With less than three weeks to go till first kick the Vancouver Whitecaps have tough decisions to make as they have almost half of a roster to fill with the players they have in camp. If they decide to completely fill the 30 man roster they will sign up to eight more international players and six domestic players. There is no requirement for the Whitecaps to sign the full roster as they may want to leave some spots open for players(strikers) that become available at a later date. There have some intriguing rumored strikers mentioned on internet sites but there has been no signing and the forward position is lacking finish. This was witnessed by the most recent trip to Arizona where the team were outscored five to nil and lost to the three MLS opponents. The following is a breakdown of who has earned a contract, who is on the bubble for a contract and who is unlikely to get signed.
FW-Davide Chiumiento: Despite his poor start with the Whitecaps at end of last season, Chiumiento has proven his worth so far this preseason with his creativity in the middle of the field. He should be signed soon and will likely start as a withdrawn striker on March 19th. His creativity in the flow of the game and in set pieces will be needed if the Whitecaps are to manufacture goals without a proven finisher.
MF-Cornellius Stewart: His play last season in D2 with the Whitecaps should be enough to earn him a contract in the MLS this season. Stewart will mostly play out wide but can fill in as a striker if needed and as a bonus will be a homegrown signing if a contract is secured.
MF-Russell Teibert: The most talked about player in camp currently without a contract, Teibert has received rave reviews from many who have watched him play on the left side of the midfield. Although only 18, the academy product is skilled and surprisingly strong enough to see significant playing time this year. He is playing his way onto the starting eleven.
MF-Jeb Brovsky: Versatile enough to play multiple positions, Brovsky will most likely start as a backup in the central midfield behind vets Dunfield and Thorrington. While not the most offensively gifted, he has a good all-around skillset and is physical enough in his play to succeed in MLS.
DF-Mouloud Akloul: The Whitecap who had the best strike rate last year(4.5 g/game), Akloul hasn't been injury free since last April when he broke his ankle in his Whitecaps debut. Many feel that if healthy he would be penciled in as the starter with DeMerit as he is an above average tackler and is also good at moving the ball forward from the backline.
DF-Bilal Duckett: Brovsky’s Notre Dame teammate, Duckett has seen most his preseason at center half and left back eventhough his starts at college was mostly at rightback. If it is a permanent move to one of those positions Duckett will need time to learn the position. So far in the preseason he has displayed athleticism and work ethic to succeed at the switch.
GK-Brian Sylvestre: The release of last year’s backup, Simon Thomas, assured the academy product and US U20 goalkeeper the third spot on the depth chart as the goalkeeper of the future. Eventhough he oozes athleticism, Unless there is an injury Sylvestre will see the majority of his playing time as the reserve side goalkeeper.
On The Bubble
FW-Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo: The Brazilian striker has proven his finishing skills in Malta and is looking to prove it in the MLS. He was unable to earn a contract in the Korean League and earlier this preseason left the TFC camp to join the Whitecaps. The lack of quality strikers in camp has allowed him to receive time with the first team and was close on many chances but was unable to finish.
FW-Long Tan: Very little was known about the Chinese striker at the start of preseason and because of the lack of strikers, he as well has a good chance to make the roster. While his finishing ability is still lacking, the staff have been impressed with athletic ability and work rate.
MF-Blake Wagner: Of all the unsigned players in camp Wagner has the most MLS experience with his time in Dallas from 06-09. The left sided player has a good skillset but like the 2010 season has not been able to play his type of game on a consistent basis.
DF-Ryan O’Leary: After giving up on soccer in Scotland for several months O’Leary decided to return to the game coming across the pond to resume his career. In addition to the advantage of having a Canadian passport, O’Leary will benefit from Akloul’s delayed recovery and this will give him a chance to back up at the center half position.
DF-Michael Boxall: After being rated by most experts to be a late first round pick in the Superdraft, Boxall slipped to the first pick of the Supplemental draft. The wide bodied New Zealander brings a physical presence centrally to the backline but will need time to adjust to the speed of MLS.
MF-Kyle Porter: His future is up in the air with the Caps as Porter recently left camp to join the Montreal Impact of the NASL. The Whitecaps have stated that they would welcome him back and if Porter wants to play in the MLS with the Impact would have to offer compensation as his MLS rights are owned by the Caps.
MF-Alex Morfaw: The Cameroon international has been constantly hit with the injury bug which caused him to miss the 2008 Olympics, a contract from a Championship squad and now a potential MLS contract with Vancouver. The organization has been impressed with his play in training and may be patient with him so he can take advantage of his potential.
MF-Ridge Mobulu: The midfielder, signed in the summer of 2010 to the PDL squad, Mobulu played out of position at striker for the Caps. He has had very limited playing time in the preseason due to injuries and personal matters. If not signed there is potential for him to go back to the PDL side.
MF-Bedri Gashi: While Gashi is listed on the roster page, there is very little chance in my opinion that he signs a MLS contract due to lack of preseason play. The lanky midfielder has potential and should be signed to the academy for a year and be spotted into reserve matches to gauge his talent.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
(including players on the bubble)
ST- Atiba Harris/Long Tan/ Omar Salgado
ST-Davide Chiumiento/ Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo
RM-Shea Salinas/Cornelius Stewart
LM-Nizar Khalfan/Russell Teibert/Blake Wagner /Michael Nanchoff
CM-John Thorrington/Gershon Koffie/Phillipe Davies
CM-Terry Dunfield/Jeb Brovsky
RB-Jonathon Leathers/Wesley Knight
LB-Alain Rochat/ Bilal Duckett
CB-Jay DeMerit/ Ryan O’Leary /Michael Boxall
CB-Greg Janicki/Mouloud Akloul
GK-Jay Nolly/Joe Cannon/Brian Sylvestre