Sports Soccer

Whitecaps need coach to be tough guy

By Tyler Green, 24 hours Vancouver, soccer columnist

New Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

New Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

The off-season wasn’t exactly one to remember in a positive light for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Instead, it was one the team hope is easily forgotten with their play on the field when the Major League Soccer season kicks off on March 8.

It began as Vancouver went through an extended search for a new head coach after the club relieved Martin Rennie of his duties. While Carl Robinson may end up being the greatest coach to ever be at the helm of the team, he was hardly the sexy choice — with names like Frank Yallop, Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley rumoured to have been on the Whitecaps wish list.

Robinson was eventually named head coach, only to find out the 2013 MLS golden boot winner, Camilo Sanvezzo, carousing with Mexican club Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, with the ’Caps eventually transferring the Brazilian to QFC. While the Whitecaps were selling their biggest asset, other clubs, like Canadian rivals Toronto FC, were instead spending millions to bring in some of the biggest names around.

Of course, all the negatives that have happened during the off-season can easily be forgotten by winning on the field, but that won’t be easy for a club that missed the 2013 playoffs and lost their biggest offensive weapon.

In order for Vancouver to be successful this season, they need Robinson to make the step from assistant coach to top dog. The 37-year-old Welshman seems to have the support of every player on the squad, but while last year he was the go-between for players and Rennie, Robinson will have to show he can also play the tough guy when required.

Possibly the biggest question facing the ‘Caps is whether one person or the entire team can replace Camilo’s league-leading 22 goals. The candidates include Darren Mattocks, who’s shown a scoring touch, but questions remain whether he can recapture his rookie season glory. Omar Salgado has been injury prone, but has the potential to be a major player in MLS. Kekuta Manneh has shown enough to excite fans.

If Robinson can’t get the team to buy into his system and style, and Vancouver can’t find goals to replace Camilo’s, the poor off-season will simply make the 2014 regular season, one of the longest and most painful ones.

If Vancouver can make positive things happen, it could be a season that is truly memorable for the Whitecaps.

Tyler is a freelance soccer reporter covering Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Canadian National Teams. Follow Tyler on Twitter @tylergreenfc.


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