With the off-season awash with new signings and exciting transfer speculation for the Vancouver Whitecaps it’s been tempting to forget the players who will still be here from the last campaign.
So who will be the 2016 players who need to make an impact in 2017?
Christian Bolaños- It’s arguable that Bolaños was the best player for the Whitecaps last year but it’s also arguable that he slightly disappointed.
That says a lot about the season but it does also offer genuine hope for the coming year.
Bolaños is a smart enough player to have figured out where he (individually) went wrong and it’s just possible that he will have the measure of MLS in 2017.
How good he could be is hard to quantify but, given a fair wind and the right tactics, it’s not inconceivable that he could hit double figures in both goals and assists.
That’s a huge ask and even one of those figures would make a huge difference to the team but (as things currently stand) the Costa Rican is the most likely candidate to be the catalyst to kick-start the campaign.
Kendall Waston- Waston spent much of 2016 in a state of flux between failing to accept there was any issue with the way he was playing and walking to the locker room with yet another red card being waved in his direction.
If he’s learned that he needs to adjust his game at least somewhat (and if the Whitecaps can figure out a way to give him the protection from midfield he was lacking last year) then the loss of David Edgar won’t be felt as keenly.
But if Waston carries on diving into tackles regardless of the consequences then both he and us could face another long season of shortened matches for the big central defender.
Kekuta Manneh- If anybody’s stock rose at all in 2016 then it was Manneh’s as his absence made the heart grow fonder for his ability to run with the ball at pace.
If Manneh is back (and fully fit) then it will at least help to fill any tactical shortcomings which may still be lingering.
That’s probably not a good thing in the long run but Vancouver need a good start to the season to quell the overall sense of anxiety they all seem to experience when things don’t go their way.
Having Manneh in the starting eleven makes that good start at least a little bit more likely.
Alphonso Davies- I’m not in the “Davies is the footballing Messiah” group of people but neither am I in the “He’s just a very naughty boy” group either.
He’s a good young player who needs to play as much football as possible at this stage of his career.
Whether he will get that as a member of the first team squad is open for debate but the concern is that a mixture of searching for the feel good factor and marketing clout will mean more of Davies sitting on the first team bench than being out on the field for WFC2.
Player X- Okay this doesn’t fit the remit of “players who were here in 2016” but his phantom presence hung around BC Place almost as strongly as the sense of futility felt by the forwards that were there.
And it’s almost unimaginable that the Whitecaps won’t announce the signing of a striker in the next couple of weeks (not completely unimaginable but almost) so let’s hope that he’s prepared for the level of scrutiny he will face because if there’s one area of the field that has been the bugbear of the MLS Whitecaps then it’s this position.
They’ve only found one consistent and reliable goal scorer in that time and he fled down south in a typically bizarre circumstance.
The next man on the chopping block doesn’t have to equal Camillo’s Golden Boot winning season but he does have to be somebody who fits the style of play and who can take the occasional half chance.
Get it right and the club will have found a poster boy for the city to love.
Get it wrong and we’re left with another season of watching balls being kicked squarely and firmly into the upper decks and we’ve all had quite enough of the experience thank you very much.