The Vancouver Whitecaps had a strong showing in 2015 and were looking to build off that. They finished with the second best record in the Western Conference, but fell to the eventual champion Portland Timbers in the conference semi-finals by a 2-0 aggregate score.
Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 Season Review
The Caps failed to build anything off that strong regular season. In 2016, they finished in eighth place in the West and seven points out of the playoffs. They did close the year out with a 4-1 win over a Portland team that needed a win to continue playing, however the early elimination of the Whitecaps meant that win was only a feel good story to close out a pretty sad campaign.
What Went Right
The problem for Vancouver certainly wasn’t their attack. They were able to net 45 goals on the year, which was more than any Western playoff team except LA Galaxy and FC Dallas. Their top scorer was Chilean Pedro Morales. Morales arrived in Western Canada in 2014 from Malaga in Spain. After a strong MLS debut in which he scored ten goals, he struggled in his sophomore season scoring only six times while only starting 16 matches. This year was a breath of fresh air for him. He was a regular starter and found nine goals to go along with four assists. He was Vancouver’s most valuable attacking player.
He was helped out by assists leader Christian Bolanos. The Costa Rican international was enjoying his first season in MLS by setting up seven goals and scoring five of his own from his wide midfield position. This was more productive than any of his previous seasons with Denmark’s FC Copenhagen.
The other positive thing to come out of Vancouver was the departure of often inaccurate Octavio Rivero. He made a habit of missing obvious chances more than finishing so much that they shipped him off to Chile early in the season. He failed to really catch on down there, too, so Caps fans are probably glad to be rid of him.
What Went Wrong
The defense was the core of the issues for Vancouver. Only the Timbers conceded more goals in the Western Conference. The trouble was their back line consisted of Kendall Waston and nobody else. Waston was one of the Caps best players at time this season, but his lack of help created a very leaky defense.
The side was slow on the break and made a habit of giving up dangerous through balls with regularity. They conceded on set pieces fairly frequently as well. This was compounded by them committing the most fouls in the entire league, giving their opponents plenty of set piece chances.
Not even David Ousted, normally one of the most reliable keepers in MLS could save them. He may have even taken a step back this season, although I am willing to chalk that up to a weaker defensive side in front of him. His ability to make great saves should still be around next year.
The Caps need some reliable defensive players to help out Waston and Ousted. They did have Tim Parker, but he was nothing special. An experienced defender could go a long way towards whittling down that goals allowed total.
Some help along the wings might be nice too. They did will on the right side with Bolanos out there, but the left needed a ton of work. Kekuta Manneh took a large step backwards this season as he only featured in half of Vancouver’s matches. The trade of Darren Mattocks to Portland during the season certainly didn’t help this. Sure, he wasn’t great in the Rose City, but he at least could have been another option on the outside.
Age could be somewhat of an issue as well. Waston is going to be 29 next year and won’t have too many years left in him. Morales is already 31 and Bolanos is 32. Getting more out of 21-year-old Manneh would go a long way, but he’s one of many players out there.
One thing to look forward to is the maturity of 15-year-old Canadian defender Alphonso Davies. He made a pair of starts for the Caps this year and, while showing he needs a lot more growth, looked like he could be a solid MLS defender in the future if Europe doesn’t come calling.
The Caps don’t need all that much to return to playoff contention. Some experienced defenders and a little help along the left wing could get this team back into the postseason in no time.