Every
Friday, Southsider and blogger Michael McColl takes ALL CAPS “Away From
The Numbers” for a fan’s perspective on the Vancouver Whitecaps
.

Vancouver Whitecaps kick off their pre-season training camp on Monday.

The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy for the new management team of Martin Rennie and Paul Ritchie and with trips to Arizona, Orlando and Carolina to come, it’s not about to get quieter any time soon.

They wouldn’t have it any other way of course and neither would the players.  

The off-season has seen a number of new additions to the squad. Players have come from worldwide, others, including some fan favourites, have left the club. Draftees have come and gone, sometimes in the same day. With all these players kicking around, and speculation that there may still be another addition to come, competition for places on the thirty man MLS squad is going to be stiff.

At the time of writing, there are 27 players currently listed on the Caps site as being in the MLS squad. This includes number one SuperDraft pick Darren Mattocks, but not second round pick Chris Estridge. The three remaining Supplementary Draft picks aren’t there either, and it is questionable as to whether any of that trio will remain in the mix by the time First Kick comes around.  

Stranger things have happened in Major League Soccer though. Did someone say Duckett?

When you factor Residency players like Ben Fisk and Caleb Clarke into the training camp mix, there are clearly going to be some further personnel changes to come in the weeks that follow, and speculation is already underway as to who may have seen their last days as a Whitecap.

One of the big issues surrounds international spots.

The Whitecaps recently confirmed that they currently have nine spots available for the forthcoming season. The imminent signing of Etienne Barbara will take the number of internationals on the Caps books to 12! Something obviously has to give or some serious spot trading needs to be done, although Matt Watson has confirmed he has been approved for his green card, so we’re back down to 11 when the paperwork finally goes through.

You have to look at the players who are dropping down the depth charts. Michael Boxall, Mustapha Jarju and Atiba Harris all fall in to that category. Rumours surrounding Camilo being transferred have circulated for months now and Davide Chiumiento is perhaps our most tradable expendable asset.

The frontline in particular certainly seems ripe for the trimming.

Hassli, Camilo, Barbara, Mattocks, Harris, Tan, Salgado. There’s no realistic way that they can be all kept around and kept happy in the process.

Then we come to Mustapha Jarju.

Brought on board as a striker, but more comfortable in a midfield role. Where will he be used? Will he even remain around? He’s underperforming, he’s over-earning and he’s taking up an international spot (as well as a DP spot).

The fans haven’t seen anywhere near the best of what he is capable of producing, and his market value has fallen faster than this week’s temperatures. It’s getting harder to see where he’s going to fit in with the Caps.

Martin Rennie has previously indicated that he’s not averse to trying players in different and unusual positions.

Could Jarju be used as the defensive midfielder the club crave or does yesterday’s signing of Jun Marques Davidson kill that stone dead in the water? It would be an expensive option, especially when we had the much cheaper Alex Morfaw available for that role last season, but it may just work.

Of course, Mustapha may just surprise everyone and have a blinder out of the gate, banging in the goals left, right and centre and proving all his critics wrong. Yeah, and Tommy Soehn is going to get another MLS Head Coaching job.

For me, we’ve addressed the issues at the back, we’ve added some more attacking flair up front and out wide, all that still seems to be missing is the substance in the middle of the park.

I still see the need for a creative, ball holding midfielder to spray the ball around the pitch. That seems to be the final piece of the jigsaw. Watson may give us that. I don’t know enough about him to say. Koffie and Thorrington definitely don’t give us that, and good luck trying to get Chiumiento to stay in the middle and not do his own creative thing. I’m a fan of Phillippe Davies and Bryce Alderson, but neither of them are ready to step into such a role.

Yesterday’s addition of Davidson is not a signing that makes me think that role is filled. He’s been floating around the Japanese second division and is hopefully brought in as back up and cover, and not as the DM starter.

It’s a hole that needs filling and without it, the Caps will struggle again this year. Even if we go 4-3-3, as many expect, we still need someone in the middle with a bit of bite and the ability to dictate the tempo of the game.

There are still so many questions to be answered, and although the wait for the season to get underway is tantamount to torture, it’s going to be exciting finding out where all the pieces fit and what look and shape the team will take in the Rennie era.

We’ll all start to get some indication of those factors in the next few weeks, and not just the fans, but the players too.

Exciting times lie ahead. Strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride. We’ll have it covered for you every step of the way.

About the author:


Michael
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.

He’s
a proud member of the Vancouver Southsiders supporters club, though his
views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
Southsiders organization.

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