EDITORIAL – After a flurry of roster moves, the air has been thick with anticipation for the Whitecaps’ training camp this season. After a modest stint down in Southern California, Vancouver drove back up the I-5 for Portland’s preseason tournament. Wins against New England and Minnesota, as well as a 2-1 loss to Portland, helped Marc Dos Santos’ side win the round robin. However, this means almost nothing as at the end of the day, it is preseason. There have been glimpses of real improvement from the Vancouver Whitecaps preseason, but will it translate into the regular season?
Vancouver Whitecaps Preseason Raises Eyebrows
Where will the goals come from?
Naturally, there is one obvious answer here: Lucas Cavallini. He lead the team in the preseason with four goals scored and formed a very attractive playing style with anyone who played at the No. 10 role behind him.
While Reyna and Raposo (who scored three goals between them) were a little faster and nifty sitting behind the Canadian international, Montero offered a bit more of a calm head, and distributed the ball out wide more than directly up to Cavallini. Both styles of play worked to some extent, which gives Dos Santos different options to use when playing specific opponents.
Ali Adnan also scored a pair, both from the swing of his left boot from close range free kicks. For the first time in a number of seasons, Vancouver have multiple arrows in their attacking quiver. A wide arrange of ways to strike, which will offer up a more expansive and versatile offence than Whitecaps fans might be used to seeing.
Can the high press really work all season long?
This season, Dos Santos’ has really put an emphasis on having a high tempo press on the opposition’s backline and midfield. Ryan Raposo and Yordy Reyna really excelled in this system. However it’s not for everyone, with Montero proving to be a little bit too slow and not aggressive enough for the press to work.
Inbeom, Teibert, as well as anyone else in the holding midfield roles often had to push up to close the space left by Montero. So yes, absolutely it can work, but it won’t always look or play the same way. That falls to the feet of whoever is playing CAM at the time.
Which wingers can Vancouver depend on?
The acquisitions of Milinkovic and Dajome, mixed with the development of Bair and Raposo, has left Vancouver some tough choices to be made out wide. David Milinkovic, joining on a one year loan from Hull City, had a very strong outing in preseason.
Fighting for a starting role, he looked very accurate in his passes, as well as slowing down the opposition when on defence. Dominating out left, and becoming a frequent starter towards the end of the Portland tournament, it would be no suprise to see him in the Starting XI come matchday one.
Theo Bair’s playing style is very similar to that of Brek Shea during his time in Vancouver. Decent scoring abilities, very active (which benefits the high press), and a little shaky on the ball. Give him some more time to really develop and he’ll be a great prospect once he finds a bit more confidence.
Dajome was rather lackluster throughout the preseason, given the expectations and hype around bringing him in to the club. Ryan Raposo stepped up to the plate, banging in a pair of goal through the six games played. Finally, Reyna is still going back and forth between being that No. 10 spot and right wing, both of which suit him well.
Come their home opener against Sporting KC, expect Reyna to start in the middle in behind Cavallini, with Milinkovic and Dajome on the wings. The fact that Bair, Raposo and Montero can all come off the bench is a huge boost to the depth of their midfield. But to start the season, MDS presumably wants to get the new boys worked and to find their form early and get comfortable right out the gate.
What will be considered a successful season?
The gauge for success this year doesn’t come from the standings or from the stats sheet, but rather the physical play on the field. Establishing a real identity, getting the little technical things right, that is what the goal should be for this season. Obviously if that comes with a playoff birth or what have you, that would also be successful and a goal that all teams should be trying to achieve.
But rebounding from last year, getting into a good rhythm, keeping a positive atmosphere around BC Place, all of those should be at the top of the list for this team. Whatever results comes with that, so be it.