Improvements abound for Whitecaps
The 2012 Major League Soccer season is about to begin for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. And much like last year's inaugural campaign the fans are optimistic about the club's chances, because quite frankly things couldn't get much worse than 2011's last-place finish.
The rebuilding process for the 'Caps actually began back in August, when they announced the signing of then Carolina Railhawks manager Martin Rennie to a multi-year deal to take over the club at the end of the season.
Since then, changes have been swift, but more importantly, last season is just that, last season.
"As far as I am concerned, last season is gone for these players,'' the Scotsman said. "There is nothing they can do about that, other than perhaps glance back and learn from it. We have to move forward."
Rennie's hiring last summer gave him an opportunity to watch the team from afar. His off-field moves have been met with positive reaction, most noticeably in the release of designated player Mustapha Jarju. The Gambian was a lightning rod of negativity after failing to score in 10 appearances. A smart move, considering Jarju was the proverbial square peg set for a round hole.
While some moves have been additions by subtraction, the Whitecaps hit high marks with their latest acquisitions. A leaky defence in 2011 has been strengthened with the signing of central defender Martin Bonjour.
A smart, technical player, the Argentinian will partner with captain Jay DeMerit on the backline and supply the 'Caps with a mean, gritty attitude, an ingredient they lacked last season.
"He doesn't speak much English, but he looks great out there," DeMerit said.
In addition, the 'Caps also signed former Korean international Y.P. Lee. Martin Jol, his former manager at Tottenham in the English Premier League, claimed the 34-year-old was "the best left-back in Holland." Lee will quietly do his business, in a not-too-flashy way, and be the best all-around Whitecap this season.
With a healthy DeMerit and Alain Rochat also returning, and veteran goalkeeper Joe Cannon back, Vancouver's backline has certainly improved after giving up the league's third-most goals-against in 2011.
Up front, the Whitecaps had the potential to score last year, with Eric Hassli executing highlight-reel goals and Camilo, the 2011 team MVP, scoring almost at will. However, having the league's worst goal count meant they needed to bolster that offence. They've done that by adding proven MLS goal-scorer Sebastien Le Toux through a trade with Philadelphia, and highly touted striker Darren Mattocks via the SuperDraft.
So while the Whitecaps have seemingly been winning off the field, March 10 and beyond will determine whether they can start winning on it.
Listen to Tyler Green on TEAM 1040 every Sunday at 9 p.m. He also co-hosts the Whitecaps pre- and post-game show. Follow him on Twitter @tylergreen1040.