“For we face no greater battle than the battle within ourselves”
Ancient Chinese proverb
Okay that’s not actually an ancient Chinese proverb but it definitely could be one and, quite frankly, making them up to fit the theme of a post is a lot easier than trying to find an authentic example.
But the fictional and anonymous author of that proverb was right and the wisdom is as true today as it was then.
And those “battles within” apply to the Vancouver Whitecaps as well because one of the most interesting aspects of the upcoming season will be watching to see who comes out on top of the following (Memo to self: insert number here once you’ve run out of ideas) battles.
The Battle on the Left- A lot will depend on which system Carl Robinson opts for but right now there are too many players who play on the left to fit into whichever lineup they go for.
Marcel de Jong made the left back position his own at the end of 2017 but the coach has already hinted he may use the Canadian as one of a back three and that would leave Brett Levis, Brek Shea and Alphonso Davies as the main candidates for the “running up and down the flank” role.
Shea has played there before but didn’t like it and doesn’t have the defensive acumen for Robinson to trust him in the role as more than a stop-gap measure.
Davies has the energy, the defensive responsibility and the attacking threat to succeed but it would be a lot to ask for him to learn a new role and it may well curb his progress if asked to do too much too young.
Levis looked very good the season before last and if he’s fully recovered from his injury he could be the main man. But that’s a big ask and only time will tell if he’s still the player he was or could be.
All of that means the favourite for the role is (PREPARE FOR THE SURPRISE TWIST ENDING) Marcel de Jong because…
The Battle in Central Defence– We can take it as read that Waston and Parker will be on the team sheet, but even if Carl Robinson does go for three at the back there are options other than de Jong to fill the extra position.
Doneil Henry has a lot to prove for a number of reasons and the chances are that, even if he does find that proof, he will be eased into the team as cover rather than a regular starter.
Aaron Maund arrived last season and barely got a run out even when one of the first choice centre backs wasn’t available. If he’s still here come season start he won’t be starting the season.
That leaves David Edgar as a man trying to prove his worth and fitness in the preseason and if he does that then he’s a shoe in for the starting spot.
He’s played in a three-man back line before, he’s experienced but still only thirty and the coach clearly likes what he brings to the side in terms of leadership.
If Edgar doesn’t make the squad then my bet is that the three-man experiment won’t last beyond April.
The Battle in Central Midfield- Ghazal, Tchani and Juarez (with Teibert and Norman Jr. as back up).
That could be it but it’s an awfully robust yet uncreative midfield and while that may not exactly go against the grain for Robinson it would take away too much from the team’s attacking threat.
Ghazal is a definite starter and Juarez hasn’t been brought in to sit on the bench so Tony Tchani will be having flashbacks to the end of the last campaign when the coach indicated he didn’t really trust him in the big games.
The Battle Between the Coach and the players- It almost seems to be a policy to sign “difficult” characters in the off-season.
Kei Kamara has a history and trialist Yohan Mollo has one too and if the rumours of Jordon Mutch being signed are true than he will probably top the lot.
That’s not going to be an easy locker room to control and while Robinson likes to think of himself as a good man manager there’s a fundamental difference between being liked by the players and actually managing them.
This season will determine just how good he is at that.