Friday, Southsider and blogger Michael McColl takes ALL CAPS “Away From
The Numbers” for a fan’s perspective on the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Another week of pre-season over, and another week closer to the start of the 2012 MLS season that can’t come quick enough for everyone.
By the time most of you will be reading this, the Caps will have played their second game of the pre-season.
A 1-1 draw against Cascadian rivals Seattle on Monday, was followed by a game against Real Salt Lake this morning.
Both games were played down in the heat of Casa Grande in Arizona, where the Caps are about to wrap up a 10 day training session before getting back to the rain of Vancouver.
Results of the games aside, the Arizona trip has given the squad the perfect opportunity to get to know each other not just on the pitch but, equally importantly in our eyes, off it.
The team harmony and overall morale and atmosphere in the Caps camp is tremendous and such an improvement on the murmurs of discontent that were hinted at by some last season.
The team that laughs together, wins together. I don’t think there’s really any such phrase, but there should be! I’ve always believed it to be true and looking back at the successful spells for the teams that I follow, it certainly seems to be the case.
As assistant coach Paul Robinson told me this week on the West Coast Soccer Weekly podcast:
“What you need to do is to make the environment a happy place, because if it’s a happy place then people come to work happy, will work harder and will perform better.
And that’s one of the things that we’ve made important here, that we try to bring the enjoyment back in to it, because after a disappointing year last year, we know that we need to be much more positive this year.”
That attitude is clearly evident amongst everyone connected with the club.
Watching the videos posted on the Whitecaps website, standing on the sidelines taking in the training sessions and following the players banter on Twitter, the one thing that is coming across is how relaxed this group of players are with each other. There’s smiles, and laughter, and that can only help performances on the pitch.
For anyone not on the Twitter, you need to get on! It’s been highly entertaining reading the banter and ribbing between players and about what they’ve been getting up to in their down time in Arizona.
Whether it’s players not being able to locate the televisions in their room, to big professional footballers messing around on small, pink girls’ bikes in Walmart or the now annual “Rookie Idol” night. It’s been great fun following it all.
And it’s this kind of banter that not only gets fans excited for the season ahead, but it also sets the Whitecaps apart from the other professional sports teams in this city.
We feel a closer affinity to the team and to the players. Maybe because football isn’t one of the main sports in the Canadian media and we feel a minority group at times, helps with that, but we certainly feel a part of the organization. The players, through mediums like twitter and fairly open training sessions, feel a lot more accessible and they actually converse with their fans.
There were times that this harmony wasn’t felt last season. We felt more distant from the Caps than we’d felt in the past. Isn’t it interesting that with Paul Barber and Tommy Soehn not being the public figureheads any more, that this seems to have coincided with these different feelings? Small changes can make big differences.
The Caps “Round 2″ marketing campaign is in full flow and fans are really looking forward to the season ahead.
With a new management team, new players and a new found swagger and belief that the Club are going in the right direction once more, the excitement for the Whitecaps second MLS season is nearly as imagination capturing as their inaugural one.
In many aspects, it’s more so, and I didn’t see this coming when last year’s disappointments wrapped up in October.
Finishing bottom of the heap last season may not have seemed like it at the time, but it was probably the best marketing tool that the Caps could have had for “Round Two”.
If we’d finished 17th or even just outside the playoff spots, I don’t think fans would have bought in as much for the coming season, as they clearly are. Of course many would, but not as many.
It’s an all round happy Whitecaps camp right now and long may it continue.
About the author:
McColl began writing about football in 1989 and has freelanced for
various newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK. He moved to
Vancouver in 2007 where he currently pens the “Away From the Numbers” blogs on Canadian Soccer News and contributes to Prost Amerika. Michael is also a member o the North American Soccer Reporters association.
a proud member of the Vancouver Southsiders supporters club, though his
views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the