Vancouver Whitecaps’ Coachella Invitational Preview

Vancouver Whitecaps FC's Russell Teibert and Tosaint Ricketts Celebrates Ricketts' Goal at BC Place

PREVIEW-  The Whitecaps depart today for their second pre-season trip, this time to sunny Palm Springs for the Coachella Invitational, which kicks off on Wednesday.

In a large tournament that is filled with exclusively MLS Teams, the ‘Caps will have a chance to look at how their league rivals have begun to prepare for their 2023 season on the pitch. But how has each team gone about their preparation so far off the pitch?

This preview will be a two-parter that goes over each of Vancouver’s opponent’s pre-season, and what to expect of them in 2023.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Coachella Invitational Preview

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Coachella Valley Invitational Preview #1: D.C. United – Feb 1st

First Game Preview Against D.C. United

For as much as the Whitecaps can moan about how disappointing last MLS season was, at least it wasn’t as bad as D.C. United’s. The Black-and-Reds finished rock-bottom in their division and in the Supporters Shield.

According to Fotmob, D.C. conceded the most goals per match (2.1), scored the least goals per match (1.1), and kept the fourth-worst clean sheet record out of everyone (six in 34 games). They fired the newly appointed CF Montreal head coach Hernan Losada halfway through last season and brought in the world-renown player-turned-coach Wayne Rooney.

Rooney’s influence was apparent, bringing in talent from England and Europe in the summer such as Christian Benteke (DP), Ravel Morrison (TAM), and Victor Palsson (DP). This didn’t really change their fortunes around for the end of last season, but they could come into play now given their rough introduction to the league.

D.C. United Acquisitions and Departures

So far this off-season, they have signed Mateusz Klich, the 32-year-old Polish international from Leeds United. The veteran midfielder became their third DP signing after buying down Palsson’s contract over the break. They also brought in three ‘keepers after letting go of D.C. legend Bill Hamid, last season’s first-choice keeper David Ochoa, and the Venezuelan keeper Rafael Romo, who the less said about the better…

It remains to be seen if the three keepers they replaced those with – Minnesota United’s Tyler Miller, Toronto FC’s Alex Bono, and Loudoun United’s young Luis Zamuido – are really grand improvements.

Miller barely featured for Minnesota after losing his spot to Dayne St.Clair, Bono kept the least amount of clean sheets for a starting keeper in the league, and Zamuido is just coming up from the USL. While the former two have experience, their recent form has shown that their prime might have come and gone already.

Overall, with the additional signing of Iraqi left-back, Mohanad Jeahze from Hammerby IF in Sweden, D.C. United’s off-season seems to be relying once more on some more veterans of Rooney’s past, and a desperate hope to improve after a woeful 2022 season.

Coachella Valley Invitational Preview #2: Charlotte FC – Feb 4th

Second Game Preview Against Charlotte FC

Many Whitecaps fans can probably relate to Charlotte fans after their debut season. Charlotte started horribly, going 5W-1D-8L in their opening 14 matches, which led them to fire head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez.

However, after bringing in the Italian Christian Lattanzio as an interim coach, their fortunes began to change. They fought to challenge for a playoff spot all the way until Decision Day, falling 2-0 to NYRB. Sound familiar?

They went from one of the worst-scoring sides in the early season to a slightly worse-scoring side by the end, averaging 1.3 goals per game. They did, however, drastically improve their defensive display with their new coach, and finished the season only conceding 1.5 goals per game. Their off-season so far has been marred by tragedy, however. They sadly lost Anton Walkes earlier this month, after he passed from injuries sustained in a boating collision. Tributes are already planned for when the season starts and throughout.

Charlotte FC’s Acquisitions and Departures

For acquisitions, they have brought in highly-rated Enzo Copetti from Racing Club in Argentina, as well as Ashley Westwood from Burnley in England. The former becomes the third forward DP on the roster, after Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak. He comes off a prolific season with Racing, where he scored 21 goals and contributed four assists in ~2600 minutes. Copetti will aim to become the big number nine for Charlotte, with Swiderski’s best form coming in as the second striker, and Jozwiak still waiting to find his feet.

Westwood, on the other hand, will most likely be a depth and experienced signing, especially after just recently coming back from a severe ankle injury. Westwood’s probably expected to help the team out more out of the locker room, than on the pitch, given that the midfielder is already in his mid-thirties. And in departures, they offload the last of the failed signings of the Ramirez era in Jordy Alciver, while Christian Fuchs retired. One surprise outgoing was the sale of Mexican forward Daniel Rios to Chivas Guadalajara, who had himself a decent season with seven goals and one assist.

Overall, if Charlotte can cultivate some of that latter-season form, and build on it, they can probably have a decent chance at making the playoffs.

Coachella Valley Invitational Preview #3: Toronto FC – Feb 8th

Game Preview Against Toronto FC

One of the few joys Whitecaps fans had last year was the Canadian Championship victory over rivals Toronto FC, and the fact that they finished above them in the Supporters Shield.

Toronto, with all, said and done, had a way below-average season. They had a halfway squad filled with injuries, promising yet underdeveloped youth, and two Italian superstars that only came in halfway through the season after the damage was done.

Their winter DP signing of Carlos Salcedo turned out to be one of the biggest flops in recent MLS history. Toronto swiftly sold him after the Italian crusade came in of Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernaderschi, and Domenico Criscito in the summer. However, Criscito just lasted three months before retiring… and then coming out of retirement to play for Genoa in Italy. Last, to say, this was the theme of their season.

Toronto FC’s Status in the Off-Season

So far this off-season, they have started pretty decently. They signed Norwegian striker Adama Diomande off waivers, reuniting with Bradley for the third time in his career. They also acquired former MLS Defender of the Year and FC Dallas hero Matt Hedges, who will look to shore things up in the heart of the defence. Most importantly though, they signed U.S. international ‘keeper Sean Johnson through TAM from NYCFC. After some of the howlers from Bono and Westberg last season, TFC fans will feel at ease having a reliable goalie between the sticks.

Overall, they might still need a few pieces to really be able to challenge as they once did back in the mid-2010s, but they should be able to find themselves back in playoff contention this season. You know, as long as they avoid major injuries and terrible management as they did the season before.

More to Follow…

READ MORE: The 2022 Vancouver Whitecaps Season: A Stumbling Block

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the remaining two teams, St. Louis City SC and Minnesota United, before a final look at how the Whitecaps can challenge given their own pre-season. in part two of the Whitecap’s Coachella Invitational preview.


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