This is part two of a four-part series reviewing the 2016 season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Whitecaps FC 2.
2016 Whitecaps FC 2 USL Record: GP: 30, W: 12, L: 9, D: 9, Points: 45, PPG: 1.5
While the senior Whitecaps at BC Place fumbled their way to one of their worst showings in their MLS history in 2016, Whitecaps FC 2’s sophomore season was one for staff, players, and supporters alike to look back on positively and proudly.
The team grew on and off the pitch with key additions on the field, like new captain Kyle Greig, as well as with the coaching staff, as Whitecaps defender Pa-Modou Kah joined the management team.
In terms of soccer success, the baby ‘Caps earned their first USL playoff appearance and went all the way to the Western Conference Final before finally being stopped.
Arguably, most importantly, over the course of the USL season and beyond, four players made the jump from Whitecaps FC 2 to the senior team.
With so many positives and WFC2 head coach Alan Koch seeming to have found the fine line between results and development, there are a lot of positives of Whitecaps FC 2’s 2016 season to be found.
So, what went right?
What went right?
One of the story lines of the season for Whitecaps FC 2 was their incredibly strong start to 2016.
While the team only finished sixth in the USL at the completion of the regular season, the ‘Caps looked unstoppable through the first months of the season, even occupying a spot at the top of the Western Conference table for awhile.
Although two of their early season games were cancelled due to poor weather, it took until June 4th for WFC2 to suffer their first loss of the season.
Through their first 10 games of the season, Whitecaps FC 2 were undefeated with a record of 6W-0L-4D.
For a team that struggled to earn only 30 points in the entire 2015 season, 22 points in their first 10 games was a massive accomplishment for a young WFC2 team, both in terms of the history of the club and the age of the players on the pitch.
While the ‘Caps were unable to keep up their early pace of 2.2 points per game, slipping to a record of 6W-9L-5D (1.45 PPG) through their final 20 games of the regular season, WFC2 can account their strong early season form to helping earn them a playoff spot.
Passionate Playoff Performances
Whitecaps FC 2 was given a tough task heading into the playoffs as they faced third-seed Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the Western quarterfinals at Switchbacks Stadium.
Things got even more difficult when they went down 1-0 only seven minutes into the game.
However, the help of experienced ‘Caps guided WFC2 back to success as goals from Kyle Greig and Kianz Froese gave Whitecaps FC 2 the victory.
Despite being down early, the young ‘Caps refused to quit and played passionate soccer to get themselves back into the game, keep their playoff hopes alive, and qualify for the Western semifinals.
This passion helped the team find success in the semifinals, as well.
Despite WFC2 being up 2-0 only minutes into the second half, Oklahoma City Energy FC battled back to even the scoreline with only 10 minutes remaining in normal time.
Although OKC looked to finish the comeback, Daniel Haber channeled the passion of the team behind him to score in the 89th minute and put the ‘Caps through to the Western Conference final.
While the 3-0 loss to the Swope Park Rangers was a disappointing way to end the season, the baby ‘Caps still never gave up against a difficult Swope side in Kansas City and, despite the loss, the way they played and handled themselves in their last game of the season is a testament to all of the players and their passion and dedication.
Path to Pro
While winning championships is always great, one of the main goals of fielding a reserve team is to develop players to play for the first team, and Whitecaps FC 2 did an amazing job of developing players this season.
In 2016, four WFC2 players were signed to MLS contracts.
Alphonso Davies, Brett Levis, Spencer Richey, and WFC2 captain Kyle Grieg all made the jump from USL to MLS.
A WhitecapsFC.com and Piktochart infographic outline the development of these four players and their paths to WFC2 and now, Whitecaps FC.
Source: Whitecaps FC
With the possible exception of Alphonso Davies, it is unlikely that these four players would have been able to prove themselves worthy of an MLS contract without the ability to play in the USL.
As this is only the second year of existence for the reserve club, as well, it is obvious that the team is paying dividends to the senior team already.
In addition to bringing players straight into the first team, WFC2 was also able to provide the senior Whitecaps with additional depth when necessary.
For example, Alphonso Davies was called up to the senior team for the Canadian Championship and had appearances in all four games for the ‘Caps, impressing VWFC head coach Carl Robinson enough for a contract.
When the Whitecaps had a midseason friendly against Crystal Palace FC, Kyle Greig, Brett Levis, Daniel Haber, and Sem de Wit were all called up for depth and each made an appearance in the 2-2 draw.
Finally, the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition where it is commonplace to rest starters, allowed for WFC2 players to play key roles and ensure the senior team remained rested for MLS matches. Spencer Richey, Brett Levis, and Kyle Grieg all played prominent roles in the Whitecaps continental games. Their contributions even helped to qualify Vancouver for the knockout stage as the top seed.
It is incredibly apparent just how much WFC2 has contributed to the senior team after only two seasons in existence and much more should be expected going forward.
The success of Whitecaps FC 2 in 2016 had ramifications not only for the USL, but also for the Canadian Championship, Champions League, and the senior squad going forward.
There have always been arguments regarding reserve and youth teams about whether results or development is the most important, but 2016 can be considered a successful season for WFC2 in both regards.
While there looks to be significant turnover in 2017 with head coach Alan Koch off to FC Cincinnati and at least eight WFC2 players not returning, the future of both Whitecaps FC 2 and the senior team still look bright.
What exactly the squad will look like in 2017 and even who will coach the team remains uncertain for the time being, but with a number of promising Residency graduates looking to lead the way for the upcoming season, expect to see another entertaining product on the field at Thunderbird Stadium.
Next in the Whitecaps Review series, Northern Starting Eleven will explore the continental play and cup results from the Whitecaps’ 2016 season.