Improvement the theme in Whitecaps early season review

TYLER GREEN, soccer columnist for 24 hours

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC have now played 12 MLS matches and sit in a playoff position - something completely unrealistic during the 2011 inaugural season. With a third of the campaign done, it's review time.

A year ago this day, the Whitecaps had fired head coach Teitur Thordarson and sat with a 1-5-6 record, sitting dead last in the Western Conference. Tom Soehn then took over on an interim basis before Martin Rennie was permanently handed the reins to start this season.

So far, the 'Caps have compiled five wins, just one off from last years' total. Vancouver is also in a playoff position, something that was unthinkable a year ago. While things are going well, there also needs to be improvement.

A positive through the first part of the season saw the 'Caps coming back from deficits in two matches to win once and draw another. On the flip side, Vancouver has led in a game three times only to lose twice and draw once.

While the overall scoring needs work, the 'Caps have benefited from goals coming from a variety of sources. Eight different players have scored for Vancouver this season, including three defenders. Up front, the Whitecaps still need consistency from their top forwards Eric Hassli, Sebastien Le Toux and Camilo, all of whom scored 10 or more goals in 2011.

The Whitecaps also have Darren Mattocks, who has shown flashes of brilliance and scored the equalizer against the Portland Timbers this past weekend. The rookie striker looks poised to be a handful for opposing defenders the rest of the season.

Defensively, the Whitecaps have been terrific. They have given up the fifth fewest goals in the league, conceding 14 through a dozen games. Any questions about whether Vancouver's 37-year-old goalkeeper could handle the daily grind have been put to rest with Joe Cannon recording a league-best five clean sheets.

Alain Rochat and Jay DeMerit are improving on last year's performances while former Korean international and World Cup veteran, Y.P. Lee, has shown how good he can be by negating some of the top players in MLS. With Lee being so solid, I predict he'll represent the 'Caps at the MLS All-Star team against UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea FC in July.

Central defender Martin Bonjour and holding midfielder Jun Marques Davidson both came into Whitecaps camp as question marks. But both have shown they deserve to be here and have quietly been two of Vancouver's top performers.

Improvements are still required for the Whitecaps to truly be one of the best in MLS, but so far, they have really shown what a difference a year makes.

Listen to Tyler Green on TEAM 1040 every Sunday at 9 p.m. He also co-hosts the Whitecaps pre- and post-game shows. Follow him on Twitter @tylergreen1040.