With new coach Marc dos Santos in charge, the Canadian side will look vastly different this campaign.
For a 2018 campaign that turned out to be as mediocre as it was, last season sure was eventful for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The sale of Alphonso Davies was a notable high, both for the club and for MLS, as the Canadian star leaving for a league-record fee proved a major statement for all involved. Everything that happened after that? Not as good, as a whole wave of dirty laundry and in-house fighting became clear as the season ended with talks of cliques, and chemistry issues dominated the start of the offseason.
It was a tumultuous end to Carl Robinson’s tenure as head coach as the club opted to move on from the long-time boss. Under Robinson, the Whitecaps were consistent year-in and year-out, hanging around the playoff picture. But, under Robinson, the Whitecaps never quite got over that hump, prompting a change.
Enter a new era for the Whitecaps, who turn to new coach Marc Dos Santos and a completely rebuilt roster. Following those chemistry issues, 21 players from last year’s squad departed the Whitecaps this offseason as the club was the most active of any MLS side this offseason.
But can that activity translate to something different for a club that has always been good but never good enough?
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2018 finish: Eighth in Western Conference (13-13-8), missed the playoffs.
The Whitecaps 2018 campaign was largely mediocre as the club remained in the playoff chase until the very end much like they always do. Davies dazzled as he became a bona fide MLS star, but there was little else to write home about on the field. In the end, Carl Robinson’s five-year tenure with the club ended with the manager departing with a 75-75-50 record.
With Dos Santos now in place, the Whitecaps quite literally cleaned house after chemistry exploded late in the season. Alphonso Davies is obviously the biggest loss, but it was no secret that 2018 was his final year in Vancouver. The club also parted ways with a number of veteran stars, including Kei Kamara, Efrain Juarez, Brek Shea and Cristian Techera.
If there’s one player that will prove most difficult to replace, it will most certainly be Kendall Waston, who was traded to FC Cincinnati after five seasons in Vancouver. When on, Waston has always been regarded as one of the league’s top defenders and an integral piece of the Whitecaps. The Costa Rican star also served as the club’s captain, leaving massive boots to fill in the center of defense.
It wasn’t the only trade the club made, though, as Erik Hurtado was sent to Sporting KC while Nicholas Mezquida was shipped to Colorado.
With all of those departures, there was some rebuilding to be done and the Whitecaps certainly did it. The club went out and brought two new Designated Players to MLS by signing South Korean rising star Hwang In-beom as well as Uruguay U-20 forward Joaquín Ardaiz. They also brought back a fan-favorite in Fredy Montero, who returns to MLS following a stint with Sporting CP in Portugal.
The three big-money players aren’t the only talent brought in as Lass Bangoura and Jon Erice come from Spain to MLS while defenders Jasser Khmiri, Eric Godoy and Derek Cornelius will look to fill in on the backline. Midfielder Lucas Venuto was also brought in to provide midfield depth while former Seattle Sounders midfielder Andy Rose returns to MLS following time with Coventry City and Motherwell
As for moves from within MLS, the Whitecaps added Zac MacMath, Maxime Crepeau and Victor “PC” Giro via trades while defender Scott Sutter joins following a stint in Orlando.
Goalkeepers: Maxime Crepeau, Zac MacMath, Sean Melvin
Defenders: Derek Cornelius, Victor “PC” Giro, Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Jasser Khmiri, Brett Levis, Jake Nerwinski, Scott Sutter
Midfielders: Michael Baldisimo, Lass Bangoura, Simon Colyn, Jon Erice, Felipe, Hwang In-beom, David Norman Jr., Yordy Reyna, Andy Rose, Russell Teibert, Lucas Venuto
Forwards: Joaquin Ardaiz, Theo Bair, Fredy Montero
There will be plenty of new faces in the starting XI and, considering the massive overhaul, it could take some time for Dos Santos to find whatever turns out to be his ideal lineup.
A 4-3-3 system looks the most likely with Montero leading the line up top. Montero is a proven MLS goalscorer with 14 goals during his 2017 loan stint with the club. Ardaiz remains an option as well, although the club will have the benefit of being able to ease him into the XI. Bangoura should start on the right while Reyna, one of few holdovers, can certainly fit on the left-hand side.
In the midfield, Erice and Hwang are two of the most highly regarded additions of the winter. Erice will serve as the deep-lying playmaker of the bunch with Hwang and Felipe on either side. The development of the South Korean will be one major storyline to watch as Hwang was coveted by a number of clubs in Europe before making his way to MLS.
Defensively, Jake Nerwinski is another holdover having proved himself as a standout at right back while PC and Levis will likely battle it out for the other fullback spot. There’s also a goalkeeping battle with Crepeau and MacMath both potentially starting.
The Whitecaps have no scheduled national TV games airing in the USA.