2020 Season Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps

It’s been a tough couple years for the Vancouver Whitecaps since they last made the playoffs in 2017  …  but a significant overhaul of the roster under Marc Dos Santos provides a glimmer of hope for 2020.

The Whitecaps made their biggest investment at the No. 9 position, breaking a club record to bring in an in-his-prime Canadian international, but that was far from the only question they had to address in the offseason after a last-place finish in the West in 2019. In spite of all that, they have a talented coach in Dos Santos, and if he can coax some improvement out of his defense and successfully integrate several new acquisitions into the starting lineup, Vancouver could be set to surprise in 2020.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 34 points (8W-16L-10D), 12th in West / 23rd overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
  • Canadian Championship: Eliminated in 3rd Round (vs. Cavalry FC)

Star players

  • Lucas Cavallini — Canada's top top No. 9 will expected to be a star on arrival in Vancouver after they spent a reported $6 million to bring him in. He brings with him solid scoring record with Puebla in Liga MX, and he'll need to deliver the goals in MLS if the 'Caps are to have any hope of a playoff run.
  • Inbeom Hwang — The South Korean international was a Designated Player addition a year ago and showed some moments of promise in 2019, but said himself towards the end of the season that he "might not have shown my 100 percent here yet. Maybe not even 50 percent.” A step closer to 100 percent for Hwang — not to mention some help for him in the center of the park — would be a welcome sight for in Vancouver in 2020.
  • Maxime Crepeau — The goalkeeper was a revelation after coming over from Montreal last year, in part because he had so much work to do. He's likely to be a busy man again in 2020, but there is little doubt now that he is up to the task.

Extratime Analysis: Vancouver Whitecaps

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Lucas Cavallini — See above.
  • IN: Cristian Dajome — The Colombian winger arrives off the back of a strong season in Ecuador, with the 'Caps reportedly staving off  last-minute interest from Brazilian giants Corinthians to sign him. If Dajome can form a good understanding with Cavallini, Fredy Montero and the rest of the 'Caps attackers, he'll address a big problem position from 2019.
  • IN: Leonard Owusu — The 22-year-old Ghanaian joins Vancouver after two years in the Israeli top flight with the hope that he can provide some bite and stability next to Hwang in the middle of the park.
  • OUT: Doneil Henry — The 26-year-old Canadian international center back was a regular starter for the 'Caps, but talks with Henry and his representatives after the end of the season ultimately led Vancouver to decide to cash in and transfer him to the K-League's Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The club will now turn to Henry's younger international teammate, Derek Cornelius, to take the next step forward and lock down the center of defense alongside Erik Godoy.
  • OUT: Jon Erice — An experienced Spanish defensive midfielder and the team captain in 2019, Erice didn't quite seem at home in the MLS game. He and the club mutually parted ways with the club just before the start of 2020 preseason.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (3): Maxime Crepeau, Thomas Hasal, Bryan Meredith 
  • Defenders (9): Ali Adnan, Derek Cornelius, Gianfranco Facchineri, Erik Godoy, Cristian Gutierrez, Jasser Khmiri, Georges Mukumbilwa, Jake Nerwinski, Ranko Veselinovic
  • Midfielders (11): Michael Baldisimo, Simon Colyn, Cristian Dajome, Inbeom Hwang, Patrick Metcalfe, David Milinkovic, Leonard Owusu, Damiano Pecile, Ryan Raposo, Andy Rose, Russell Teibert
  • Forwards (5): Theo Bair, Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Yordy Reyna, Tosaint Ricketts

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: In Maxime Crepeau the ‘Caps have a GK who’s proved his ability to keep his team in games no matter how busy it gets — and boy did it get busy for Vancouver in 2019. There’s likely to be more smash-and-grab stuff out of British Columbia this year, and Crepeau’s a good last line of defense for that job.
  • Weakness: Nothing really went right besides Crepeau last season, so yet again there’s been an overhaul. Lucas Cavallini should be excellent as a No. 9 and there will hopefully be improvement from Inbeom Hwang as an 8, but everything else – other than maybe CB Erik Godoy, who had his moments in 2019 – is a question mark.

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 13th in West
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 9th in West 
  • Calen Carr: 10th in West
  • Charlie Davies: 12th in West
  • Matt Doyle: 13th in West
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 11th in West
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 10th in West
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