For the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part two of two previewing the Vancouver Whitecaps' 2012 season. You can find Part 1 here.
Depth Chart: 1. Cannon, 2. Knighton, 3. Sylvestre
Strengths: Cannon has a long history of success in MLS, and this year he comes into the season fit and the undisputed No. 1. Knighton, a veteran of both MLS and the second-tier NASL, will be the No. 2, so there is harmony and stability going into opening day on March 10.
Weaknesses: While Cannon showed glimpses of being one of the best goalkeepers in the league last season, at 37 years old, there are question marks about how long he’ll be able to compete at an elite level. If Cannon does miss time, Knighton has MLS experience but has never been a No. 1 at the top level.
Wildcard: Rennie trusts Knighton from their days together in Carolina. If there’s a slip up on Cannon’s part or if he misses time due to injury, there is every chance Knighton could steal the starting job.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Lee Young-Pyo; CB: 1. DeMerit 2. Bonjour, 3. Mitchell, 4. Boxall; LB: 1. Rochat, 2. Harvey
Strengths: The signing of Lee Young-Pyo has solidified Vancouver’s troubled right back situation, and the arrival of Bonjour means Rochat will be able to play his favoured left back position more often. With Harvey in a backup role on the left, there’s probably no deeper team in that position in MLS.
Weaknesses: With DeMerit’s injury problems last season and the fact that Bonjour and Lee will need time to adjust to MLS, a sturdy looking back line could be leakier than expected if fitness and chemistry don’t arrive as anticipated. No natural cover at right back is also an issue.
Wildcard: Mitchell looked very capable following his arrival in MLS late last season. If Bonjour struggles early or if DeMerit has fitness issues, he could find himself starting regularly.
SEE: Preseason Schedule
Depth Chart: LM: 1. Camilo, 2. Teibert, 3. Nanchoff; CM: 1. Thorrington, 2. Davidson, 3. Koffie, 4. Watson, 5. Alderson; RM: 1. Harris, 2. Nguyen
Strengths: There are plenty of attacking options on the flanks this season, with Nguyen and Teibert offering quality from the bench or in the case of injuries. With the club feeling confident about Thorrington’s health, the veteran is expected to provide the stability and leadership that was lacking in the center of the park at times last season.
Weaknesses: While Davidson is a Rennie favorite and has played in Japan’s top tier, he admits it will take time for him to adapt to the physical nature of MLS. If Davidson doesn’t pan out as expected, or if Thorrington’s fitness problems recur, the ‘Caps could struggle once again in central midfield, at least until Robson arrives in July.
Wildcard: Teibert doesn’t appear to be pushing for a starting place just yet, but he showed in his MLS debut what he’s capable of. If he can stay healthy and gets an opportunity, he’ll give Rennie some very difficult decisions to make.
Depth Chart: Striker 1. Hassli, 2. Tan, 3. Salgado. Withdrawn forward: 1. Le Toux, 2. Chiumiento, 3. Mattocks
Strengths: With a deep striker group with plenty of options, including players listed as wingers in this depth chart who can also play up front, there is plenty of room for switching tactics and formations. Inevitably, players of significant quality will be available as substitutes and even if players miss time due to injury, the squad should be deep enough to manage.
Weaknesses: With an influx of new players and a new coaching staff, which brings with it a fresh philosophy, there could be issues of chemistry or a settling-in period which could make this impressive group look quite ordinary. Keeping everyone happy will also be a challenge for Rennie as it appears those on the fringes of this group will play very little.
Wildcard: Mattocks offers something no other forward on the team has – blistering pace. Against tired defences the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft could be deadly, and he has the potential to become the sort of impact sub any MLS club would envy.