2017 MLS SEASON PREVIEW
If 2016 will be remembered for anything by Vancouver Whitecaps fans, it will be how poorly the second half of the season unfolded. The club only managed three regular season wins over the final 17 matches of the season, and the playoffs were out of sight long before Vancouver's surprising 4-1 season-ending victory over Portland secured the Cascadia Cup for the 'Caps.
The woeful downturn could be traced almost precisely to the devastating way the Whitecaps lost out on the 2016 Canadian Championship — Will Johnson's volley deep into stoppage time June 29 ripped the Voyageurs Cup from the Whitecaps' hands — and while the team's exit from the domestic cup could be blamed for kicking off a sluggish final half of the MLS campaign, it was Vancouver's performances in other competitions that salvaged an otherwise forgettable year.
Aside from the Cascadia Cup, which is an unofficial competition that relies on MLS results to determine a winner from the three participating clubs, the Whitecaps also topped their group in CONCACAF Champions League play. This sets up an early kickoff to 2017 for the 'Caps, with a pair of dates against the New York Red Bulls in the Champions League quarterfinals providing an opportunity for the club to get a head start on erasing the bad memories of the previous year.
How did the Vancouver Whitecaps perform in 2016?
2016 finish: Eighth in Western Conference (10-15-9), missed the playoffs
After two straight playoff appearances, the Whitecaps had a 2016 to forget as they finished well outside the postseason picture. Claiming the Cascadia Cup was the silver lining in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the 'Caps.
Vancouver Whitecaps' key offseason losses
The Whitecaps haven't lost too many starters, as the exits have been mostly limited to backups and younger players who didn't pan out they way the club envisioned. The most notable loss is midfielder Pedro Morales, who had been Vancouver's most influential designated player in his three seasons in MLS despite a relatively quiet 2016.
The club also parted ways with Fraser Aird, Marco Carducci, Jordan Smith, Blas Perez, Masato Kudo and Kianz Froese.
Vancouver Whitecaps' key offseason additions
It hasn't been a big offseason in terms of the total number of bodies added, but Vancouver has addressed several needs. The most obvious hole to fill was at the striker position, and the 'Caps landed a big fish in the form of Fredy Montero, who should add a ton of spark to an attack that sorely needed it.
Peruvian international Yordy Reyna can also play up top, but will likely line up behind Montero. Sheanon Williams looks to be a solid MLS-tested solution to Vancouver's well-documented troubles at right back, and 2017 draftee Jake Nerwinski will hope to challenge for a first-team spot on the back line. Whitecaps 2 alumni Kyle Greig and Spencer Richey will add depth to the forward line and goalkeeping position, respectively.
How will the Vancouver Whitecaps starting lineup look in 2017?
The Whitecaps look to return to the 4-2-3-1 formation, albeit with three new faces in the starting XI. Montero likely won't be ready for Vancouver's first CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match on Feb. 22, but the No. 9 role is his to lose once he gains match fitness.
Behind him, the trio of Kekuta Manneh, Reyna and Christian Bolanos will look to form a dynamic attack, with Reyna likely acting as a second striker at times when the situation calls for it.
The central midfield duo of Matias Laba and Andrew Jacobson will form a sturdy partnership in front of the back four, and returning defenders Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker and Kendall Waston welcome Sheanon Williams to a tweaked back line.
Keeping goal is stalwart David Ousted, who can expect to play just about every minute of MLS and CCL action, barring injury or suspension.
Full Vancouver Whitecaps roster entering the 2017 season
Goalkeepers: David Ousted, Spencer Richey, Paolo Tornaghi
Defenders: Marcel de Jong, Christian Dean, David Edgar, Jordan Harvey, Brett Levis, Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, Cole Seiler, Kendall Waston, Sheanon Williams
Midfielders: Christian Bolaños, Marco Bustos, Alphonso Davies, Andrew Jacobson, Matias Laba, Kekuta Manneh, Ben McKendry, Nicolas Mezquida, Cristian Techera, Russell Teibert
Forwards: Giles Barnes, Kyle Greig, Erik Hurtado, Fredy Montero, Yordy Reyna
Vancouver Whitecaps' national TV coverage schedule
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union - Sunday, March 5, at 9:30 p.m. ET on TSN
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, March 11, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, March 18, at 4 p.m. ET on CTV
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, April 1, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, April 8, at 9:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders - Friday, April 14, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, April 22, at 4 p.m. ET on CTV
Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, April 29, at 3 p.m. ET on CTV
Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Friday, May 5, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Friday, May 12, at 9 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City - Saturday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. D.C. United - Saturday, May 27, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Atlanta United - Saturday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas - Saturday, June 17, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Minnesota United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York City FC - Wednesday, July 5, at 10 p.m. on TSN
LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Wednesday, July 19, at 10:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers - Sunday, July 23, 6 p.m. ET on TSN and FS1
FC Dallas vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, July 29, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, August 5, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
New England Revolution vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, August 12, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo - Saturday, August 19, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders - Wednesday, August 23, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Orlando City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, August 26, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whtecaps vs. Real Salt Lake - Saturday, September 9, at 10 p.m ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Minnesota United - Wednesday, September 13, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Columbus Crew - Saturday, September 16, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids - Saturday, September 23, at 10 p.m. ET on TSN
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Wednesday, September 27, at 10:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, September 30, at 9 p.m. ET on TSN
New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, October 7, at 5 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes - Sunday, October 15, at 5 p.m. ET on TSN
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Sunday, October 22, at 4 p.m. ET on TSN