Vancouver Whitecaps: Players to Watch During the 2014 MLS Season
It's been an off-season of change at Vancouver Whitecaps, with 11 new players on their MLS roster and a new coaching team to manage them.
There's been some key additions and of course, one major loss in the shape of MLS Golden Boot winning striker Camilo Sanvezzo. It's not easy to replace a 22-goal forward and Vancouver hasn't tried to. Instead, they have focused on strengthening their major area of weakness last season - the lack of creativity coming from their midfield.
When it comes to picking just three players to watch, you can find them in each area of the team...
KENNY MILLER - The only striker of any real experience in Vancouver right now is their Scottish DP and he is a key player. For the Whitecaps to thrive he needs to not only stay healthy after last season's injury woes, but regularly finish off the chances afforded to him by the new look midfield. After having to do so much of the leg work himself last year, Miller should benefit from the new creative forces, and players who will anticipate what runs and passes to make. He also has an important role to play in helping the crop of young talent as the Caps take the next step.
PEDRO MORALES - In the middle, new Designated Player attacking mid Morales will be where a lot of the new creativity is expected to come from. He is a true number 10 but the adjustment to a new league is never easy and many Europeans seem to struggle with the switch to MLS. He will score goals and provide assists, but can he hit the ground running?
STEVEN BEITASHOUR - New coach Carl Robinson has only brought in two players with previous MLS experience and Beitashour may prove to be one of his best overall off-season acquisitions. He will not only replace the retired YP Lee, but prove to be a considerable upgrade. On his best day, the former San Jose Earthquake is one of the most reliable right-backs in MLS right now and from what he has shown in preseason, he will tear up that right wing. He'll also provide more of an attacking threat and assists than Lee did. Beitashour is likely to be missing for several weeks in May and June when away on international duty with Iran.
(4) BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER
CHRISTIAN DEAN - Vancouver has a very experienced back four. The worry is how healthy they can stay. You have to feel it is extremely unlikely that both Jay DeMerit and Andy O'Brien can go the whole season. Others will step up and the man to really seize his chance should be Dean. The Caps' first draft pick in this year's SuperDraft, Dean, has been a man mountain in the preseason, impressing many and not looking out of place. His bruising challenge on Steven Lenhart in the Rose City tournament, that led to an injury for the San Jose striker, has already endeared him to the fans. Expect his actual play to build upon that and he could be a first team starting regular by the season's end.