The lead-up to the Major League Soccer season has been a series of firsts and milestones for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Last week, the club kicked off its first MLS preseason training camp in preparation for their March 19 opener against Toronto FC.
On Friday, the squad arrived in Phoenix, Arizona for their first preseason trip. History will be made once more Tuesday, as the Whitecaps take to the field in competitive action for the first time as an MLS team.
“The players are getting really excited for it,” said Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson after Sunday’s training session at Arizona’s Grande Sports World. “There is a certain difference [this year over previous ones]. We get to play better opposition and everything is at a higher level.”
Question marks still hang over the team ahead of Tuesday’s match-up against 2009 MLS champions Real Salt Lake.
Just 14 players are signed, leaving 20 trialists competing for the remaining 16 spots on the team barring any new signings. The Caps appear stable in the back with veteran MLS keeper Joe Cannon being protected by U.S. international Jay DeMerit and former Zurich FC defender Alain Rochat.
It should make a formidable defence, but most pundits are wondering where the goals will come from.
Ahead of preseason training, Thordarson admitted he’d like to see some seasoned reinforcements brought in to galvanize the team’s attacking prowess.
Until that happens, he has six strikers – Joe Anderson, Atiba Harris, Nizar Khalfan, Kyle Porter, Omar Salgado and Long Tan – to test in hopes they can form a solid attacking unit.
In fact, most of the focus against Real Salt Lake will be to see how well the squad can attack, according to the coach.
“I’m not ready to say yet how we will line up but there are six strikers available,” Thordarson said. “What I want to see is them trying to bring on the field the attacking patterns we’ve been training on.”
But with just 47 days to go until kick-off, there is hope.
“It will always take a bit of time to get in the rhythm both on and off the field,” said Thordarson. “But the team is already starting to show that it maybe won’t take as long as we thought. I’m happy with the way the guys are working and we’ve seen some good progress in a short time.”
With Real Salt Lake firmly in their sights, the Caps won’t have to wait long to see how the accelerated team building translates on the pitch.