Sports Soccer

Future uncertain for Whitecaps roster

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Vancouver Whitecaps Jay DeMerit needs a new contract, leaving the team with just 20 players on its roster. 

Vancouver Whitecaps Jay DeMerit needs a new contract, leaving the team with just 20 players on its roster. (REUTERS)

With the number of empty roster spots left to be filled, the future may have no choice but to happen now for the Vancouver Whitecaps. That just makes Thursday's Major League Soccer SuperDraft all the more important — and the 'Caps are in prime position to make a major splash.

The club has two first round picks — the third and seventh overall selections — along with five more choices in the following three rounds.

On a roster that only has 20 players at the moment (including captain Jay DeMerit, who needs a new contract, and the soon-to-depart Camilo Sanvezzo), the lineup needs replenishing.

The most pressing concerns include a backup goalkeeper for current No. 1 David Ousted and a new right back following the retirement of Y.P. Lee. An attacking midfielder — a play-making type who can complement a young offence — is also needed, but may take more than a draft of college graduates to adequately fill.

Whether or not the Whitecaps can plug those voids with the 2014 draft remains to be seen, but there are options out there.

Andre Blake, a goalkeeper from the University of Connecticut, is being hailed as MLS-ready. There are even some draft experts touting that if the Whitecaps do select him with the third overall pick, the 6-foot-4 Jamaican could beat out Ousted for the starting job.

To make him even more desirable, Blake is a Generation Adidas signing, meaning his contract won't count against the salary cap.

As for a right back, Creighton University's Eric Miller could be the answer. In a draft not deep in that position, the former U.S. U-20 international — another Generation Adidas prospect — is lauded as a defender who "can run forever."

The Whitecaps have had so-so success in recent drafts, with striker Kekuta Manneh — six goals in 20 appearances — looking to be the most promising after being selected fourth overall last year. Erik Hurtado was also taken one spot after him and the two could potentially form a formidable duo in Vancouver's offence.

Of course, there's also disgruntled striker Darren Mattocks, who was picked second overall in 2012, and the injury-riddled forward Omar Salgado, the team's inaugural pick in 2011. The latter has appeared in just 21 games in three seasons for Vancouver, scoring once, and missed the entire 2013 campaign.

But come Thursday, will there be a player at this year's draft — one that has been described as "shallow" — who can make an impact right away on this Whitecaps team?


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