Continuing Waking the Red's build into the first game of the 2015 season, I exchanged some questions with Jon Szekeres of SB Nation's Vancouver site, Eighty Six Forever to shed further light on a few nagging concerns heading into the weekend.
Question the First:
Carl Robinson is entering his second year as head coach in Vancouver. Following his last-minute hire and a somewhat surprisingly successful 2014 campaign, what sort of expectations are had for the club this season? Is he under pressure? Or does the club see him as the long-term man for the job, despite a stacked Western Conference, where results, or at least success, may not come easily?
Carl Robinson was such a hit last season in large part because of two things; He had results on the pitch, and absolutely knocked it out of the park with his recruitment and scouting of players. Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, Sebastian Fernandez, Kendall Waston, Steven Beitashour were all added to the roster under Robinson's watch, and each played a pretty important role during the season. For those reasons, I think his leash is about as long as it gets when it comes to Head Coaches. Whitecaps upper management and Robinson seem to have a shared vision of building the core of the club through a youth movement. I mean, this is a business and Robinson will still have to get results out of his club, but I think it would take a monumentally awful season for him to get the boot. That being said, he's under pressure to prove his success wasn't a fluke, and that he can build on the 'Caps post-season appearance, something his predecessor, Martin Rennie, could not.
Question the Second:
Goalscoring was a problem for the side, while the loss of Jay DeMerit and Andy O'Brien leaves a big hole at the back. Will the new additions be able to solve those concerns?
Pa Modou Kah is a great veteran presence and seems to be loved by teammates wherever he goes, but the Whitecaps are playing a dangerous game if they expect him to be Kendall Waston's full time Center Back partner. Both are aggressive, bull-in-china-shops that rack up the cards, something that cannot work well over the entirety over the season. However, the Whitecaps have a potential breakout player in second year Christian Dean, a recent attendee of a USMNT camp in January. If not, there's Diego Rodriguez, who's very much an unknown quantity. You also forgot Johnny Leveron at the CB position, who was a great depth option for the club and left in the off-season. Up front, Octavio Rivero was brought in to help the attack, but he's been inconsistent in pre-season and is another unknown quantity.
Question the Third:
Russell Teibert has excelled, but is not guaranteed a spot, while Bryce Alderson barely got a chance with the first team. Whom amongst the myriad of talented youngsters developed at the club will be the first Canadian to break through and be a star? Somebody already there, or must the nation wait with baited breath?
While Russell Teibert is the closest because he gets the most playing time, two potential breakout stars for the Whitecaps are Richmond BC's Caleb Clarke, and Winnipeg, MB's Marcos Bustos. Bustos bagged a pair of goals in the pre-season and looked quite good, while Clarke should be hungry to prove himself after coming off an injury while on loan overseas last season.
What's the deal with Vancouver's infatuation with TFC castaways? Robinson, Teibert, Laba, now Earnshaw? Can you just admit the West Coast is nowhere near as cool as the East?
I would respond to that question, but I'm currently sitting on my deck enjoying the sunshine. (That's right, I went with a weather joke).
Whitecaps are undefeated against TFC on opening day, so I say that beloved tradition continues and 'Caps prevail 2-1.
A huge thanks to Jon for spending some time with Waking the Red – he can be found on Twitter @jonszekeres. Be sure to check out all the latest Vancouver news over at Eighty Six Forever, as well.
My answers to Jon's three questions can be found here.