Vancouver Whitecaps can improve at MLS is Back Tournament

Gadi Kinda

Editorial — Picture this: a side which extremely underperformed last year and promised change. A side that then made significant changes and re-sparked a then dying ember of a relationship with its fans. The same side then un-does its changes after six months, prompting a “Sell The Caps” movement mere weeks before a tournament that players have actively said they feel “scared” to attend.

Well, look no further than MLS is Back Tournament participant, Vancouver Whitecaps.

To say things are messy in Vancouver right now would be an understatement. Yet, this tournament could be part of some sort of solution. The surprise departure of CEO Mark Pannes frustrated an already irritated fanbase that is patiently waiting for results. In the Whitecaps’ defense, it is hard to get results in the middle of a pandemic with the season on hold. Hence this tournament having potential to get the club back on the right path.

Key Whitecaps absences

The Whitecaps were the first — and at the time of writing this, the only — team who released a full travel roster. Not included on the Disney World “Play-cation” is Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Tosaint Ricketts, Andy Rose and Georges Mukumbilwa. With essentially the entire strike force staying at home, the striker spot falls to 20-year-old Theo Bair, with a whopping two career MLS goals.

With the three primary striking options out, and an inexperienced youngster, don’t be surprised to see goals coming from the wingers and players such as Yordy Reyna and Inbeom Hwang. Those players will look to push forward more frequently.

On the backline, Andy Rose elected to stay home with his wife who is expected to give birth soon. That absence leaves a big question mark about the centre back pairing down in Florida. Also, Erik Godoy has not fully recovered from a leg injury,

Ranko Veselinovic hasn’t played a minute for his new side yet due to passport problems back in February. Marc Dos Santos praised the youngster for his work during this time off. Jasser Khmiri and Derek Cornelius will likely do battle for the other starting spot, with Khmiri being chosen over Cornelius in the Los Angeles fixture four months ago.

New Whitecaps players will be key

Given the players who elected to stay home from the tournament, it’s no surprise that the new kids in town will take on more responsibility than they may have originally thought when joining the team. Wingers Dajome and Milinkovic are now arguably the most formidable players in Vancouver’s attack, where as before they thought they would service Cavallini or whoever in the middle.

Meanwhile, Veselinovic is now a presumed starter and a leader at the back. Draft pick Ryan Raposo is an expected game changing substitute after a flashy performance against the Galaxy. This tournament could field the strangest and most unfamiliar Whitecaps lineup in recent memory. It has already been a rocky season for newcomers to Vancouver. The pandemic is making it difficult to become familiarized with teammates, playing styles and a new chapter of life.

Flying to one of the hardest-hit COVID-19 states for a five-week tournament is hard. And it will make it interesting to see how they have adapted to life as a Whitecaps player.

Vancouver’s Group B opponents

Being drawn into a group with one of your closest rivals — who is also the defending MLS champion — and two unpredictable sides in San Jose and Dallas, Group B was never going to be a cakewalk. Now, it’s down to three, following FC Dallas’ withdrawal from the tournament.

Vancouver only earned one point from a possible 12 points last year against these two, scoring just twice. However, this is a vastly different side in a vastly different situation. Anything can happen down in Disney World, because after all, it is the most magical place on earth.


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