This article first appeared in the March issue of We are Orange Magazine.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are one of the youngest teams in the league, and also one of the fastest, with outstanding counterattacking capabilities. The Houston Dynamo know the Whitecaps well – the two teams met on the final day of the 2015 season and in February at the Tucson Desert Friendlies.
Vancouver had its best season in five years in MLS in 2015, with 53 points, 16 wins and a second-place finish in the Western Conference, all franchise bests. Uruguayan forward Octavio Rivero chipped in with 10 goals in his first season, but slowed down as the season progressed, with just one goal in his final 10 games. Kekuta Manneh (seven goals, six assists) and Cristian Techera (seven goals, five assists) provide the blistering pace on the wings for head coach Carl Robinson.
Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales is one of the best playmakers in the league when healthy (10 goals, 12 assists in 2014), but was limited to only 15 starts last year. At the back, Costa Rica international Kendall Waston is 6-foot-5 and a domineering presence on set pieces who finished runner-up for MLS Defender of the Year last season. Danish goalkeeper David Ousted also came close to winning silverware, named runner-up for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year after recording 13 shutouts, 16 wins and playing every minute of the season.
“Vancouver very much remind me of Dallas in many ways. In the wide areas with Kekuta Manneh and Cristian Techera, they’ve added Blas Perez and obviously have (Octavio) Rivero [up front], and they have some wonderful players," Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle said. "We have beaten Vancouver at home [2-0 last August 29], and obviously on the last day of the season they managed to get the better of us [in Vancouver]. It’s a new season and it’s one we are looking forward to, and if we have that pace we are talking about, we know we have our own quality. With the players we’ve added, we certainly believe we can go to Vancouver and achieve a positive result."
Vancouver could have three new starters in 2016, with Japan national team forward Masato Kudo in the squad after scoring 66 goals in seven seasons in the Japanese League. Midfielder Christian Bolanos, a veteran of two World Cups with Costa Rica, is also a new arrival. Fraser Aird, a right back prospect with the Canada national team, is on loan from Scottish giants Rangers, and will add more speed to the Vancouver club.
The Whitecaps took home their first victory of 2016 last weekend against the Seattle Sounders, with Morales converting two penalty kicks in a 2-1 result after losses to the Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City to start the year.