In some ways it’s hard to believe the Vancouver Whitecaps FC just won their first Amway Canadian Championship. The Whitecaps have had their share of success since their entry into MLS in 2011. Having qualified for the postseason in 2012 and 2014, and now on track for a third visit, they have impressed as an expansion team in a wildly competitive Western Conference.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Building to a Strong Finish
The Whitecaps recently won the Voyageurs Cup as the Amway Canadian champion by virtue of a 2 – 0 home leg victory over the Montreal Impact FC on August 27th. With this title came the right to represent Canada in the 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League. The Whitecaps already earned the same title for the upcoming 2015/16 CCL through their MLS standing as best Canadian team last year.
Depending on how intensely one follows MLS, it may seem as though the Whitecaps often sit in the shadows of some of their more established opponents. In fact, they are currently one point behind the LA Galaxy in the race for first in the Western Conference, as well as the Supporter’s Shield. For many hopeful fans, the time for the Whitecaps to shine and challenge for an MLS Cup is now.
The Whitecaps currently hold a 14-10-3 record and are 3-2-0 in their last five (4-2-2 in all competitions in August). Despite a recent 2 – 0 loss in Houston, they’ve had a fairly productive August, beating FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake at home, stealing a game from the Sounders in Seattle, and winning the aforementioned Voyageurs Cup. This is a well composed side that is quickly emerging as a force in the league. They are exciting to watch and in all fairness, deserve a closer look.
For a group that has been strategic since their entry into the league, the rewards of prudent team-building and effective scouting are beginning to come in. The Whitecaps have emerged as an energetic and exciting side, one that is managing to hold its own against formidable opposition in MLS’ Western Conference.
The Whitecaps are smartly built for strength down the middle. Right from the goal out, with the keen distribution and spectacular shot stopping of Danish goalkeeper, David Ousted, to the speedy and creative midfield, the Whitecaps have a strong spine.
Costa Rican defender, Kendall Waston is a formidable force and anchor on the backline. He is helped by the likes of Tim Parker, Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey. Former Toronto FC Designated Player, Matias Laba provides protection in front of the back four. He is aided by partners Kekuta Manneh and often young Canadian Russell Teibert in this regard. An offensive cast consisting of Mauro Rosales, Pedro Morales, Gershon Koffie, Nicolas Mezquida, and Cristian Techera operate in support of Uruguayan forward Octavio Rivero who is often sprung loose as the lone forward. Morales operates just behind the front with Koffie, Rosales, and Techera playing wide.
Veteran and former Toronto FC frontman Robbie Earnshaw and the speedy Darren Mattocks also add depth to the front. Mattocks in fact has been with the Whitecaps since 2012 when he was the second overall draft pick in the MLS Superdraft. The manner in which Vancouver has patiently brought Mattocks along, giving him key roles, both as a starter and off the bench, speaks volumes about management’s commitment to player development.
The Whitecaps are an intense side to watch; one with a clearly developed identity as a counter attacking team. Balls won by a highly mobile and well organized backline, quickly find their way onto the feet of waiting midfielders who are close and in support. Those clearances rapidly turn into long ball attacks, accurately finding their way to the feet of a breaking Rivero or Mattocks.
As a coach, former Toronto FC defender Carl Robinson has proven his worth. Always positive but soberly realistic, Robinson comes across as a direct no-nonsense type. While Robinson never holds back in assessing his squad’s performance either way, he is clearly a player’s coach and has proven himself as a manager of team preparedness and game situations. As a young coach and successor to Martin Rennie, he has clearly lived up to expectations, while clearly setting his own.
After a bye week rest in early September, the Whitecaps look toward to a favourable home schedule to help make an extra push to the playoffs. A current 7-4-1 home record makes the prospects of challenging for the Supporter’s Shield a real possibility. Robinson will seek to fine tune a squad that he hopes will settle on a consistent 11 down the stretch. Raising the intensity even further and holding the necessary confidence to challenge the Giants of the Western Conference however, will be priority number one for this young and promising side.
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