Updates since original posting
- Defender Jose Aja traded to Vancouver Whitecaps. This seems to be a replacement for Tim Parker who will soon be traded. If that is the case, expect him to slot into the starting lineup as a replacement.
2017 Vancouver Whitecaps Review
2017 was a mixed bag for the Whitecaps. One one had, they made it back to the playoffs after missing out in 2016 and made it to the semifinals of the CCL. On the other, they struggled to find a true tactical identity and exited the playoffs on an embarrassing series against Seattle. Still, many of Vancouver’s core players improved from 2016
Key Exits: David Ousted, Sheanon Williams, Christian Bolanos, Matias Laba, Andrew Jacobson, and Fredy Montero.
There has been a lot of change to the Whitecaps roster during the offseason and it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of team they will field in 2018. With the departure of Montero, Laba, Ousted, and Bolanos, Vancouver has shed 4 of its top 10 highest paid player and freed up valuable salary cap space. They’ve also reached down into their USL team an brought in Norman JR and Bevan. While all three of these players played significant minutes for Whitecaps 2, I believe they will primarily be looked at as depth players.
They money saved by dropping older players seems to have been used up on several exciting newcomers. Henry is a member of the Canadian National team, and has spent the past several year playing as a center back for various European teams on loan form West Ham United. Juarez is veteran of the Mexican National team and has experience play at both right back and central midfield. Look for him to bring a lot of experience and versatility to the Whitecaps and serve as a link between the back line and the attack. Blondell was Vancouver’s first sgning for 2018 and is a current member of the Venezuelan National team. He’s received high praise from head coach Carl Robinson for his strength and quickness, and if not for the addition of Kamara, would be a likely starter. Speaking of Kamara, his addition to the Whitecaps is exciting. His addition makes it likely that Robbo will continue with his counterattacking approach, but that style fits Kamara much better than Montero.
Expected/Predicted Starting XI Picture
There has been some talk that the Whitecaps will test out a 3 man back line this season and we’ve seen a little of that during preseason already. It could look something like a 3-4-2-1. While this does leave new comer Blondell on the bench, it does give the Whitecaps the ability to replace Kamara with a fresh big and physical player late game. This formation also allows Vancouver to keep leading assist maker Cristian Techera in the lineup.
Regardless of what formation the Whitecaps start out with, it’s likely that the counter attack will still be a focus. So look for Alphonso Davies and Jake Nerwinski to make runs and send balls into the box for Kamara and Blondell. What’s not clear at this time is if Robbo will have a more stable starting XI than in 2018. This uncertainty could prove problematic for Fantasy managers.
I like what I see in the Whitecaps. They have kept a core group of players who know how to work together and they have added pieces that will make them more dangerous. On defense, I’m not quite a sure. There are several new pieces and fantasy managers may want o keep their distance until we find out if a 3 man backline will indeed be the norm. However, if all the pieces fall into place, we should see Vancouver to be a goal scoring power house and a contender for MLS Cup.
Closing Fantasy Thoughts/Conclusion
The bread and butter fantasy players will be Kamara and Techera. Davies and Nerwinshki could have several games with good point returns, but I expect them to be more boom or bust. On defense, I want to wait and see what Robbo settles on. Tim Parker and Kendall Waston were great for points last year, but Henry will be pushing for a spot and could cut into their returns.
The only position I have not touched on yet is keeper. It’s likely that Stefan Marinovic will be the starter when the season kicks off next month, but Rowe will be tough competition and could quickly replace him if he starts slow. Keep an eye on their price for a potential good value.