Thursday, January 20, 2011

Post Draft Whitecaps Roster Analysis: Part I

The 2011 MLS season is less than 60 days away and after 2 separate drafts the Whitecaps roster is starting to take shape.  With the drafting concluded, the team have 14 players signed and an additional 18 in camp attempting to earn MLS contracts.  The transfer window opened last weekend and while there are no signings to report and only one player, Robbie Savage, linked to the team, the Whitecaps are expected to bring in another 4 to 6 players to compete for spots in the starting eleven.  

Prior to the expansion draft, many local Vancouver fans and media expected the Whitecaps would keep Jay Nolly as their starter after being named USSF Division 2 goalkeeper of the year and pick a young backup.  However, things changed when the Caps drafted San Jose Earthquakes veteran and two time MLS goalkeeper of the Year Joe Cannon.  There was some concern that the drafting of Cannon would spell the end of Jay Nolly’s future with Whitecaps in the MLS.  Those concerns were put to put to rest when Nolly was signed as one of the first players from the Division 2 side.  Although the coaching staff has stated both players will have equal opportunity for the starting position, it makes sense that Cannon would be the starter as he has the experience.  It would also ease Nolly into the league and help him in a year or two when and if Cannon moves on.

After last year’s backup, Simon Thomas, was released in December, the only other goalkeeper left in camp is US under 20 squad member Brian Sylvestre.  The 6’5” Florida native is a superior athlete who uses his quickness and leaping ability to his advantage.  He will need time to work on his positioning and the nuances of the position but he has plenty of time as he is only 18 years old.

The backline was deemed a priority by management and that was proven when the Whitecaps made their first ever signing American international Jay Demerit.  He was brought back to North America to provide leadership and to bring his experience from his play overseas and in the World Cup.  Although not announced at the signing DeMerit is a perfect candidate to become the Whitecaps first captain.  The next defender signed by the Whitecaps was 2010 fan favorite, Wesley Knight, a rightback from South Carolina.  Knight arrived in Vancouver from college in 2009 and was a finalist for USL rookie of the year leading the league in assists with 8.  He has the pace to keep up with the speed of play in MLS, good technical skills and solid defensive skills.  His footy skills are evidenced here in this video.

In the second wave of signings the Whitecaps signed the USSF Div. 2 defender of the year, Greg Janicki.  He arrived for the 2010 season with MLS experience after playing with D.C. United during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.  He brings a physical game centrally and also contributed offensively with 4 goals coming off set pieces.  The only defender that was kept from the expansion draft was rightback Jonathan Leathers who was plucked from the Sporting KC roster.  A 2nd round draft pick in 2008, Leathers has appeared in 34 games for the former Wizards and will provide competition to Knight on the right side.

During the summer transfer window the Whitecaps brought in acquired Swiss defender Alain Rochat from FC Lucerne and then loaned him back with the agreement that he would join the team in January.  Rochat brings a wealth of international experience which included appearances in Champions League and the Swiss Super League.  As a bonus for the Whitecaps, Rochat was born in Canada and will count as a domestic player as well as being able to play either left or centerback.  If he can return from his injury issues in 2010 Algerian international central defender Mouloud Akloul is another option for the Whitecaps on the back line.  The problems began twenty minutes into his debut where Akloul shattered his ankle scoring his only goal of the season.  He had multiple setbacks during the year and had to get a second surgery on the ankle in the offseason.  If he can recover Akloul could be very valuable to the Caps in their first season.

UPDATE:  The Whitecaps have signed Alain Rochat on 01/21/11.  They will also bring in former Kilmarnock defender Ryan O'Leary to trial with the team in Phoenix.

The Whitecaps drafted two defenders out of Notre Dame in the Superdraft, leftback Jeb Brovsky and rightback Bilal Duckett whose write up can be found here.  On Tuesday, two more defenders were drafted with Kiwi centerback Michael Boxall and American leftback Santiago Obedyo joining the Caps.  Their write up can be found here.  With the reserve league back and the rosters expanded for MLS, all four draftees will have a good opportunity to make the roster and develop.


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