With the 2023 MLS campaign kicking off on Feb. 25th, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will look to improve upon their 2022 season that saw the club miss out on the playoffs. Heading into their season opener that will see the Caps host Real Salt Lake this Saturday at BC Place, there is some optimism surrounding this squad who could make a playoff push with their off-season moves.
Recapping the 2022 season, the Whitecaps finished 9th in the Western Conference with a record of W12-7D-15L, missing out on the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, which saw them lose to Minnesota United in a do-or-die scenario on the final day of the MLS regular season.
The Whitecaps have never been — and safe to say won’t ever be — a big spending club in MLS as they don’t have the resources from deep pocketed owners. That said, during this transfer market, the club made important moves and addressed areas of need. The club brought in eight players:
MF Ali Ahmed (VWFC2),
DF Karifa Yao (CF Montreal)
FW Simon Becher (VWFC2)
MF J.C Ngando (2023 MLS SuperDraft)
Gk Max Anchor (VWFC2)
DF Mathias Laborda (Nacional)
GK Yohei Takaoka
FW Sergio Cordova
Most notable moves was bringing in centre-back Mathias Laborda and striker Sergio Cordova.
Laborda was an important piece for Vancouver to pick up as the club last year struggled mightily in the back line. In their back three formation, they conceded 57 goals which ranked as the 2nd highest goals allowed in the Western Conference. The U23 Uruguayan International played 101 games under his belt with Nacional. He will be leaned upon to be a difference maker to help this side cut down on high danger chances that lead to goals.
Sergio Cordova comes into the fray and will ultimately replace Lucas Cavallini as the teams new No. 9. The Venezuelan international found his form late in the season with Real Salt Lake. The 25-year-old netted five goals in his last 11 regular season games with RSL. In the postseason in a 5-3 loss to Austin FC, Cordova found the back of the net twice in only 60’ minutes of action. The Whitecaps were the third lowest scoring side in MLS last season and the club hopes Cordova can turn their fortunes around.
MF Janio Bikel (FC Khimki)
MF Michael Baldisimo (San Jose Earthquakes)
DF Marcus Godinho (Korona Kielce)
FW Lucas Cavallini (Club Tijuana)
DF Jake Nerwinski (St.Louis City SC)
FW Tosaint Ricketts (Retired)
DF Derek Cornelius (Malmö FF)
The most notable departure from the 2023 roster is Lucas Cavallini. The Canadian International signed a three-year deal with Vancouver in the 2019/20 off-season for a club record $5 million. While the centre-forward showed brilliant skill at times, he just didn’t live up to the billing as the star of the team with his inconsistent play. In 68 career games with Vancouver, he netted 18 goals. The club declined to sign the forward in the offseason which saw his return to Liga MX with Club Tijuana.
One thing the Whitecaps lacked at the beginning of the 2022 season was depth. The lack of quality on the pitch and the bench paved the way for a slow and ugly start to their season. Now the club has a full season with MLS veteran Julian Gressel and midfielder Alessandro Schöpf, who joined the club in the summer of 2022. After the additions, the club worked it’s way into a playoff chase. This season should be a much better start with the roster they have under third year skipper Vanni Sartini. With the upgrades at the back, the forwards and midfielders won’t have to help out as much to bail out a shaky defensive core. They should be in a better position, competing for a playoff spot and remaining competitive in a tight postseason chase. The Whitecaps have the ability to finish as high as sixth in a tough Western Conference.