The Vancouver Whitecaps FC began their third Major League Soccer season much like the year before—undefeated.
While not as impressive as the 2012 start that saw Vancouver break an MLS record for longest shutout streak to start a season, this campaign is also off to a successful start with a two-victory home stand.
The ’Caps hosted Canadian rivals Toronto FC on Mar. 2 for both clubs’ season opener and fought to a 1–0 win in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place. Goalkeeper Joe Cannon earned the clean sheet for Vancouver and Gershon Koffie notched the game’s only goal in the second half.
Vancouver followed up their opening performance with a 2–1 win over the visiting Columbus Crew. Newcomer Daigo Kobayashi scored off a long-range missile just six minutes into the game, and Kenny Miller would score the eventual winning goal in the 57th minute.
Miller wore the captain’s armband in place of Jay DeMerit, who is out indefinitely with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Head coach Martin Rennie will likely rotate players as captain until DeMerit is able to return.
Rennie has several new faces to consider in addition to the club’s returning players from last season. Japanese midfielder Kobayashi is already proving to be an offensive flare for the Cap’s, improving on the attack rush that lacked during the second half of last season.
Vancouver also picked up Nigel Reo-Coker, veteran of multiple English Premier League clubs including West Ham United, Aston Villa, and most recently, Ipswich Town. Like Kobayashi, Reo-Coker’s speed is already noticeable, and his experience could also earn him the captain’s band.
The hope is for these players to fill the cleats of off-season departures Barry Robson, Atiba Harris, and John Thorrington, as well as Davide Chiumiento, whose exodus to Zurich FC was deeply felt in the latter part of last season.
After beginning the season with a franchise-record 7–5–5 through the first half, and at one point peaking to 3rd place in the conference, the blue-and-white slid to 3–9–5 second half and nearly missed the playoffs. Vancouver suffered a disappointing loss in the 2012 Canadian Championship to Toronto FC, who finished their MLS season in last place.
Despite unravelling towards the end of last season, the Whitecaps still managed to become the first Canadian team to advance to the post-season, and did so in just their second MLS campaign.
This year, Vancouver will look for improvement from their returning core players. Up front, 22-year-old striker Darren Mattocks will hopefully build off his strong rookie season, which saw him succeed former designated player Eric Hassli for the starting position.
The ’Caps will also rely on Camilo’s offensive spark and creative rushes up the pitch. Although he saw his minutes and point production decrease last season, Camilo can be expected to have an impact when he draws into the lineup.
On the back end, Rennie will look to Andy O’Brien to defend the middle in DeMerit’s absence, and YP Lee will hopefully play with his usual energy out wide, along with Canadian Alain Rochat, to generate some offense. The addition of Brad Rusin from the Danish Superliga is also proving vital early in the season for the defensive core.
Like their neighbours at Rogers Arena, the ’Caps will likely rotate netminders for the season, though 38-year-old Cannon was given the season’s first two starts over Brad Knighton.
Vancouver’s next match is on the road against the Houston Dynamo on Mar. 23. The ‘Caps defeated Houston 3–1 in their only meeting last season thanks to a two-goal performance by Mattocks. The game can be seen on Sportsnet at 5:30 p.m.