Another year over and for the first time in what feels like eons, it was a season of regression with a lot of disappointment.
The MLS playoffs were missed for the first time since 2013, as the ‘Caps posted their worst season since their woeful inaugural one in the league. But the USL playoffs were reached for the first time, as WFC2 made a run all the way to the Western Conference final, while the U18 side lost an extra time heartbreaker in the USSDA Championship game.
There is some silverware in the ‘Caps trophy cabinet again, as Vancouver lifted their record-breaking sixth Cascadia Cup title following their final day heroics against Portland. It should have been joined by back to back Voyageurs Cups, but disaster struck in the final few seconds after a massive misplay by David Ousted and Kendall Waston saw the trophy ripped from their hands.
The Whitecaps seemed to save their best form for the CONCACAF Champions League, although you can argue that that was because it was against inferior opposition. But four wins from their four group games not only saw them win their group at a canter and qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in their history, but they ended up with the number one seeding in the region too. Crazy times.
What a season. A year of highs and lows, that bizarrely sent fans home happier and on a high as opposed to the last two that saw continued growth but end with disappointing playoff losses. That’s North American soccer for you.
But all that’s in the history books now, so it’s that time again to look back at the best and the worst, the highs and the lows, and the joys and frustrations from Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2016 season. We’ve 24 awards to dish out, including a couple of new ones, so we’re going to split the results into two parts this season for an easier, and shorter read!
Don’t agree with some (or all) of our choices? Great! Let us know who would have got your votes in the comments below.
And catch up with our choices from previous years:
AFTN WHITECAPS PLAYER OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: CHRISTIAN BOLANOS – Bola seems to be a player that splits opinion. For me, he was the best Whitecaps player over the course of the season. For others, his lack of defensive play and apparent urgency and hustle turned them off. When a player leads your team with eight assists, and chips in with a second on the team goal tally of five goals, I can take that every day of the week. The Costa Rican took a few games to really find his feet in MLS. I’m excited to see what he can bring in 2017 when he’s more comfortable and hopefully has better players around him that are on the same wavelength as him when it comes to reading games.
Runner-up: Jordan Harvey – I had Harvey as my Player of the Year for the first three or four months of the season before Bolanos took over. The veteran had a solid year. There were mistakes certainly, but there’s not many Whitecaps that can put their hands up and say they didn’t make any this season, especially on that woeful defence. When the errors and the goals were coming thick and fast, he was consistently the best player on that backline, but when you’ve had a defensive season like the ‘Caps have just had, making a defender your Player of the Year simply can’t cut it in our eyes.
2015 winner: David Ousted
2014 winner: Pedro Morales
2013 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo
2012 winner: Joe Cannon
2011 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo
AFTN WHITECAPS 2 PLAYER OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: KYLE GREIG – A new award we thought about adding last year, but didn’t. So this year it gets its first outing and is only for WFC2 players that don’t have MLS contracts.
And the inaugural winner of the award is WFC2 captain Kyle Greig. The big striker had a fantastic season for the ‘Caps, and brought a lot more to the team than his 13 goals on the pitch. His run of goals to start the season (10 in the first 11 games) set up the ‘Caps for their postseason run and earned Greig first teams minutes in the Champions League and the friendly against Crystal Palace. Robinson wants to have a look at him in the preseason. Is he MLS quality? Well when you look at the fact that Giles Barnes, Erik Hurtado, Masato Kudo, Blas Perez, and Octavio Rivero only managed to score two goals each this past season, he doesn’t exactly have a high bar to beat! But he’s also a leader in the locker room and was great to have around for the young ‘Caps.
Runner-up: Spencer Richey It was an excellent season for the keeper that saw him get two away starts in the Champions League and knock on the door for a MLS contract.
AFTN WHITECAPS YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: BRETT LEVIS – One of the success stories of the season, Levis earned his MLS contract in August with a string of fine performances for WFC2 over the past two years. He didn’t look out of place in the Champions League minutes he got or in the MLS season finale against Portland, and his work ethic and passion is amongst the best at the entire club. It’s been great watching his rise from PDL to USL and now to MLS. He’s one of the nicest, most humble players you’ll meet and we look forward to continuing to watch his rise and development next season. If he keeps his upwards trajectory he should be challenging for a starter’s spot by the end of next season.
2015 winner: Tim Parker
2014 winner: Matias Laba
2013 winner: Kekuta Manneh
2012 winner: Caleb Clarke
2011 winner: Caleb Clarke
AFTN WHITECAPS RESIDENCY PLAYER OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: ALAN CAMACHO – We’ve had the ‘Young Player’ and “Ones To Watch” awards these past few seasons, but since we’re adding a new WFC2 award, we thought we should add a proper Residency one as well.
The inaugural winner is 17-year-old Alan Camacho. The young striker lit up the USSDA last season with the U16s firing 32 goals in 34 games. A natural goalscorer, Camacho is an exciting talent and one to clearly keep an eye on. His form earned him an academy call up to the USL side this summer and a USL contract could soon be in the offing. He’s moved up to U18 level this season and although he’s only been getting limited minutes so far in a stacked striking department, he’s scored three goals in five appearances at the higher level.
WHITECAPS GOAL OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: BLAS PEREZ v CHICAGO (11/05/16 – 2-1 home win) – Perez’s bicycle kick had it all – the surprise, a last minute match-winning goal, and an amazingly wild celebration. Not bad for an old man! Tied 1-1 at home to a rank rotten Chicago side, it looked like another two points dropped at BC Place by the ‘Caps, before a moment of magic from the Panamanian sent the home crowd in raptures with his second of the match. It was one of those moments that you wondered at the time whether it would be crucial come the end of the season. As it turned out, it mattered not a jot, but we’re left with a great memory and the nagging thought of how much more impact Perez could have had if he’d been played more.
2015 winner: Gershon Koffie v RSL (30/5/15)
2014 winner: Erik Hurtado v Seattle (24/5/14)
2013 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo v Portland (6/10/13)
2012 winner: Darren Mattocks v Toronto (11/7/12)
2011 winner: Eric Hassli v Seattle (11/6/11)
WHITECAPS GAME OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: 4-1 HOME WIN v PORTLAND (23/10/16) – Was there even any other contender out there in such a season of disappointments? The game that showed everyone just what this Whitecaps side was capable of, but sent us all home for the next few months scratching our heads as to why it took until the last game of the season to show it. The fact that the win ended Portland’s season and that Kendall Waston should have had a red card that would likely have changed the outcome of the whole thing, just adds to the wonderfulness of it all and added to the Timbers anger. Misery loves company!
2015 winner: v LA (04/04/15 – 2-0 coming of age home win)
2014 winner: v Seattle (10/10/14 – 1-0 Cascadia Cup clinching away win)
2013 winner: v Seattle (9/10/13 – 4-1 away thrashing of Sounders)
2012 winner: v San Jose Earthquakes (5/5/12 – 2-1 win at BC Place)
2011 winner: v Kansas City (2/4/11 – 3-3 draw at Empire Field)
SAVE OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: DAVID OUSTED v ORLANDO (16/07/16 – BC Place) – Ousted had a few cracking saves this season – an acrobatic tip onto the bar from a David Horst header at home to Houston; a point blank one from Zardes at home to LA; and an across goal scrambler from Ivanschitz at Seattle, that many may have picked as the save of the year but it was heading away from goal at the time, as spectacular as it looked.
For us, the winner came against Orlando on July 16th, with the Dane producing an amazing 88th minute reflex save from a David Mateos header to earn the ‘Caps a share of the points in a 2-2 draw. How he not only got his arm on the header in a split second but also turned it over was fantastic.
We also want to give a special nod to two non-MLS saves. The first from Marco Carducci in the dying seconds at home to Swope Park in an USL game on June 12th to secure a 3-2 victory, and the second an amazing point-blank save from Aidan Aylward five minutes into stoppage time against Dallas in the USSA U18 Championship game that sent the match to extra time. Both were close to winning the award this year, but Ousted gets it for this one, which you can see below from the 3:31 minute mark.
2015 winner: David Ousted v Philadelphia (09/05/15 – 3-0 home win, MLS)
2014 winner: David Ousted v New England (22/3/14 – 0-0 away draw, MLS)
2013 winner: Marco Carducci double save v Victoria Highlanders (28/6/13 – Thunderbird Stadium, PDL)
No award in 2011 or 2012.
WHITECAPS TO WATCH IN 2017:
WINNER: ALPHONSO DAVIES – It was so obvious a choice that we nearly left him off our top three altogether! It’s been an incredible year for Davies. We’ve seen him play matches in the USSDA, USL, MLS, Voyageurs Cup, and the Champions League. And he’s only 15-years-old. I don’t know if anyone has ever mentioned that. Actually, we wanted to mention it one last time as tomorrow is a sad day when 15-year-old Alphonso Davies is no more. It’s his birthday.
As great as this year was, and will be monumental in his career when it comes to looking at all his firsts, 2017 could be a career-defining year for the talented young winger. There will be even greater expectations on him after his impressive performances so far. The better he plays, the more attention and hype he’s going to get. And if he goes through the inevitable rough patch that all young players do, there will be those waiting to pounce and run him down. How he copes with both scenarios will be crucial. We feel he’s going to have an excellent season, even with all the pressure, and the prospect of him and Kekuta Manneh terrorising the wings in MLS is truly a mouth-watering proposition.
Runner-up: Joel Harrison
The future is looking very bright for the Residency centre back. Currently with the U18 side, the ‘Caps are very high on the central defender. He’s already made his USL debut as an academy call-up and was included on the bench for the Western Conference final. If he’s not on the official WFC2 roster come March, it will be a major surprise.
3rd: Michael Baldisimo – the prospect of another Baldisimo joining the USL ranks is strong. He’s another who has already made his WFC2 debut as an academy call-up and has impressed with the U18 side this year. It will be a major surprise if he isn’t amongst the next group of Residency players offered their first pro deals.
2015 winner: Marco Bustos
2014 winner: Marco Bustos
2013 winner: Sam Adekugbe
2012 winner: Ben Fisk
2011 winner: Caleb Clarke
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A WHITECAP AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL:
WINNER: BLAS PEREZ (PANAMA) – Love him or loathe him (we love him – now), there’s no denying that Perez is a productive goalscorer that’s been a great servant to his country of Panama. And he’s still going strong at 35-years-old as Panama seeks to earn its first ever World Cup Finals berth.
It’s been a great year for Perez on the international stage. He scored both of the goals in Panama’s 2-1 win over Bolivia in their opening group game at the Copa America Centenario, and he helped the Panamanians qualify for the Hex and move a step closer to a place in Russia in 2018.
2015 winner: Darren Mattocks (Jamaica)
New award in 2015
BEST AWAYDAY :
WINNER: SEATTLE (2-1 win on 19/03/16) – Now the criteria for this award is the best awayday that we were at! No matter the competition. Not the best away performance, otherwise the 4-3 win in Toronto or either of the two Champions League wins would be in the mix.
Sadly after a disappointing set of preseason games and others, there could only be one winner and that was the ‘Caps fantastic 2-1 win at Seattle on March 19th. The third game of the season, and it pretty much all went downhill in MLS from there. But what a win at the Clink. Two dodgy penalties got the job done, continuing our MLS dominance in middle Cascadia and stoking the rivalry between the two teams even further.
2015 winner: Seattle (3-0 trouncing – 01/08/15)
2014 winner: Seattle (Cascadia Cup clinching 1-0 win – 10/10/14)
2013 winner: Seattle (Cascadia Cup clinching 4-1 win – 09/10/14)
2012 winner: Orlando (preseason Mickey Mouse Cup win!)
2011 winner: Portland (in general)
HERO OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: ALAN KOCH – We got rid of our ‘Coach of the Year’ category a couple of years back. If we hadn’t, Koch would have taken that one away, so that leaves him with our ‘Hero’ award.
What Koch did in transforming a second bottom in the conference WFC2 side to Western Conference finalists in a short 12 months was tremendous. He’ll be the first to tell you that it was a team effort and be quick to point out the contributions of Steve Meadley and Raegan Hall. The USL side is now showing all the trademarks of what made SFU such a powerhouse in NCAA II, with some excellent scouting and recruiting going hand in hand with a great playing style on the pitch. Koch’s team gave Whitecaps fans one of the few real joys in following the team this season and we can’t wait to see what lies in store for 2017 with his exciting young talent.
2015 winner: Pa Modou Kah
2014 winner: Carl Robinson
2013 winner: Carl Robinson
2012 winner: Young-Pyo Lee
2011 winner: Joe Cannon
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: THE MLS DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE – DisCo sucks! As an old punk, I would say that of course, but in footballing terms, there’s no getting away from the fact that a combination of dubious DisCo decisions and some terrible officiating from PRO referees has ruined MLS for many people this season. We could have made either DisCo or PRO our villains of the year, or given them a joint award, which we came very close to doing.
It’s easy to criticise referees, and we are somewhat fed up doing just that. Fans all around the world thing their refs are the worst going. They probably haven’t watched MLS games mind you. There’s been some awful and some headscratching decisions across the league all year long, but behind a lot of it we feel is some fear. Fear of being told a few days later by DisCo that they feel you were wrong and taking all their authority away.
There’s been some very valid DisCo decisions, but there’s been some wrong ones too, and the most annoying aspect of it all is their inconsistency when it comes to certain types of incidents, not to mention players and teams. DisCo is in danger of ruining MLS and undermining referees to such an extent that there’s no way back. Let the refs do their jobs, as bad as they may be at times. PRO are dreadful but DisCo are the real villains of the piece here.
2015 winner: Ricardo Salazar
2014 winner: Mark Geiger
2013 winner: Will Johnson
2012 winner: David Ferreira
2011 winner: Tommy Soehn