Unlike Toronto, you can't label Vancouver as lacking ambition and the club was rewarded for this effort last season by being the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs. That being said, there are some concerns regarding this ambition, especially when it involves MLS clubs signing international based players. The Whitecaps have had a history of signing players that have raised a few question marks regarding their eagerness, with negative outcomes like Mustapha Jarju, but also a huge positive in Lee Young Pyo.
In my projected data for the Whitecaps last season, I did have Lee performing well because of his success around the world playing in England, Holland, and Saudi Arabia. In 2013, I expect a quality season out of Nigel Reo-Coker because of his proven track record and for consistently playing a large amount of minutes for each club he's been at. I have concerns regarding Daigo Kobayashi, who after a failed experience in Greece was unable to reestablish himself back in Japan over the last two seasons before joining the Whitecaps.
That being said here is analysis of the current 2013 Vancouver roster.
It seems that Brad Knighton will finally replace Joe Cannon as the starting keeper, which I'm a fan, as last season Knighton had a 0.81 goals against average compared to Cannon who had a 1.34 goals average. There were some concerns regarding Knighton's ability as an MLS goalkeeper but he did have a very successful time in the NASL. Although the Whitecaps goalkeeping is not the best in the league it shouldn't cost them too many goals.
YP Lee played very well last season and added an offensive threat in the buildup via the right wing. Lee will be 36 this season, which raises the biggest concern regarding the Whitecaps defense: that being age and can they maintain health and expected performance? Based on historical data Rochat would be listed as the starting left back although new signing Johnny Leveron might eventually take over the role. Based on his college career there are still hopes for Greg Klazura to develop into a MLS starter, although based on the other option I don't think he will get significant minutes.
Demerit and O'Brien both have a decent track record, which includes experience in the English Premier League. The issue is they are both in there mid 30's, but if they remain healthy they should be defensively one of the most consistent parings in the MLS. Both players are also taller than 6 feet, however, they don't have the scoring record of other defenders with similar height. Brad Rusin will be decent back up when needed and plays a similar style.
The signing of Nigel Reo-Coker should give Vancouver the most formidable holding midfield paring along with highly regarded MLS prospect Gershon Koffie. Both play a "bend not break" defense and are willing to take a yellow to prevent an opponent's counter attack. I project Reo-Coker will take more offensive liberties in joining the MLS and expect both goals and assists from him, while Koffie showed last season that he can provide some offence via a pass or long range shot. Davidson provides decent depth after playing 1640 minutes last season and if the Whitecaps choose to play more forward Matthew Watson can be used as a Central Midfielder.
I project Vancouver's main formation being a 4-2-2-2 with two attacking midfielders or wingers to compliment the holding midfield and forwards. I have some concern with the choice of players both projected as starters: Kobayashi and Camilo could be perceived as selfish players who like to play more centre than the wings and like to take shot over a pass. This was one issue the Whitecaps had last season where they had poor build up, but able to score the individual goal. Where Vancouver might find an alternative is in their first round draft picks in Eric Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh. Manneh has had a incredible 18 months going from an unknown to a GA pick, and he could be the Whitecaps secret weapon like Mattocks was last season, however he also has a history of over enthusiasm and horrendous tackles.
I'm not sure the Whitecaps ownership knew what they were getting when they paid Kenny Miller $1,200,000 a season. The striker has scored in the past, but if you breakdown his successful seasons it was part of a dominating side. When asked to be the star player he failed to perform, including scoring only 6 goals in over 4000 English Premier League minutes and two relegations. I think if he plays his talent will equal some success and I predict he'll score 8 goals this season, but can also be the teams top assist man.
I thought Darren Mattocks should have been top draft pick in 2011, as he was in my MLS prospect list in 2012 and I find him the most exciting player to watch in the MLS. The question becomes can all this talent equal a great statistical performance? I think he has tendency of getting injured and missing chances but if it all comes together for him he could be a game and season changer. I also like Corey Hertzog on the bench as he showed to be a useful player in the USL Pro last season. The big question is if Omar Selgado can develop into what was expected, and if so, him and Mattocks could be one of the most dynamic forward duos.
It's unfortunate that I did a whole preview of the Vancouver Whitecaps and didn't mention any Canadians. Unfortunately it's hard to see where the Canadian players will get minutes. Telbert and Alderson are more conventional midfielders, which I don't believe fit in the best formation for the 2013 Vancouver Whitecaps, while Clakre will also be behind Araujo Jr. and others in terms of gaining minutes as a forward.
Overall, I think Vancouver are a decent team, the problem in evaluating them is how they compare with other MLS sides and unfortunately I don't think they have the proven players in all positions to compete with the top clubs. I project Vancouver to score 48 goals this season, and I'm concerned that despite a great holding midfield that an aging defense will allow 45 goals for a +3 overall. This puts them around the same position as last season: fighting for a playoffs spot in a difficult Western Conference which will include a stronger Dallas and Colarado side, so I could see the Whitecaps missing the playoffs in 2013.