Russell Teibert started opening day and looks set for a big role in new head coach Carl Robinson's Whitecaps' system -- this despite a handful of recent quality midfield signings.
A trepidation that Russell Teibert, the lone Canadian-raised player to figure regularly for the 'Caps since the departure of Terry Dunfield midway through 2011, was going to be shunted to the sidelines after his breakthrough 2013 season.
But opening day has come and gone, and the 21 year old was there – and there on merit. The Niagara Falls' native's style is a nice fit in new Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson's system, which favours quick on-the-deck passing.
Teibert was far from the best player on the pitch for the 'Caps last weekend in a 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, where newcomers Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales stole the show with a goal each and plenty of influence besides, but the Whitecaps residency product was his typical efficient self.
As ever, he harried opponents and never seemed to stop running, his seemingly bottomless lungs once again propelling his diminutive frame all over the pitch. More than one journalist has referred to him as an Energizer Bunny, and it's an apt descriptor for a man with seemingly endless endurance.
Teibert was deployed at right midfield, the position he primarily played last year, after mainly playing as a holding midfielder in preseason, prior to the acquisition of Matias Laba from Toronto FC.
“From the beginning of the season, the boss had told me, there's a couple of positions I can play,” Teibert told reporters at the University of British Columbia after a training session on Thursday. “Even a couple of years ago, I was playing left back. It's important to be able to play in different positions – a better chance of getting on the field.
“Whatever position the boss decides to put me in, I'm happy to play for him.”
It's difficult to say where Teibert's best position is – as a central player or as a winger. His crossing ability and his ability to cut in on his left make him an attractive choice as a winger on either side, but he lacks the acceleration to get away from fullbacks in the way many top wingers can.
As a holding player, his vision and passing ability are assets, but many coaches, especially in MLS, prefer more physically imposing central players.
But when it comes to Teibert himself, it's all about whatever gets him on the pitch – not a bad attitude to have given the current level of competition in the squad.
“I think any position that gets me on the field I like,” Teibert said when pressed about his favourite position. “But, you know, I had fun playing on the wing.”