The 2015 MLS hasn’t even kicked off yet, but the 2015 Vancouver Whitecaps are already showing that they are one of the strongest teams in the short MLS history of the club. This offseason they have filled all the missing pieces holding them back from going farther than the West Knockout round in the playoffs last season. They had a big hole up front, missing a scoring striker since the departure of Camilo Sanvezzo, which they filled with Uruguayan DP Octavio Rivero. In regards to the backline problems the Caps faced at times last year, they let Andy O’Brien and Johnny Leveron go, the former being a controversial decision amongst the fans, but replaced them with Diego Rodriguez, on loan from Juventud, and former Timbers defender Pa-Modou Kah. On paper, the 2015 Whitecaps look like the strongest team fielded at BC Place, so far.
However, on paper, Toronto FC was one of the strongest teams in the MLS last year, and everyone knows how that turned out, finishing 7th in the East last year and missing the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Whitecaps have also proven that they can put out results on the field, too. In their annual friendly with the University of Victoria Vikes, they commanded their way to a 6-0 win, a huge improvement from their 1-0 win last year on a goal from Andre Lewis. Six different Caps found the score sheet in the blowout this year at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, as first team players cemented their spots and fringe players battled for positions. The Whitecaps also went 1-1-1 in the Desert Friendlies in Tucson, Arizona, defeating the Revolution, drawing with the Earthquakes, and losing a close game to the Dynamo.
Despite the commanding win against the Vikes, and average showing in the Desert Friendlies, the biggest and final test of the preseason comes in the form of the Simple Invitational hosted by the Timbers. The Whitecaps won the competition last year, formerly known as the Rose City Invitational, defeating Portmore United and the Earthquakes, and drawing the Timbers in route to winning the tournament. This year, the Whitecaps look to defend their title against the Timbers, Chicago Fire, and Stæbek Fotball of the Norwegian Tippeligaen, managed by American Bob Bradley. The challenge of facing European competition, alongside our Cascadian rival and the newly invigorated Fire, will show the Caps’ true readiness for the upcoming MLS season, as well as the CONCACAF Champions League.
While the senior team’s success is a big part of ushering in a new era at BC Place, the Whitecaps FC 2, playing in the USL, are another huge component to why this year is the start of a new beginning for the Whitecaps. From the signing of coach Alan Koch from Simon Fraser, to the three new signings you can read about in Kasey Hunter’s article ‘Whitecaps 2 Make First Signings’, the baby Caps will create the biggest and final part of the Whitecaps development system, now spanning from the Residency levels all the way to the USL.
The strength of the senior Whitecaps this season and the new USL team are clear indicators that the club is moving forward. The boys in white will be exciting to watch this 2015 season as they fight to become the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup and begin their first year in the Champions League. Expect great things from the club at all levels.