As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Vancouver Whitecaps will be hoping to achieve this season.
The 2015 season was the Vancouver Whitecaps’ best to date. Supporters will be thrilled with their team’s performance as they finished second in the Western Conference after racking up their highest points total in what was their fifth season in MLS. The playoff exit to eventual winners, and Cascadia rivals, Portland Timbers will have hurt but they will be pleased with how last year went and now face the tough task in trying to repeat their achievements over the course of 2016. That will be difficult in an ever-competitive Western Conference, and with teams around them strengthening, Vancouver need to improve again if they are to challenge as high up as they did last term. Carl Robinson is a great coach and has built a young, hungry squad in Vancouver. There have been some key changes to the squad this offseason and so trying to hit the ground running will be vital.
Last season’s finish:
Western Conference – Position: 2nd – P34 – W16 – D5 – L13
What needs to change this year?
The Whitecaps don’t need to change much to be successful in 2016. But the biggest challenge will be replicating their performances from last season. The Whitecaps conceded the fewest goals in MLS (36) in 2015 and will need to try and remain tight at the back once again. They also picked up the most points away from home (24), although their form at BC Place could have been better. They will hope to take more from home games this year, while starting well will be important. Vancouver ended the 2015 regular season with just one win from their last six and so they will hope that was just a temporary dip in form, rather than anything more long-term.
Key changes to squad:
Ins: Masato Kudo – Forward, Christian Bolanos – Midfielder, Fraser Aird – Defender, Cole Seiler – Defender & Blas Perez – Forward
Outs: Steven Beitashour – Defender, Robert Earnshaw – Forward, Gershon Koffie – Midfielder & Mauro Rosales – Midfielder
Kendall Waston – Defender – Perhaps a surprise choice as the Whitecaps’ key player, but Kendall Waston was consistently good in 2015 and was one of the key reasons they had the best defensive record in Major League Soccer. The Costa Rican defender scored two goals, proving his effectiveness at either end, and led the team in interceptions with an average of 4.2 per game. He is a great reader of the game and is vitally important to Vancouver.
One to Watch:
Christian Bolaños – Midfielder – Vancouver’s biggest offseason acquisition was that of Costa Rican playmaker Christian Bolaños. The 31-year-old joins the Canadian club in a transfer from Saprissa and will hope to make an immediate impact in MLS. He will bring experience to a young squad and is capable of scoring goals from almost anywhere. He will be an exciting player to watch, so long as he can find his feet quickly.
Western Conference – 5th – The 2016 season should be another promising one for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but finishing as high as second seems tough to envisage heading into the new season. The squad has changed over the offseason, with the losses of Steven Beitashour and Gershon Koffie likely to have an effect. They ended 2015 in poor form and will need to try and start quickly. They can be expected to make the playoffs again, but might have to settle for a lower finish than second.
What are you expecting from Vancouver Whitecaps in 2016?