VANCOUVER, B.C. — If there’s anything that jumps out about the new coaching staff so far, it’s that they aren’t frightened to experiment.
The Vancouver Whitecaps used this weekend’s intrasquad game to tinker and place players in unfamiliar positions. One of the positions that troubled the Whitecaps was right back during the 2011 MLS season, however the staff may have found a ready made replacement within their squad.
“I thought Gershon Koffie looked good at right back,” assistant coach Paul Ritchie told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s something we’ll consider over the close season. Depending on who we look to bring in and what players are available, then that might be a possibility. I think he’s a young lad who has got so much potential.”
The right back position has been a well-documented problem spot, as incumbent Jonathan Leathers struggled with fitness and form down the stretch. That prompted interim head coach Tom Soehn to give opportunities to Bilal Duckett, John Thorrington and notably Jeb Brovsky, who seemed to make the position his own during the final weeks of the season.
Still, it’s a position the Whitecaps need to address, from within or without, and the new coaching team recognizes that. However, trying out arguably the most impressive central midfielder from the 2011 campaign in that role definitely raised a few eyebrows.
Yet Ritchie praised Koffie’s versatility and looks for more of the same from other players.
“That will give him the best possible outlook to play in a game," RItchie said. "If he can play a number of positions, that can help him in the future.”
Another position where the Whitecaps seemed to have a revolving door policy last season was central midfield. Only the aforementioned Koffie seemed to stake a claim for a starting role.
Terry Dunfield, Jeb Brovsky, Peter Vagenas and finally John Thorrington all took turns playing alongside the Ghanaian, and now the coaching staff is using this training camp to look at players like Russell Teibert as a central midfielder. Teibert also got a run out at left back, a position he got a feel for under Soehn this season.
“It’s just a starting point right now and it’s just about getting back into game shape and finding my way again,” Teibert said. “It was a long season and I had a couple of bad injuries, but it’s a new starting point and I can’t wait to get things started.”
Other experiments of note this week were the use of Mustapha Jarju as a winger, Brovsky as a central defender and Phil Davies as a right fullback.
“It’s a blank canvas,” Ritchie said. “It’s our job, it’s our responsibility to find the best players in the best positions, and that’s why we have moved them about and we’re getting some good ideas.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.