This time of year all the pundits and intelligent analysts are painstakingly combing through preseason reports and game highlights to provide you with balanced and informed predictions about the seasons results.
You came to the wrong place if you want either intelligent analysis or informed season’s predictions, but I will instead provide you with some other, slightly off the board prognostications.
The home opener streak will end
Toronto FC comes in to BC Place in 2015 a far different squad than in past years. That’s partially because “massive roster turnover” is kind of what they do, but mostly because they have a full squad that’s been together for the entire preseason, which is far different than last year. The Whitecaps have won every home opener since 2002 so they’re due a flat performance. While TFC will, as always, find a way to bungle it up over the course of the year, I think they nick the opener.
Kendall Waston will struggle
I don’t want to sound too contrarian, because I do think Waston is a good centre back, but he arrived on the scene late last season and wrote a nearly unbelievable script. Waston’s name was all over every match report. Among his performances was a domination in Seattle, a playoff clinching set piece header, and a season ending handball.
I don’t expect a poor season, per se, but there’s no way Waston can continue at the level he finished last year. Not to mention the fact he’s now without the unruffled and unwavering Andy O’Brien, and will instead be learning a new centre back pairing with either the equally adventurous Pa Modou Kah or the young and untested Diego Rodriguez. I expect a lot of cards, including a red or two, some instability between the pairing, and a few goals conceded where the backline is beaten by movement and intelligence leading to Waston’s flying star crashing back to earth.
Neither will exactly be earthshattering predictions, but I expect Kekuta Manneh and Russell Teibert will have breakout seasons.
Manneh is a league-wide favourite as a breakout star, mostly because we’ve seen it already from the speedster. He’s absolutely frightening for any defender in a 1v1, and he can both create and finish chances. As it seems is always the case with young players, consistency is what is needed, and if found, will make Manneh a star.
Teibert, ironically, has shown consistency over the last year, but his breakout will be if he is able to find a way to impact the game more without everyone just using the words “utility” and “engine”. I think he’ll find it this year, and I expect him to get more involved in the build up and start to use his long passing range more regularly.
Champion’s League will be a success
While it’s unclear if the Whitecaps will have any success in a tight and talented Western conference, their increased depth and glut of young talent means a decent run in the CONCACAF Champion’s League is certainly believable. The fact that the club’s current recruitment seems to come almost exclusively from Central and South America doesn’t hurt, and many of their current squad members will feel right at home in a hostile and hot Central American stadium. And it won’t be just on the pitch. While CCL has failed to really catch on across the MLS, I think the Whitecaps will see strong crowds and general interest, especially if the Caps draw a big Mexican club (or Queretaro)