Over 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 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part two of two previewing Vancouver's 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 11-13-10 (43 points); 35 GF / 41 GA (-6 GD)
Depth Chart: 1. Brad Knighton, 2. Joe Cannon
Strengths: Knighton showed down the stretch and in Vancouver’s first playoff game that he’s a capable starting goalkeeper at the MLS level, and he’s expected to keep his place to begin 2013. But, should he falter, the Whitecaps have a very capable replacement in Cannon – a player some feel could still be the No. 1.
Weaknesses: The club has yet to sign a No. 3 ‘keeper, but it’s difficult to imagine many better one-two combinations in goal. Knighton’s only knock is that he’s never played a full MLS season as a starter.
Wild card: While Knighton is expected to start as the team’s No. 1, Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie insists it will be a battle for the shirt. If there’s a bumpy patch or Knighton costs the team with an error, Cannon could win back the starting spot.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Lee Young-Pyo, 2. Greg Klazura; CB: 1. Jay DeMerit, 2. Andy O’Brien,3. Brad Rusin, 4. Carlyle Mitchell; LB: 1. Johnny Leverón, 2. Jordan Harvey
Strengths: This group is heavily experienced, with three of the expected starters former English Premier League stars. It’s also versatile, with Lee capable of playing in either fullback position, and Leverón capable of playing centrally or as a fullback. Alain Rochat isn’t listed here as he’s expected to play in midfield, but he’s another player capable of slotting in at center back or left fullback, adding to Rennie’s options. Same for Nigel Reo-Coker on the right.
Weaknesses: While the center back and left fullback positions look to have plenty of cover, Lee still needs a proper deputy on the right. Klazura didn’t get a single minute of MLS action last season and it’s unclear whether Rennie trusts him to play regularly. Leverón, who just signed, will have a learning curve, and probably won't start right away.
Wild card: While the veteran trio of DeMerit, O’Brien and Lee headline this back four, the likes of Leveron and Rusin are rising stars who are capable of winning spots and playing time away from the club’s elder statesmen.
Depth Chart: Wingers: 1. Camilo, 2. Paulo Jr., 3. Kekuta Manneh, 4. Omar Salgado, 5. Erik Hurtado; DM: 1. Alain Rochat, 2. Jun Marques Davidson, 3. Bryce Alderson; CM: 1. Nigel Reo-Coker, 2. Gershon Koffie, 3. Matt Watson, 4. Russell Teibert; AM: 1. Daigo Kobayashi
Strengths: This group has plenty of speed and has many interchangeable parts. Some of the players listed are capable of playing in other roles, so may find themselves in the backline or up front. With the likes of Camilo, Kobayashi, Manneh and Paulo Jr., there are also goalscorers (in theory) in this midfield. Having a threat beyond the strikers will be important for the ‘Caps to shirk their reputation as a low-scoring outfit.
Weaknesses: Centrally, there are still some question marks. Kobayashi has looked effective in preseason, but is he just a skill player who’s thriving in the exhibition style of preseason, or can he do it when he’s marked tightly by a team’s top defenders? While there is plenty of skill on the ball with this group, if Kobayashi doesn’t come good, there’s still a playmaking deficit in this midfield.
Wild card: Manneh looks like a player who will be a star in MLS – but it’s unclear whether he’ll make the breakthrough this season. He’s having an electric preseason, but how that translates to league games is unclear. Is he too small at this stage to be as effective playing against men? Will Rennie trust him? If his form carries into the 2013 season, watch out, MLS.
Depth Chart: 1. Darren Mattocks, 2. Kenny Miller, 3. Tom Heinemann, 4. Corey Hertzog, 5. Caleb Clarke
Strengths: Mattocks could become one of the best strikers in MLS, but he needs a full season to prove it. As fast as anyone in the league and with a mighty leap, even knowing what he’s going to do might not be enough for his opponents if he gets a yard on his marker or springs for a 50/50 header in the box. If he times his runs a half-step better, his preseason prediction of 20 goals is not out of reach.
Weaknesses: Beyond Mattocks, this group is highly unproven, with the exception of Miller, who had a disappointing start to MLS in 2012 after signing as a Designated Player. Heinemann, a pure bruiser of a center forward, is coming off of microfracture surgery. Hertzog was a USL Pro star who barely got any time in two seasons with New York. And Clarke is just 19 years old, and a possible loanee.
Wild card: Having had time to settle, Miller could bounce back and earn his DP title. If he plays like he’s capable, he could be more than just a key player for the ‘Caps – he could be one of the stars of the league.