VANCOUVER – With a 9-7-7 record, the Vancouver Whitecaps sit in fourth place in Major League Soccer’s very competitive Western Conference.
There have been changes aplenty for the ‘Caps throughout the season, but the one thing that has remained constant has been the team’s consistency and all the credit goes to coach Martin Rennie and his staff.
Vancouver right now is in a playoff position and has been playing some very good soccer as of late. But there is still a lot of talk surrounding the team, questioning if the Whitecaps are for real?
The answer is simple: yes, they are.
There have been many times during the 2012 campaign when Vancouver has shown flashes of brilliance and proven it can compete with and beat the best clubs in the league on any given night.
The depth of this Whitecaps squad is only getting better and stronger, and all of the players have bought into the system that Rennie has implemented.
Jay DeMerit, Joe Cannon and the rest of the team’s leadership core have been nothing but great in helping mold the younger players and aiding them as they take their first steps to becoming a professional.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Whitecaps with road games against tough opponents such as Seattle, Portland and LA.
It’s a tough stretch, but with John Thorrington and Atiba Harris having put their injury woes behind them and now ready for action, as well as youngster Omar Salgado slowly on his way back, the ‘Caps will likely head into the playoffs with a lot of their bench players fully capable of starting a match if called upon, which is something Rennie will love to have.
Through 23 games, the Whitecaps have scored 26 goals and conceded 25, all this coming even though Vancouver ranks third from the bottom in MLS in total shots with 247 to date.
Statistics aside, covering this team on a daily basis and watching each and every one of their games, I can honestly say that fans should breathe easy — this team in my opinion will do well in the playoffs.
Even though the Whitecaps faltered in the Amway Canadian Championship, they quickly moved forward and refocused on making the MLS playoffs (which they will) and compete for a shot at the MLS Cup (which they are fully capable of).
The one thing the Whitecaps have this season, which they didn’t at all at any point last year, is swagger.
Darren Mattocks alone has enough swagger and confidence that it oozes off onto his teammates, and when Barry Robson makes his home debut and gets into it with David Beckham, he’ll have the support of not only his teammates but the entire city.
What the Whitecaps are doing and the way they are playing should not be a surprise to anyone in MLS.
So again, are the Whitecaps for real?
In my opinion, the question should be what can’t the Whitecaps achieve this season?
Irfaan Gaffar is a Vancouver-based writer who works out of the Sporstnet Pacific Bureau. Follow Irfaan on Twitter.