Carl Robinson has targeted getting his Vancouver Whitecaps squad younger for the coming season. The natural fall out from that results in losing a lot of experience from his squad.
Jordan Harvey, David Ousted, and Andrew Jacobson have all departed Vancouver. Three regular starters in their 30’s, with an accumulated 26 combined seasons in Major League Soccer between them.
Add in the likes of Mauro Rosales, Fredy Montero, Christian Bolanos, and Sheanon Williams and that’s a wealth of experience and veteran nous to lose from a locker room in one fell swoop.
Some new faces will take their place. You already have the addition of two veterans in Kei Kamara and Efrain Juarez. One who knows the league inside and out and one who has played his club football in three countries on both sides of the Atlantic.
Others like Marcel de Jong become the new veterans that need to step up and share their knowledge and worldly experiences.
Is it enough? Robinson’s confident it is.
“I believe I have [got the right experience in the squad],” Robinson said. “But I would look at adding another veteran guy if I need to and if I am able to do that, but if we don’t I’m quite happy to go with what I’ve got because these guys have had three or four years experience and sometimes you have to reset.
“And when you reset, you have to have belief in your players with what you’ve got. My belief in my players is excellent. The guys who I’ve got here this year, I want to be around. With the injection of the energy and the youthfulness as well as Kei and Efi, but I’m always looking to add.”
Much has already been made of the leadership role expected from Kamara, but perhaps the key addition to the Whitecaps locker room in this regard will be Juarez.
The 29-year-old brings a wealth of experience from a pro career spanning over ten years that has seen him play in Mexico, Scotland, and Spain, and represent his country at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
He’s been brought in to be a leader both on and off the pitch and the first two weeks of preseason have already seen the latter in abundance, with Juarez having regular chats with the younger players, offering advice on playing, positioning, and more.
It’s a role he’s clearly relishing.
“All my experience that I have, I will try and give it to the younger players,” Efrain said. “When you are my age, you’re an example for the young players. The most important thing is to play and be an example, and if they try and get something from you, then it will be so nice.”
These early glimpses of Juarez on the training pitch are one of the prime reasons Robinson was keen to add the midfielder to the ‘Caps squad. He’s been delighted with how quickly Juarez has moved in to the role, not that it’s surprised him in the slightest.
“When I flew down there and I met him and his wife, character-wise, he’s as good as you’re going to find,” Robinson said of Juarez. “He’s very professional in everything he does. He’s a supportive teammate.
“It’s easy when everything’s going great, and everyone’s talking about you, and you’re sitting on cloud nine. It’s when things don’t go your way and you have to put your barriers up. Efi’s a person that is will to be open, expressive, and be totally honest. You need to be honest in this game and he wants to get better. He still has a lot to give. He’s a great addition for us.”
The younger players in the Whitecaps squad are already gravitating towards Juarez during training, and you can be sure they’ll be picking his brain in the training facility as well, keen to see what they can glean from his many years of experience.
“He has a very good pedigree,” David Norman Jr told AFTN. “You could see even after just a couple of sessions he’s a very good player. He’s quality on the ball and he’s always trying to help us young guys. Him, Aly [Ghazal], and Tony [Tchani], I feel I can learn a lot from them upcoming this year.”
Juarez isn’t just here to be a mentor of course. He knows he needs to perform himself on the pitch. He still has many good footballing years left in him and he’s in Vancouver to win trophies and play at a high level. That’s what’s driving him right now. If imparting his knowledge on the younger players in the squad helps the team do that, then that’s the added bonus for him.
“For that, I came to this kind of club,” Juarez told AFTN. “I had the opportunity to talk with Carl and he explained to me the project you have with this club. And for this I’m here. I’ve had the opportunity with all the teams that I’ve been [on] to win something.
“So I’m not here to pass the time. I’m here to win something. To win something important and hopefully we can. Not just me, because we are a team. Hopefully we can do it.”