Who will get the armband for the Vancouver Whitecaps in Jay DeMerit's extended absence? Goal.com's Martin MacMahon looks at the contenders and weighs in with his pick.
Head coach Martin Rennie has said there are two or three contenders for the armband, but as he hasn’t named who those players are, we’ll look at five who could reasonably take on the role.
The name on everyone’s lips this week seems to be Nigel Reo-Coker – a poll conducted by a Vancouver newspaper suggests that 26 percent of The Province’s readers would like the Englishman to get the nod for the role.
And, it’s not a bad shout. There’s no doubt he’ll be a starter, and at 28 he is robust enough to play week in, week out, no problem.
As he showed in his first game, he has a presence on the field and seems to have that knack of making his teammates better – a hallmark of the best captains in the game.
But is it too early to give him the armband given he’s just played 45 minutes of soccer for the club? I would say no, but a middle ground might be to let Reo-Coker wear the armband for about a month or so and see how he deals with it.
If things are working, name him the permanent captain (in DeMerit's absence) at the end of the month.
If not, there are other options.
Lee Young-Pyo is a popular player and a key one for the Whitecaps, but while still very effective, he appears a reluctant leader. Add in the language gap and the fact at age 35 he’s hoping for a reduced role this season, and it doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Kenny Miller is perhaps the likeliest to get the nod, however. The Scottish designated player was given the armband when DeMerit went down on Saturday, and during preseason captained the side as DeMerit missed action with Achilles tendonitis.
Miller is an experienced player, has captained his country and certainly put in an energetic performance against Toronto in a wider role than he played with the club in 2012.
But giving him the armband for an extended period could be a gamble. Miller, to a certain extent, is already under pressure coming into this season, having had a disappointing start to life with the club last season.
Perhaps Miller will elevate his game if he receives the armband, but if things go pear-shaped and he isn’t performing on an individual level, it could result in unnecessary added pressure on a player already in a bit of a pressure cooker.
There’s also the reality that Miller’s spot is less safe than the other contenders. He performed so poorly in 2012 that Rennie left him on the bench to start the match against the LA Galaxy in the first round of the playoffs despite his $1.2-million salary.
If that happens again, changing the stand-in captain midseason could be a bit of an embarrassment for both player and team.
Andy O’Brien is also a name being thrown around. The 33-year-old former Irish international has the pedigree and experience for the role, but given his battle with depression, which he seems to be on the right side of now, is adding a distraction and the pressure of a captain’s armband the responsible thing to do?
There’s no questioning his ability or his character – I believe he could do it, and do it well – but it seems like a Pandora's Box better left unopened.
Alain Rochat should also be in the running for the role, but like Lee he doesn’t exactly scream captain material. He’s a quiet leader in his own way, but being the voice of the team behind closed doors and in public doesn’t seem a role he’d likely relish.
Each player has his pros and cons, but for me, it’s got to be Reo. C.
He gets North American soccer. He gets the media. He’s lifted the Whitecaps dressing room and added a bit of bubbliness that’s been lacking since the departure of Davide Chiumiento. The kind of guy that’ll force a smile from a teammate adamant against providing one, but who’ll then walk onto the field and make it a nightmare for opposing playmakers in midfield.
As captains go, he ticks all the boxes – but each of the five men listed here are capable of doing the job, and that’s a situation Rennie has put himself in by wisely acquiring players with experience and character.