As the NHL season begins to wind down and the hopes of any Canadian teams making the playoffs continues to dwindle, it’s the perfect time to look forward to new possibilities. March 6 marks the beginning of a new season in Major League Soccer, which means that the Vancouver Whitecaps will return to BC Place in hopes of building off of last year’s successes.
This will be the Whitecaps’ sixth season in MLS play and the team has grown better with every passing year. Many people aren’t even aware of the soccer culture in the city, but with an average of over 20,000 fans per game and a record 11 sellouts last season, the Whitecaps have a higher attendance than the Vancouver Canucks and fall just shy of the BC Lions.
Supporter culture surrounding the team is at an all-time high with Curva Collective, Rain City Brigade, and the Southsiders all having record membership numbers. During the final game of last year’s playoffs against Portland, a number of fans marched down the street to the stadium drumming, singing, waving flags, and lighting flares. The procession was four city blocks long, and while the Caps lost the game and were knocked out of the playoffs, it hinted that the best was yet to come.
The new season brings new promise, with the core of team remaining intact and many players being resigned to multi-year contracts. As for new additions, coach Carl Robinson has looked to build his front line and bolster the team’s scoring, which was limited at times last season. Masato Kudo was brought over from Japan where he was the all-time leading goal scorer for Kashiwa Reysol of the J1 League. Also joining the team is Christian Bolanos, a Costa Rican who has played over 60 international matches and appeared in two FIFA World Cups.
Finally, striker Blas Perez was obtained from FC Dallas. Perez, who was always a thorn in the side of the Whitecaps, will hope to transfer his skill of scoring goals against Vancouver to scoring for Vancouver. He is tied for third in goals scored against the Whitecaps since they joined the MLS. Over the last couple seasons, the Whitecaps have put a strong focus on building their team from within, dedicating a lot of time and resources into their residency program and lower division affiliate Whitecaps FC II.
New additions and residency players will play a huge roll in the coming season as the depth of the team will be put to the test through three competitions, The Voyageurs Canada Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, and regular season MLS play. Last season the Whitecaps were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage, however it was clear that focus was being put on the team’s playoff positioning and Canada Cup.
This year might tell a different story as the Caps will have more team depth to fully commit across all competitions. As for the Canada Cup, Vancouver enters the tournament as the top seed after having won the competition last year with a 2–0 victory over Montreal in the final game. Ironically, it will be Montreal against whom the Whitecaps will open their season on March 6. With the team that is being assembled, this season is looking to be something special.