VANCOUVER, B.C. – After two exits in three seasons at the Western Conference semifinal stage, the Vancouver Whitecaps face the challenge of advancing beyond the level of playoff team to MLS Cup contender.
For manager Carl Robinson, the solution is a rather simple one: score a bit more, and concede a bit less.
While some observers don't care for Robinson's perceived defensive style of play, it's unlikely Vancouver's philosophy will change, even if they do adopt a new formation. But they are also targeting a better output in front of goal to get to that next tier."We scored 50 odd goals, which is probably mid table, in the high top third of doing it," Robinson told MLSsoccer.com this week. "But we conceded 49 goals, which is probably in the bottom tier of the third.
"If we're going to compete ... and get to the next level, we need to score over 50 goals, 55, 60 goals, and concede 40. So it's finding the balance."
Vancouver haven’t had a 20-plus goalscorer since Camilo Sanvezzo left at the end of the 2013 season. They also haven’t had the ideal big, target man that would suit the ‘Caps style to a tee, though Kamara feels he can fit that role well.
"I have watched this team play for a number of years and have seen the different strikers that have been in here and playing," Kamara said. "I've really enjoyed how the wing guys have played. Putting the ball in the box. For me, as a target striker, that's what I want.
But the Whitecaps won’t be pinning all their goalscoring hopes on high crosses into the box. Speed will also continue to be a priority, and a proposed switch to three at the back will see Vancouver look to have success on the wing.
And overshadowed by Kamara is another attacking offseason signing, Venezuelan forward Anthony Blondell.
The 23-year-old Blondell is coming off a hugely successful season, where he led his native country's Primeira Division with 23 goals and won a championship sigh Monagas SC. Robinson doesn’t want to heap too many expectations on the new arrival, however.
"I’ll probably ease him [in] gently," Robinson said. "He's got great potential. He's not the finished article, which is why we've probably got him, because if he was the finished article we probably wouldn't be able to get him. Bringing Kei in has been a big factor as well. I thought the balance of having an elder statesman, as a well a younger potential guy, was right.
"There won't be much expected of him in the early stages. But having said that, if he wants to start the first game of the season because he's banging in goals, he certainly will."