The Vancouver Whitecaps had a good 2012. But if they make and stick with a few New Year's resolutions, 2013 could be even better, writes Goal.com's Martin MacMahon.The Vancouver Whitecaps seem to be on the right track after becoming the first Canadian team to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. But as with any team, there are a few things which could be improved for the 2013 MLS season.
Goal.com Canada has selected a few resolutions for the upcoming year that if made – and followed – could make the Whitecaps a contender for all the marbles come season’s end.
1. Score more goals
There’s no question the Whitecaps are an organized, tough-to-beat outfit. But with a mere 35 goals scored during the regular season, they qualified for the playoffs as the lowest-scoring outfit of the postseason bunch in 2012.
Apart from the practical reality that goals are a huge part of winning games, having an entertaining brand of soccer is a must if the Whitecaps are to maintain their growth in British Columbia’s soccer market and continue to bring in new fans.
2. Designated players must earn their dough
The much maligned Scottish pairing of Barry Robson and Kenny Miller didn’t hit the ground running for the Whitecaps in 2012, and their arrival coincided with a dip in form that nearly saw the Whitecaps miss the playoffs altogether.
But it wasn’t all their fault. And while they certainly didn’t earn their money last season, it’s in the past and there’s no point in continuing to stress their point – especially given they’re under contract and barring something unforeseen happening will be expected to make a major contribution.
No doubt the Vancouver faithful will give Robson and Miller a fresh look in 2013 – but with that faith will need to come the performances expected of designated players.
3. Work on keeping the ball
At its heart, soccer is a game of possession. While many sides have achieved middling success in top leagues around the world and in cup competitions by playing reactive, ugly soccer with little in the way of possession, there’s no need for that in MLS, a league that is largely played on an equal playing field due to the salary cap.
Head coach Martin Rennie has talked about changing the mentality of the club – in 2013 perhaps transforming from a counterattacking unit to a more proactive possession-based style of play would bring more consistent results.
If the other team is allowed to have more of the ball, they’re the ones in control.
4. All we are saying, is give (Canadian) youth a chance
While Rennie has no problem playing elite youngsters such as Gershon Koffie and Darren Mattocks, by and large he is a coach that leans on experience – perhaps to the point where it could be stifling some of the club’s young bright lights.
In 2012, Bryce Alderson made it on the bench but never stepped on the field in competitive league action, with Russell Teibert restricted to just 117 minutes over four MLS games.
The pair has talent, but they’re raw and the only way they’ll learn is by making mistakes, and plenty of them. Over and over again. But eventually they’ll come good – they just need a chance to consistently play.
5. Figure out the goalkeeping situation
There’s no real choice to make here. Brad Knighton appears to be just as good as Joe Cannon and he’s younger and cheaper. If he’s going to stay and be the starter, Cannon says he’d like a new opportunity.
The sooner Cannon is moved and the club brings in a backup or an experienced competitor for Knighton – who has never had a full season as an MLS starter – the earlier Whitecaps fans can breathe easy.