Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2013 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with D.C. United and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2013 record: 13-12-9 (48 points); 53 GF / 45 GA (+8 GD)
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2013 will be remembered as a “nearly” year. The side lost the Canadian Championship to the Montreal Impact by the slimmest of margins – on the away-goals rule.
Then, as the season wore down, the club failed to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs – by just three points. Just one more win could have been enough to bring the side into the postseason for the second year running.
Like 2012, the team had a strong opening half to the season, but also similarly hit a tailspin in midseason that ultimately cost them a playoff position.
Despite a year that will be looked back on with questions of what might have been, there is still plenty to look forward to, especially when it comes to some of the clubs youngsters – led by rookie Kekuta Manneh, whose hat-trick on Oct. 9 led the Whitecaps to a 4-1 rout of the Seattle Sounders – and contributed to the team's Cascadia Cup triumph.
But promise alone does not define a season – it is results, and the failure to win either the Voyageurs Cup or qualify for the MLS postseason ultimately cost head coach Martin Rennie his job.
Best Moment of the Year
Sport often concocts stories that are better than fiction, and it certainly conspired a magnificent plot on Oct. 9 as Manneh introduced himself to the league with a hat trick comprising three well-taken finishes.
Playing with much greater maturity than his 18 years, the speedy striker got in behind the Seattle backline time and again, and was clinical in front of a crowd of nearly 40,000 with his team needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Worst Moment of the Year
The season had just kicked off, and eight minutes later captain Jay DeMerit ruptured his Achilles tendon. While the backline capably dealt with the former US international's absence in the initial period following the injury, once the race for the playoffs began, errors and a general feeling of vulnerability seemed to set in.
It wasn't just the Whitecaps' best goal. It was the league's top strike in 2013. Camilo's flying scissor kick effort against the Portland Timbers on Oct. 6 at BC Place will live long in the memories of those who bore witness to the audacious effort from this year's Golden Boot winner.
Camilo was without doubt the team's most important player in 2013, scoring 22 goals in league play – often in typically highlight-reel style. While the 'Caps were close to squeaking into the playoffs despite inconsistency at the back, it's difficult to imagine they would have been in the hunt at all had it not been for the Brazilian striker's individual brilliance.
It's early days yet, but the decision to select Manneh with the fourth-overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft already looks like a move that will pay long-term dividends. Intelligent, pacy and cool in front of goal, the Whitecaps have a player who could go on to become one of the league's top performers.
“I would say that we were stagnant,” club president Bob Lenarduzzi's said of the 'Caps season on Vancouver radio station TEAM 1040 in the leadup to the final game of 2013. “The competition in the division – it's clear for everyone to see – other clubs upgraded, as did we, but just not enough. Too many points dropped at key times. I would say that we probably maintained where we were, but most people would view it as having regressed because we haven't made the playoffs.”
1. New coach: With the head coaching job currently vacant, this has to be the No. 1 priority for the club as it plans for the 2014 season. The current situation has put many people involved with the club in limbo, and the longer this search stretches on, the harder it becomes to prepare for the coming campaign.
2. Right fullback: Lee Young-Pyo (pictured right) was brilliant in 2012 and steady in his final campaign in 2013. He leaves a big hole on the right side of defense – beyond bringing in a new starting player here, the side also needs to bring in a deputy at this position as playing Nigel Reo-Coker at the back hurts the midfield.
3. Attacking midfield: A year and a half later, the Whitecaps have yet to effectively replace Davide Chiumiento. The signing of Daigo Kobayashi was an attempt to remedy that situation, but the once-capped Japanese international turned out to be a spectacular flop. With the club taking a pass on Kobayashi's option, finding a creative central player is of paramount importance for the new boss.