by visiting enerex.ca.