VANCOUVER – David Edgar’s first Vancouver Whitecaps season was over before it had really begun and it’s left him at something of an unfamiliar loose end as the Christmas period approaches.
The Canadian international came to MLS in July in preseason shape, having just wrapped up a season on loan with English League One side Sheffield United. It took Edgar a few weeks to get up to speed before going on to make eight league appearances for the Whitecaps this season, but with Vancouver failing to make the playoffs, his year came to an early end.
After 10 seasons as a pro in England, having the winter months off is a strange feeling for Edgar. The festive fixtures in particular are a long staple of the game over in the U.K., with Edgar making his professional debut for Newcastle United in a Boxing Day match against Bolton Wanderers in 2006 and scoring his first goal six days later in a New Year’s Day draw at home to Manchester United.
With fellow center back Tim Parker heading off to England for a training stint with Brighton and Hove Albion, Edgar isn’t ruling out such a thing for himself, but it’s looking more likely that he’ll get to finally spend a relaxing football-free Christmas at home with his family.
"To be sat here [with the season over in November], it feels weird for me," Edgar told Goal. "I feel like I haven't had a full season, which technically I haven't because it was my offseason in England. It feels a bit strange but I'll sit down with the gaffer and I have an offseason program to do. I don't know if anything will come up in England, but we'll see."
The time off will allow Edgar a lot of time to reflect on what he saw from the Whitecaps during his four months with the team so far. With the disappointment of missing the postseason still fresh, it’s a feeling right now of knowing that this was a Vancouver side that was capable of so much more than they showed this year.
"We definitely underachieved," Edgar believes. "Since I've been here, in terms of the quality we've got, we missed out on the playoffs but we knew we were good enough to make the playoffs. We just fell short of that."
Having moved to England as a 14-year-old, this has been Edgar’s first experience of professional domestic football in his home country. After years of playing in the English Premiership with Newcastle and Burnley, and elsewhere in the divisions below, Major League Soccer has been a bit of culture shock for the 29-year-old, both in terms of play and all the intricacies of the league off the pitch.
It’s taken him a little bit of time to adjust, and he was just getting into his stride as the season came to an end, but he’s enjoyed his time in MLS so far, even if the results haven’t been what he’d been hoping for.
"It's different," Edgar admits. "There was a bit of a transition. It's very athletic here. Boys are fit, fast, strong, athletic compared to England, compared to what I've been used to. That's a transition, but the quality's there for everyone to see. In terms of individual qualities, it's fantastic in the league."
The hard work for everyone in Vancouver this offseason is to turn the Whitecaps back into real playoff contenders after missing the postseason for the first time since 2013.
The easy answer is to add a proven goal scorer, a creating attacking midfielder, and a solid, experienced right back, amongst other smaller pieces. They also need some stronger leadership and there’s a very strong chance that Edgar will be club captain going forward with Pedro Morales moving on.
But things are never just that easy, and Edgar feels it will take more than some new faces to set Vancouver on the winning path again.
"That's hard to put your finger on," Edgar mused. "Since I've been here, it's almost been a confidence thing because things weren't going our way. In football, as in any sport, when things aren't going your way it feels that everything goes against you in terms of results and whatnot, but it's hard to put your finger on. It's just minimal things. Small things."
Edgar draws inspiration from the turnaround shown by the likes of Colorado this year as to how easy it is to quickly turn a team’s fortunes around in a parity league like MLS, and he doesn’t feel the 'Caps are very far away from doing that themselves.
"It's marginal," Edgar said. "It's just little tweaks. Things that didn't go our way, a bit of bad luck here and there, bad performances, but it's minimal. Very minimal. We're there and there about and in this league anything can happen."