With the summer transfer window opening next month, the Vancouver Whitecaps may lean toward boosting their back line as a priority.VANCOUVER — Following a spell of MLS games that entertained, if not thrilled, many a Vancouver Whitecaps fan, the expected calm of a World Cup break arrived on Canada's west coast this week.
Through a third of their 2014 campaign, the Blue & White have offered plenty in terms of attacking excitement and style to suggest they will find themselves in a better position than fifth place in the Western Conference standings come the season's end.
With Carl Robinson's side taking this week away from training, Whitecaps observers have taken stock of what they have seen to this stage and what they anticipate for the rest of the season.
Unsurprisingly, last weekend's dramatic 3-3 draw at the Philadelphia Union has prompted calls for the 'Caps to address some potential deficiencies in their backline. Combine Jay DeMerit's left ankle/tendon injury and a less-than-stellar performance at PPL Park from Johnny Leveron, and there is a new consensus that Robinson should look to add a proven centre back once the summer transfer window opens on July 9.
Now, a poor performance in one match does not necessarily highlight a major issue in the Vancouver defence. For all we know, we will see an exemplary rearguard display from the Whitecaps when they host Canadian rivals Montreal Impact on June 25.
Yet, the concession of six goals in their last two encounters, despite claiming four points out of a possible six, has raised the suggestion that the former Wales international needs to address an arguably small defensive issue before it becomes a potentially bigger problem.
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Since the start of the season, there have been ongoing questions over the durability of DeMerit and fellow centre back Andy O'Brien, as well as questions over depth in the fullback positions. Barring an injury in Brazil, Steven Beitashour will return to his right fullback role with the Whitecaps after he represents Iran at the World Cup, while Sam Adekugbe and Ethen Sampson are expected to resume full training as early as next week. If that is the case, the 'Caps will have much-needed fullback options.
One of the key ingredients in building a successful MLS club is getting value for money with player acquisitions. That can be in the ability to find quality players for a reasonable price or in the ability to find players with the versatility to play in more than one or two positions.
With a couple of international roster spots available to Robinson, there may be an opportunity for Whitecaps FC to add a proven defender that is comfortable in all positions of the backline. Such a move would make sense, if Robinson still sees centre back Carlyle Mitchell as part of his future plans, while MLS SuperDraft pick Christian Dean continues to develop as a first-year pro.
Making use of the other international roster spot may prove more challenging unless Robinson can find the right type of quality to boost his midfield or attack. The priority for Vancouver will likely be in adding another goalscorer following Kenny Miller's recent departure back to his former club Rangers in Scotland.
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Some might say that a new striker is not necessary, considering the 'Caps are currently the second-highest scoring team in MLS, but an experienced attacker would not go amiss for the business end of the campaign. Robinson has stated his desire to find a new striker, if the right player is available, so one must anticipate the potential of an addition to an already potent Vancouver attack.
Whatever new mid-season additions may arrive at Whitecaps FC, the lessons of 2012 will serve as a strong reminder to Robinson. As an assistant to Martin Rennie, several changes were made at the midway point of that campaign that upset the balance of the 'Caps squad and contributed to an alarming downward slide in the second half of the season.
Though he will try his best, it is never easy to make a good team better. As someone that is new to the world of soccer management, Robinson's biggest challenge of 2014 may very well be the way he goes about tinkering with his squad this summer in a bid to improve it.