I hope you have your vaccine shots and passports ready, because we're leaving the country. That's right, we're headed to Canada! We begin our 3-part tour of America's Neighbor in Vancouver.
Home Stadum: BC Place - Vancouver, British Columbia
KEY LOSSES Jeb Brovsky (Expansion Draft) Jay Nolly (traded to Chicago) Shea Salinas (traded to SJ Earthquakes)
MAJOR ADDITIONS Martin Bonjour (Rampla Juniors) Sebastien Le Toux (trade from Philadelphia) Lee Young-Pyo (Al-Hilal) Barry Robson (Middlesbrough, arriving in July)
Player To Watch: ERIC HASSLI He didn't lead Vancouver in goals or assists last season, but he was most certainly number one badass. He is also the best finisher on the team, and if he can maintain form and/or pick up a few less card based suspensions, he will be the most productive player on the Whitecaps.
Supporter Profile SOUTHSIDERS Although the Whitecaps struggled mightily on the field in their first season, they were a success in the stands, doing well with attendance. Their oldest and largest supporters group is The Southsiders, who had a good showing in their first year in MLS. They will be looking to build on 2011, the outcome of which may depend a bit on whether or not Vancouver can pick up better results on the pitch.
2012 OUTLOOK: Expansion teams are generally given a pass in their first year (its extremely difficult to be a contender right out of the gate in MLS), but fans will be expecting more than a last place finish for 2012. Although Vancouver looked decent at times, they had a horrendous defense and couldn't keep up in MLS. This lead to coach Teitur Thordarson getting axed halfway through the season (he has since been replaced by Martin Rennie. Both Thordarson and Rennie had strong resumes based on success in the USL, but hopefully Rennie will be able to stick around a bit longer (personally I think most of Vancouver's issues came from their roster makeup, not coaching). The 'Caps look a bit better than last year on paper, with major boosts to the midfield coming from Sebastien Le Toux and Barry Robson. Lee Young-Pyo and Martin Bonjour should upgrade the defense, but it still looks a bit weak. If all of Vancouver's starters, including Nick Cannon, Jay DeMerit, and John Thorrington, stay healthy they could have a solid season, but the depth that surrounds them isn't really MLS quality.