It’s the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 10th season in MLS, and much like their inaugural campaign, they’ve undergone significant change during the off-season.
From a new sporting director to a litany of signings on the pitch, the Whitecaps will hope this major overhaul leads to improved results to win back the trust of the fan base.
Here are three things you need to know about the Whitecaps before they open their 2020 campaign on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City at BC Place.
Changes up top
The Whitecaps never officially had a sporting director on the club’s books. That changed in November with the hiring of former Mainz and Schalke executive Axel Schuster.
The 46-year-old German was in a supporting role alongside renowned German director Christian Heidel at both Bundesliga clubs. Therefore, he was never involved with the sporting decisions. However, he’s helped bring in the likes of Canadian international Lucas Cavallini and Leonard Owusu, who could be crucial pieces for the midfield this season.
Elsewhere, the Whitecaps appointed former Roma executive Mark Pannes as their new CEO. One of his main tasks with the Italians was spearheading the plans for a new stadium in Rome, so a similar proposal could be in Vancouver’s future.
A new “spine”
Cavallini is the marquee signing for the Whitecaps as they splashed a club-record transfer fee to land the Canadian striker from Puebla. The 27-year-old should help bolster a lacklustre attack that’s in desperate need for a more prolific goal-scorer.
The wings were also bolstered with Colombian Cristian Dajome, who had a tremendous campaign with Ecuadorian outfit Independiente del Valle. He played a pivotal role in the team’s Copa Sudamericana triumph last year.
In midfield, Owusu might be the most important acquisition of the off-season. He fits the profile head coach Marc Dos Santos would love to see in a deep-lying midfielder. That should unlock Hwang In-beom’s creativity and get him further forward to combine with the front three. The recently signed Janio Bikel could also be helpful in that regard.
Leonard Owusu's 2019-20 radar with Ashdod.
He's joining #VWFC (per @TheRealJJAdams) and seems to be a good fit for Marc Dos Santos. Can play as a No. 6 or a No. 8. Has the profile of a midfielder who'll complement a Hwang In-beom. pic.twitter.com/rAkMNxJo5v
— Peter Galindo (@GalindoPW) January 21, 2020
Keep an eye on Canadian Ryan Raposo, who has had an impressive pre-season. Chosen fourth overall in this year’s MLS SuperDraft by Vancouver, the 20-year-old could be a breakout candidate for the Whitecaps.
Who’s In, Who’s Out?
• Bryan Meredith (GK)
• Cristian Gutierrez (D)
• Ranko Veselinovic (D)
• Gianfranco Facchineri (D, homegrown)
• Cristian Dajome (M)
• Leonard Owusu (M)
• David Milinkovic (M)
• Patrick Metcalfe (M, homegrown)
• Damiano Pecile (M, homegrown)
• Ryan Raposo (M, SuperDraft)
• Lucas Cavallini (F)
• Sean Melvin (GK)
• Zac MacMath (GK)
• Brendan McDonough (D)
• Scott Sutter (D)
• Doneil Henry (D)
• Victor “PC” Giro (D/M)
• Brett Levis (D/M)
• Lass Bangoura (M)
• Michaell Chirinos (M)
• David Norman Jr. (M)
• Jon Erice (M)
• Joaquin Ardaiz (F)