Thursday (Friday) Thoughts: Breaking down a busy week for the Vancouver Whitecaps 

After a busy couple of days for the Vancouver Whitecaps, we take a look back at some of the things that went down this week, in another edition of Thursday (Friday) thoughts. 

The pace was bumped up a notch as of late.

It’s been a busy week in Whitecaps land, with news of trades, schedule announcements, signings, preseason plans and the long-awaited report on the 2008 Whitecaps Women scandal all coming out in recent days. After a slow couple of weeks, things have been coming in fast and furious lately, making the push to end the year a busy one.

While we’ve already broken down the big signing of this week the arrival of Lucas Cavallini, as well as looked at what Technical Director Axel Schuster had to say for his team’s plans, we’ve yet to really look at any of the other subjects, which we’ll aim to do in this edition of the column. 

So even though this isn’t Thursday, we’ll break things down Thursday Thoughts style, jumping through each of this week’s Whitecaps news items, as well as look at a mailbag question. After a busy period of news, it’s a good chance to recap all that’s gone on, allowing us to collect our thoughts before what is expected to be a quiet couple of days. 

MacMath filling the shoes of a legend

MacMath punches a ball away against his former team, the Rapids, this season (Keveren Guillou)

The first item of news to come out after the Cavallini signing, backup goalkeeper Zac MacMath was moved to Real Salt Lake this week, becoming their replacement for legendary shot-stopper Nick Rimando, who retired this past season. While the return wasn’t bountiful, as MacMath only fetched $50 000 worth of TAM, it was a good move for the Whitecaps, as it allowed them to free-up MacMath’s starter-level salary. 

From a personal standpoint, it’s an excellent move for MacMath, as well, as he gets the opportunity for regular playing time at a good club, one that’s been relatively stable on the pitch over the years, despite some drama off it. Filling the shoes of Rimando won’t be easy, but considering that MacMath as played behind the likes of Tim Howard at Colorado, if there’s a veteran within MLS who could handle it, you’d figure he would be near the top of that list. 

It finally gives him a chance to be an undisputed starter, something that has eluded him over recent years, as he’s found himself on the wrong end of a couple of 1A-1B goalkeeping tandems, with the latest squadron partner being the emerging Maxime Crepeau. Given that the Canadian International inked a new deal last year, one that surely bumped his salary into starter territory, you figured MacMath’s time was nearing its end, with the destination being the only question mark. 

If anything, the biggest surprise around the move was the destination, because with MacMath being from Florida, it was easy to make a connection to newcomers Inter Miami, at least before they signed Luis Robles as a Free Agent. 

Either way, it’s a good move for both club and player, and it should be something that works out for both parties in 2020. 

2008 report hits the shelves

The next big bit of news to drop this week, the 3rd-party review was something that was much-anticipated in certain corners, given that the review itself had started many months ago. With pressure ramping up in recent weeks for its release, it finally hit the waves Wednesday morning, with the 34-page report ultimately stating that the Whitecaps had not attempted to ‘cover-up’ anything surrounding the handling of the 2008 abuse scandal. 

Many questioned the validity of the report, given that it was funded for by the Whitecaps, and left out what would have been an important testimony from an investigator that participated in the original 2008 investigation, clouding for some the report itself. 

But the content of the report aside, the main goal of getting the team to release the report was not for them to figure out if their treatment of the original situation was right or not, but to use it to enact change. As we’ve seen with the recent moment of reckoning in hockey, where many former players have been vocal surrounding the cycle of abuse that can be set in place from junior hockey up the pros, forcing these issues to the forefront is mostly about pushing meaningful change by having people talk about it. 

Ciara McCormack, the former Whitecaps player who’s original blog post and pressure on the team led to the eventual release of this report, summed it up well on her appearance on TSN earlier this week. On that radio hit, she said that pushing aside whatever was in the report, she is just happy that it’s opened up the conversation again, which hopefully can enact change. 

So hopefully in the long run, this can push forward meaningful actions, starting with small steps to investigate those accused of abusing their players, while pushing structural change from top-to-bottom. In the case of the women’s game, that’ll be pushing for fairer pathways towards the top of the chain, which will be aided by projects such as a potential CPL Women’s league, avoiding linear pathways towards the top, which can create a culture of abuse given a lack of other options, forcing many to stay quiet in a quest to fulfill their sporting goals.

All-in-all, sports are meant to be fun, so hopefully just talking about this issue can create meaningful change, which in the long run, can benefit everyone. Things were done differently in the past, in this case wrongly, so now it’s all about rectifying those errors and making sure that A) steps are made to ensure no cases like this ever happen again and B) that if they do, a proper process can be developed to ensure they’re handled as swiftly and decisively as needed. 

If that can be done, it’ll justify the bravery shown by McCormack and her teammates, as well as prompt change in other sports, which as seen with the recent push in hockey, should create culture shifts so that future generations can enjoy safe sport.

2020 preseason announced

Andy Rose on the ball in a training session at UBC this season (Keveren Guillou)

In lighter news, the Whitecaps preseason schedule was released, and as was anticipated, the 2020 edition will not feature a trip to Hawaii, a trip that appeared to derail the last two Vancouver seasons. Instead, the Whitecaps will start with some closed-door games in California, where they’ll play the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas and a team yet to be announced, as part of a hat trick of games in the sunny state. 

After that, they’ll return to Vancouver, where they’ll continue training, before heading down to Portland to participate in the Portland Invitational tournament. It’s a tournament they had participated in before, but with Providence Park undergoing renovations these past 2 years, it forced Vancouver to look elsewhere, hence the two years in Hawaii. 

But with the stadium now completely renovated, the tournament is back on, allowing the Whitecaps to test themselves against the Timbers, the New England Revolution and Minnesota United in some exhibitions tests, which will played in front of fans. 

All in all, it should allow for an intense preseason, especially if all the players are brought in before everything starts, which should mean for a better start to the 2020 campaign. Training in the California sun won’t be easy, but it should allow them to train outside in favourable conditions, at least compared to the slog of rain in Vancouver. 

After that, the training in Vancouver and subsequent tournament in Portland will be good, as it will allow them to adjust to their usual environment, avoiding a sluggish hangover that training in Hawaii and California appeared to give them last season. It’s not FC Edmonton literally doing army training in the bush as part of their training camp intense, but it’s a big step up from last season, and hopefully it leads to a much better start to the year in 2020.

2020 season schedule announced

Speaking of start, we now know the rest of the Whitecaps schedule beyond the first two games, as the 2020 MLS schedule was officially released. Home schedule-wise, they only have 1 midweek game, and only 3 weekend, midweek, weekend cycles, all of which follow more natural travel rhythms than the rigurous ones they had to endure last year. 

While the derby schedule isn’t as good, as the much-anticipated Portland and Seattle trips fall 1 week apart in mid-to-late April, the rest of it appears rather favourable, at least compared to the grind of last year. 

Our colleagues over at 86 forever did a good job breaking down the quirks of the schedule, so if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty surrounding all of that, make sure to check out the piece on their website. 

Onto the mailbag…

Not much mail in our mailbox this week, understandably so given that people are mostly filling up actual mailboxes with gifts for their loved ones this holiday season, but we did receive an interesting challenge from Caleb Wilkins from 86forever…

It’s an interesting question, one that some other users on twitter decided to partake in, finding some interesting names. Given Schuster’s lengthy tenure at Mainz, as well as his short but memorable time at Schalke, there were a lot of names that came up, and here is some that caught my eye, no matter how realistic/unrealistic they are:

Johannes Geis:

A defensive midfielder, 26 years old, possibly undervalued given he plays in the second Bundesliga, 5 goals and 5 assists in 16 games, it’s easy to see why Geis was at the top of many people’s suggestion list. If he could be brought in on a TAM deal, it could be a tidy piece of business from Vancouver

Max Meyer:

A lot less realistic, but 24 years of age, attacking midfielder, playing for Crystal Palace, he’d definitely fall into the MLS 3.0/4.0 signing based on his value (around 10 mil), as well as his age. He’d definitely bolster that Vancouver midfield though… (pending on if Vancouver could free up a DP spot..)

Andre Schurrle:

Has connections to Vancouver (not necessarily positive ones though…), winger, World Cup winner, he’d definitely bolster this squad. His contract expires next summer, he could be looking for a new challenge after a season in Russia, he could give Vancouver a true winger threat. Could fit in under a new salary cap structure, at least if the MLSPA gets their CBA wishes.

While there are various levels of realism to these players, it’s fun to take Schuster’s connections and dream…

Anyways, here is what other users thought:

Looking forward:

After a busy week, it’s expected things slow down heading into the holidays. That doesn’t mean to be on low alert, however, as some MLS signings have typically come out on Christmas Day, but you’d be fair to expect things to slow down for the most part. 

With the slower parts of the offseason now behind them, it’s now going to be a sprint towards the start of preseason, which is officially less than a month away, which promises to be an exciting time of year. 

Until then, we’ll be awaiting some new signings, some of which hopefully can provide instant solutions to immediate problems, such as the midfield and on the wing. With reports continuing to grow around Julian Gressel, as well as Schuster’s comments this week surrounding bringing in new players, it’s only a matter of when, not if, so hopefully that when comes soon enough. 

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