From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat, Joe Cannon has seen it all in his 14-year MLS career.
The Bay Area native has won the MLS Cup and two Goalkeeper of the Year Awards, but 2011 showed him how the other half lives as his Vancouver Whitecaps finished their expansion season tied for the worst record in the league.
The picture for 2012, however, looks considerably brighter.
“I know this team is capable of some great things,” Cannon recently told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “But first and foremost, we have to be more competitive on the road. We have to think about becoming a playoff team – that’s the immediate goal.”
The arrival of backline reinforcements Martín Bonjour and Lee Young-Pyo should go some distance towards achieving that goal. During preseason matches, the pair has already shown a desire to get on the ball and keep possession in tight areas rather than simply hoofing clearances upfield.
Bonjour in particular made a number of forward runs against the Montreal Impact in a preseason match last Friday, including one in which he set up Eric Hassli for the winning goal in a 3-0 romp.
“It’s kind of fun to watch sometimes,” Cannon said. “The composure that we have in the back is pretty incredible. Guys like Y.P. [Lee] and Alain [Rochat], and mixed in with the center backs. I’ve been pretty impressed with how we’ve been doing but we still do have room to gel and become a lot better.”
It’s not just the backline which has seen an overhaul. The coaching staff is completely different, with new head coach Martin Rennie and his assistants Paul Ritchie, Carl Robinson and Jake DeClute bringing in a fresh philosophy and a new way of looking at the game.
“I’ve been very impressed with this year’s staff,” Cannon said. “I really like Martin and I really like the coaches he’s brought in. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather try and finish a career with. Not only do I feel I’ll become more knowledgeable and a better soccer player for having them, but I’ll also learn a lot more about the game.
“They approach their jobs with so much professionalism, organization and really with a lot of different methods on attacking an individual problem,” Cannon continued. “It’s been great to watch, and for me, I hope to stay here as long as I can to learn as much possible. These guys are the real deal.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.