Vancouver Whitecaps looking ahead, not back, in 2020

Vancouver Whitecaps MLS
FOXBOROUGH, MA — JULY 17: Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos during a match between the New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 17, 2019, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Editorial — Having only touched down in San Diego a little over a week ago, Marc Dos Santos and his team have been in full preparation mode for the dawn of the new season looming over them. Numerous signings, including the re-signing of centerback Erik Godoy, has added depth in crucial areas that were lacking. A pair of Homegrown contracts were given to Patrick Metcalfe and defender Gianfranco Facchineri. Also, the Whitecaps picked up a potential partner for Inbeom Hwang in the center of the field with the purchase of an energetic Leonard Owusu. Finally, winger David Milinkovic joined the team in San Diego on a one-year loan from Hull City.

While the flurry of acquisitions got used to their new teammates, new Sporting Director Axel Schuster and CEO Mark Pannes had their first chance to watch their new team in action. A pair of games over a five-day span tested the depth of this improved Whitecaps roster.

Starting with a 1-1 draw against Columbus, Dos Santos played a starting XI that seemed pretty familiar. The only new names were camp invitees Amer Didic at centerback and Cole Dasilva at right back. Of course, the Whitecaps wanted to show off their shiny new toy with Lucas Cavallini leading the front lines.

Ryan Raposo, the fourth overall pick at this year’s SuperDraft, teamed up with Jake Nerwinski — who replaced Dasilva at half time — to pull the game back to 1-1 in the 51st minute. It has been heavily reported that Dos Santos want more attacking play from their full backs. The message must be getting through to the American, who’s cross onto the head of Raposo was the Whitecaps first goal of 2020.

Getting newcomers some minutes

Only one player stayed on for the full 90 minutes. Amer Didic held strong at the back beside Derek Cornelius and then Facchineri. It’s a promising sign that the FC Edmonton and Canadian international center back received that playing time, given the Vancouver’s lack of depth of experienced centerbacks.

Another talking point coming out of the first game was the 4-3-3 formation that Dos Santos chose to field. The expansive type of game that the 4-3-3 requires left massive holes for Vancouver last year, and it was strange to see it’s return. Perhaps it is the ruthlessness of Cavallini, or the more attacking full backs — or a combination of the two. Time will soon tell just how the Whitecaps will take to the field for their next match against the LA Galaxy tomorrow.

Despite rumors of the 4-3-3 sticking around for a little while, reports of the Whitecaps trying the 4-2-3-1 came out of San Diego. The more compact, spearheaded form of play suits the Vancouver much more. Dos Santos took wind of that and trotted out a very formidable lineup against FC Dallas on Sunday.

Lineup changes under Dos Santos

The lineup included Andy Rose at centerback with Cornelius; Inbeom and Russell Teibert as holding midfielders; and David Milinković, Ryan Raposo and Cristian Dájome as the attackers, sitting in behind Cavallini. It was a bold move to move Raposo to the central attacking midfield, given his dynamic and reliable ability to cut inside and out. However, a high press from the front four turned into the opening goal, with Raposo capitalizing off of a bad turnover from Jesse González.

Also finding the scoresheet were Ali Adnan, who’s left foot rocketed home a free kick into the top corner. Teibert struck one from just outside the box, tucking itself in the goal. Then, Yordy Reyna made an impact coming off the bench, chipping the keeper with 10 minutes to go.

Last Word

A draw and a win, a rookie with a pair of goals from numerous positions, a first look at the depth in midfield and defense, and a new, high intensity and high press style of play. This was an important week for Vancouver. It was a week to show the Whitecaps fans for the first time how much has changed from last season. From the looks of it, very few would be disappointed.

 

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