Gaffar on MLS: Big season ahead for Whitecaps

Whitecaps forward Darren Mattocks. (CP)
January 13, 2013, 1:31 PM

VANCOUVER — It has been a few months since the Vancouver Whitecaps saw their playoff hopes dashed in LA by the Galaxy.

It’s something Vancouver sports fans are all too familiar with, their team losing to the side that went on to win the league championship.

This year, you can bet Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie and his staff will not want to let that happen. What are they doing to make sure things are different this season? Well, not too much in the last little while.

There has been much talk as well as feedback in the Twitter world about designated player Kenny Miller, and the frustration some fans have with him. Fellow Scotsman Barry Robson has been hit and miss with the faithful in Vancouver.

But the Whitecaps expect to have both of these men at camp when pre-season training starts later this month. What happens in the days leading up to camp or after it starts remains to be seen.

Ones to watch this season for the Whitecaps have to be youngsters Omar Salgado, Gershon Koffie and Darren Mattocks. Each of these players, all under the age of 23, have proven they can play at a high level.

I expect Salgado to come out of the gates flying. He has struggled with a foot injury that kept him out of the lineup for quite some time last season, and after speaking with him he wants to make an impact this year.

Koffie, at 21, has great strength with the ball in the middle of the park and is perfect for MLS not to mention he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball — something he struggled with in his first MLS season.

Mattocks won fans over last year with his blazing speed and ability to outrun most defenders in the league, although most supporters will remember his goal in Toronto where he soared over Milos Kocic to tie the game in the dying minutes. Mattocks in his rookie year led the team in scoring with seven goals, all while missing almost two months due to an off the field injury.

If there is something Mattocks doesn’t lack, it’s confidence and it will go a long way as long as the coaching staff can keep him disciplined this year.

Last year the Whitecaps backed their way into the MLS playoffs and put up a great effort against the Galaxy but in the end fell short. This year, making the playoffs won’t be good enough for the Whitecaps. They want to win.

The Amway Canadian Championship might be something that is overlooked in MLS because it’s the three Canadian teams who are competing, but don’t tell that to any of the Vancouver players who came up short in the past two seasons.

Then there’s the Cascadia Cup, a rivalry between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver. The Sounders and Timbers are two teams the Whitecaps have never beat, but the encounters are always very entertaining to watch.

In the famous words of one NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, “Get your popcorn ready.” It’s going to be a fun 2013 for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Irfaan Gaffar is a Vancouver-based writer who works out of the Sporstnet Pacific Bureau. Follow Irfaan on Twitter.


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