The Whitecaps enter their second preseason a much more different team than the one that ended the season. Not only was there a major shuffling of players but the changes in the coaching staff and the person calling the shots could be the biggest factor when it comes to 2012. Martin Rennie comes into this season bringing fresh ideas on how to run the club including player acquisition. He brought in familiar players and has not been afraid to cut ties with high profile players of the previous regime.
There haven’t been many changes to the strikers group but the one that left gave major notice of the man who was in charge. There were rumblings that Mustapha Jarju would be given an opportunity to prove himself in camp but Rennie pulled the trigger just before the weekend, departing ways with the Gambian DP. Releasing Jarju confirmed that Rennie was fully in charge and that the Caps ownership was willing to pay for obvious mistakes.
His spot on the roster will most likely be taken by 2nd overall pick Darren Mattocks as Rennie hopes to utilize the Jamaican’s pace, something that is missing from the forward ranks. The Whitecaps also made a deal to acquire the rights of 2011 NASL MVP and former Railhawk Etiene Barbara hoping he can duplicate what he accomplished playing under Rennie the last two seasons.
Mattocks will join the incumbent Eric Hassli and Camilo, if he stays, up top as both ended with double figures in goals scored. Missing most of the season with an injury, Atiba Harris can almost be classified as a newcomer and his ability to not only play up top but also as a winger should prove invaluable in Rennie’s 4-3-3 system.
After coming on late last season Long Tan returns hoping to make an impact and pick up some minutes early in the season. Last year’s 1st overall pick, Omar Salgado, is another youngster hoping to impress Rennie into acquiring more playing time after training with Fulham in the offseason. The Caps have also added residency product Caleb Clarke to the first team training sessions after having a great start to his USSDA season.
The most turnover came in the midfield as Rennie was hoping to bring a physical elemant to the center of the pitch. The first addition to the Caps midfield came soon after the season expired when Rennie acted quickly and signed residency product Bryce Alderson, who will turn 18 before the season starts. Then a bit of luck came the Whitecaps way when they won a special draft that awarded them American international midfielder Lee Nguyen. Rennie has also brought in two players he was familiar with in Matt Watson, who played three seasons with Rennie in Carolina, and Jun Marques Davidson. Ben Fisk is another potential homegrown signee from the academy and will be training with the first team during the preseason.
The Whitecaps return a couple of players who are looking to prove something after disappointing seasons. MLS veteran John Thorrington spent most of the season injured on the sideline while Davide Chiumiento brought skill to pitch but was too inconsistent. By the end of the season Gershon Koffie was the best central midfielder on the pitch and is looking to build on a solid first full season with the Caps. A pair of young left footed midfielders, Russell Teibert and Michael Nanchoff, is looking to make a difference this season as they struggled with injuries last season.
Cameroonian Alex Morfaw, who only played 135 minutes last season, didn’t make it through the post season camp as he was released after a couple of days. Homegrown product Nizar Khalfan was waived due to his international status conflicting with the lack of international spots and then picked up by the Philadelphia Union.
A regular last year in the starting eleven, Shea Salinas was traded to the Earthquakes for allocation money after being protected in the expansion draft. One of the players that was prominent with the Caps once Tom Soehn took over, Peter Vagenas went through the re-entry draft unclaimed and is now trialing with Chivas USA. Philippe Davies, another homegrown player, chose to part ways with the Whitecaps in order to find more playing time which he did not receive last year.
One of the biggest areas that Martin Rennie looked to improve was the backline that allowed a large number of goals last season. The right back spot was one of the weakest positions but has been solidified with the addition of Korean international and World Cup vet YP Lee. The next backline signing was Argentine Martin Bonjour who possesses the attributes that Rennie looks for in a central defender. In the two college drafts, the Caps added a trio of defenders in wing backs Chris Estridge, Greg Klazura and central defender Mark Fetrow.
The left back spot is in a solid state with Alain Rochat, who can cover centrally, and Jordan Harvey manning the positions. Captain Jay DeMerit,who spent the first half of the season in and out of the lineup with injury, is needed on the pitch to provide the leadership he was brought in for. Carlyle Mitchell was brought in late in the season and impressed with his play showing good chemistry with DeMerit as a pairing. Supplemental pick Michael Boxall may have been pressed into action too early but looks the part and will provide depth behind the starters.
Second round pick Jeb Brovsky was converted from the midfield to right back and was expected to provide cover behind Lee but was picked by the Montreal Impact. Two veterans, Greg Janicki and Jonathan Leathers , were released through the re-entry draft process while 3rd round pick Bilal Ducket was waived after the expansion draft.
The Whitecaps had a decision to make in goal as neither Jay Nolly nor Joe Cannon established themselves as the number one keeper. Both were initially made available in the re-entry draft but Joe Cannon renegotiated his contract and Nolly was traded to Chicago for a future draft pick. Homegrown signing Brian Sylvestre returns for his second season as he looks to recover from a number of injuries.
The Whitecaps have brought in former Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who played for Rennie last season, to compete with Cannon for the number one spot. A couple of other young keepers will be brought into camp as UC Irvine product Andrew Fontaine was drafted in the supplemental draft and Callum Irving will be brought in from the academy.