State of the team: Vancouver Whitecaps

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By JOSE M. ROMERO

Want a sign that there could be some good will among soon-to-be Northwest MLS rivals Seattle and Vancouver? The Whitecaps are currently training at Oxnard College in Oxnard, Calif. 

The Sounders' inaugural out-of-town camp was held at the same place in February 2009, though the club had to move from the school to a public park to nearby Ventura College to get in work because of inclement weather. It stands to reason that perhaps the Sounders helped their northern neighbors with a tip that there's a place in Southern California, amid citrus groves near the shores of the Pacific, with suitable facilities for team training.

The Whitecaps didn't fly off the starting blocks with player signings after their USSF-2 season ended, unlike their expansion counterparts in Portland. Instead they made waves with the signing of defender Jay DeMerit, he of U.S. national team acclaim, earlier this month. When Expansion Draft Week came, the Whitecaps really got down to some business. 

Before the day of the draft was over, they shipped their first pick, speedy wing Sanna Nyassi from the Sounders, to Colorado for an international player slot. Then forwards Alan Gordon and Alejandro Moreno were dealt to Chivas USA for another international slot and allocation money. Finally, another pick, forward O'Brian White, was traded to Seattle for more allocation money. 

Team president Bob Lenarduzzi and director of soccer operations Tom Soehn weren't done. On U.S. Thanksgiving Day, which is just another day in Canada, they sent Nathan Sturgis, one of their expansion picks from Seattle, to Toronto FC for the eighth overall pick in the Superdraft. Sturgis showed upside in the second half of the season for the Sounders and had value.

And finally, last Friday, the Whitecaps signed three players from the USSF-2 Whitecaps team. Those were midfielder Philippe Davies, defender Wes Knight and goalkeeper Jay Nolly. Also recently, the Vancouver Province reported that Swiss Super League defender Alain Rochat will join the team in January.

Vancouver, like Portland, is a younger team balanced with the age and experience of goalkeepers Nolly and Joe Cannon, midfielder John Thorrington from Chicago and DeMerit. It appears likely that the Whitecaps will use allocation money to bolster the roster with proven players and then add depth through the Superdraft. That strategy — plus the fact that the team's jersey has already been unveiled and is for sale and the club has sold more than 15,000 season ticket deposits for when permanent home BC Place is ready next summer — is cause for plenty of optimism in the Lower Mainland of Canada.

At present, the Whitecaps have an intriguing mix of nationalities on the roster but need strikers. Here's a look at the current roster:

Forward-midfielder Atiba Harris – At 25 will be on his fourth MLS team. Key part of FC Dallas run to MLS Cup final in 2010. 

Midfielder Shea Salinas – Speedy player on his third team in three seasons after being an expansion pick by Philadelphia last year, but seems to be a fan favorite wherever he goes. 

Midfielder Philippe Davies – Still very young at age 19 but played well for USSF-2 Whitecaps as right wing in 2010. Product of club's residency program will be cost effective – he won't count against the salary cap when signed to developmental contract. 

Midfielder John Thorrington – Veteran who is considered a character guy, and Lenarduzzi has said that high character will matter a lot to the club.

Defender Jay DeMerit - Soon to turn 31, but his European experience and leadership qualities should make him a hit in Vancouver among teammates and fans. Plus he can still play. 

Defender Wes Knight – Right back who had a solid 2010 season with USSF-2 Whitecaps.

Defender Jonathan Leathers – Former Sporting KC player looking for an opportunity to play more regularly.

Goalkeeper Joe Cannon – Former two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year with San Jose is now 35, and might have something to prove this season.

Goalkeeper Jay Nolly – Will push Cannon for the GK spot after a solid 2010 in Vancouver in which he was named USSF-2 GK of the Year.

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What do you think of Vancouver's early steps toward building a team? Think the Whitecaps have the early edge over Portland? Still wondering who the team's go-to goal-scorer will be?

Share your thoughts below.

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19 Responses to State of the team: Vancouver Whitecaps

  1. Charles says:

    Sounders and Whitecaps have played each other 111 (+/- a couple ) times.

    I am looking forward to the Sounders winning 112.

    Vancouver already announced they are going to open up more than the 150 seats for away fans.

    Sounders need to follow suit and open up the upper deck in QWest.

    As annoying as it is to have Whitecap’s fan scurrying around like the rats they are, it is that much fun too.

  2. Steve C says:

    “On U.S. Thanksgiving Day, which is just another day in Canada,” I dunno why, but this made me laugh.

  3. JJ says:

    Man, Vancouver is doing things right imo. If they sign Keane, it’s going to be hard for me to continue to hate them.

  4. Swix says:

    Vancouver and Portland will show Seattle how its done.

    We are going to be a top 10 club in the world according to Barber and clearly that is true based on things like the EA Sports deal.

    So excited to see how much class and colour the front office is bringing to the organization.

  5. aman says:

    not sold that they will get Keane, but they definitely seem to be kicking tires on several DP’s/international players. Going to be exciting to see. As a season ticket holder right now I have no clue how this team will look, but so far they definitely hasn’t disappointed.

  6. k says:

    2 years of breaking attendance records, 2 years in MLS playoffs, 2 Open Cup Championships; Please show Seattle how its done; Oh bother.

  7. Reggy says:

    Ahh, yes. Another stuck-up, ignorant seattle fan. Where is your class?

  8. Kejsare says:

    Lets see, prior to 2009, they have.

  9. Jamesington says:

    Dude, it’s a joke. sheesh

  10. interplace says:

    Coming from a Timbers fan…

    Vancouver is looking to be a healthy, strong MLS team in their first year. Can’t help but think the caps have some other qualities up their sleeves. Though, it’ll be interesting to see what they figure out for attackers. Good luck to them.

    Looking forward to meeting you next season…

  11. P-town supporter says:

    Hmm… well, coming from a Timbers fan, Seattle has done a lot of things right. Kudos to them. But I think MLS will see a lot of the Pacific North West (not just Seattle’s) characteristics in 2011.

  12. Smapti13 says:

    Whitecaps supporter….

    One item that is being under reported is that the Caps began bringing in players at the beginning of the season including 10 new players during the 2010 summer window. Including a couple of Swiss League players, one(Rochat)that has started in Champions League and one(Chuimiento) who is called the Swiss Ronaldinho.

    For their 24 man roster, I see 12 from last year’s team, 5 from expansion, 5 brand new for MLS and 2 from the draft.

  13. Ed says:

    One could deduce that Canada has nothing to be thankful for, but one would be wrong.

  14. cnd01 says:

    Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. Colder climate, earlier harvest.

  15. Brit says:

    As a Dynamo fan, I have to admit that all three Pacific Northwest teams are already the most exciting thing in the league. I recognize these players and get excited about these games waaaay more than anyone else in the league, although most of these guys are probably just as good as some guy in Kansas City or New England. There’s no doubt to me its because of the fan atmosphere. So to all you haters who complain about “smug” NW fans, chill out. It’s competitive banter, which is good for the league.

    Ives, why didn’t MLS recognize this region when they started up? What took them so long?

  16. Myles B says:

    Terry Dunfield and Davide what-his-name (the Swiss guy) are surefire additions to the team as well.

  17. M0gar says:

    I have to agree with you. On top of my beloved FC Dallas going to playoffs this year, we also have 2 new teams, one of whom (Vancouver) i have high hopes for. As for the rest of the NW, they seem to be an amazing market to open up further with the addition of another team. This is a rather exciting year for the MLS in general.

  18. Steve-o says:

    The Whitecaps have done some things right, but the 15,000 season tickets is WAY off base. Those were reported refundable deposits, not sold season tickets. I am curious to see how the conversion rate to season tickets is going thus far.

    Southsiders….any info?

  19. Steve says:

    Deposits are non refundable and the number of deposits according to the media have reached 16,000. The Southsiders are buying tickets, just not in the area designated by the team.