Vancouver Whitecaps preview: Notable adds, biggest question mark, season prediction
After a late-season surge which saw them win their second Voyageurs Cup, the Whitecaps have a chance to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2023 MLS campaign.
Amid CF Montreal’s record-breaking year and Toronto FC’s disaster, the Vancouver Whitecaps found themselves somewhere in between.
While the results every week were not all too impressive, Vancouver enters the 2023 campaign with a Canadian Championship title to defend and a spot in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League. The added high-level competition should not only prepare the team for big games in the future, but also bring in a significant financial boost should they find success in the tournament.
There was a struggle to find any kind of consistency in 2022, and that will be priority number one when they host Real Salt Lake at home on Opening Day.
Overview of last season
As previously stated, Vancouver's biggest issue was overall consistency and generating offense, with the club ranking dead last in the West in goals for and expected goals. Defensively, they were somewhat middle of the pack, which is simply not going to be good enough if you struggle to score goals. Their run to the Canadian Championship final was riddled with close calls, but they ultimately managed to win two penalty shootouts en route to their second ever Voyageurs Cup.
Their game plan was executed in a way you simply never see in MLS. They were defensively compact, limited scoring opportunities, and ultimately got the result needed — which is all that really matters in a tournament like this.
In the offseason, the Whitecaps took a long hard look at the holes in their squad that needed filling and opted for quality over quantity. Goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka and central defender Mathia Laborda were both brought in to reinforce a defensive corps that was hemorrhaging chances and cheap goals, especially with defender Derek Cornellius departing for Malmo in Sweden.
With Lucas Cavallini headed to Mexico, center forward Sergio Cordova could be the perfect replacement up top, matching the profile needed to kickstart their offense. Physically imposing and extremely accurate, Cordova has the innate ability to generate chances and goals seemingly out of nowhere, which could be crucial with Vancouver looking to once again play a similar style.
Biggest question mark: Can this team improve?
This team’s core is relatively unchanged and the arrivals from this off-season have been picked to address specific problem areas on the field. With that in mind, this is now a season where Vancouver should look to become one of the biggest surprises in the Western Conference. They know the level they can play at and now have a blueprint on how to most effectively embrace their style of play.
Their Voyageurs Cup victory should become the standard they play at if they want to embrace the idea of a close-knit, difficult-to-break-down team.
Biggest X-factor: Pedro Vite
Pedro Vite has very quickly established himself as one of the most entertaining and dynamic young forwards in Major League Soccer. He announced himself last year by showing he has the talent and vision to become one of the best advanced playmakers in the league.
A mix of speed, vision, and the elite sense of knowing where his teammates are, Vite has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to bring the Whitecaps forward.
If Vancouver wants to see any kind of success next season, Vite will need a significant uptick in minutes and should have the team’s offensive ideas shaped around him. He will be the catalyst that allows Vancouver to become more dominant in possession and also kickstart an offense that has seemingly stalled.
The Whitecaps should absolutely back themselves to be a better team than last year. The Western Conference has become a lot more talented and the parity is greater than ever, but if they can replicate the end-of-season form that saw them almost sneak into the postseason in 2022, this team could be one of the biggest surprises of the season.
Playoffs should be the club’s main objective, but they absolutely have to become a better team on the road. A record of 2-11-4 away from BC Place is unacceptable for any team looking to compete in the postseason.