After a tumultuous offseason, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking forward to finally getting down to business in Saturday's season opener against the New York Red Bulls at BC Place (7:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada, MLS Live in the US).
There won't be Camilo after his high-profile transfer dispute which ended in his sale to Mexican side Querétaro FC in January, but there will likely be two new Designated Players in midfield for the 'Caps in Matías Laba and Pedro Morales, in addition to one-time MLS All-Star Steven Beitashour at right fullback.
While any team losing a Golden Boot winner is surely a blow, the sum of Vancouver’s three new additions could be viewed as greater than his loss – 22 goals or not.
“I think it's going to be a very exciting season this year,” midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker told reporters following a training session this week. “We've got some great new additions, some exciting players. We'll be playing great football – great attacking football. Very free-spirited, well-structured, well-organized.”
It sounds good in theory, and the possession-first soccer new head coach Carl Robinson is attempting to instill in his team has been pleasing to the eye at times in preseason, but the biggest challenge for the Whitecaps – and their coach – will be sticking with those on-the-deck principles when times get tough.
“I'll take responsibility if [the players] make mistakes,” Robinson said of the change in system. “I've said to them, the way I want to play, and instill the ethos in this club, there is going to be mistakes, but I've got to accept that.
“If I come down on them like a ton of bricks after one mistake, then they'll go into their comfort zone and they'll go away from what I want. So I'm willing to accept that, and I've let them know that. It's not going to happen overnight, but the building blocks will be in place as we go along throughout the season.”
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But beyond the new systems, formations and offseason ins and outs, the dominant feeling this week at training has been one of anticipation, of finally getting back to competition after more than a month of arduous preseason training and a couple of months of transfer drama.
And for Robinson in particular, stepping foot on the field as a head coach for the first time in his lengthy professional soccer career, Saturday can’t come soon enough.
“I'm very excited, I really am,” Robinson said of his looming coaching debut. “But I'm trying to keep a calm head on my shoulders in there in front of the guys. I said to the guys, 'Listen, let the pressure be on me.' I don't want them to play with any pressure or nerves or anything like that.
“That can all be on me.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.