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Whitecaps End First Week Of Pre-Season In Buoyant Mood

<i>"Everybody's worked quite hard and got used to their surroundings, and the standard's been pretty good. So far, so good."</i>

That was the take of Whitecaps Head Coach Martin Rennie after the first week of Vancouver's 2012 pre-season wrapped up at a bitterly cold Burnaby Lake on Friday morning.

It's been a long week for the players. Physicals on Sunday, then five straight days of training. Some are a little knocked up already, some have come out of the gates flying and some are still waiting to catch fire. All early days yet, but the overall feeling of the management, players and fans is certainly positive.
Friday's session started off with the dreaded 'beep test', which is always a favourite of mine, as I stand and watch on the sidelines!

One of the young 'uns claimed the bragging rights, as Russell Teibert became the last man standing, doing three laps more than second placed Bilal Duckett.

The result was no surprise to many, including Rennie:

<i>"Russell's super fit. I would expect him to be the guy who probably came out on top, but I think everybody's fitness was actually pretty good. There were a few guys who did better than I thought they would."</i>

Mini games followed, and if the players were feeling ill effects from the beeps, it wasn't showing.

There were goals from Darren Mattocks, Lee Nguyen and Camilo. That's three more than Rennie got in his first intrasquad match back in November.

Nguyen and Mattocks have looked good all week. Were there any players that showed Rennie more than he was expecting from them this week?

<i>"Maybe the Carolina ones [laughs].

Darren Mattocks did really well today. He just showed that pace and that ability to get in behind, so that was nice to see.

It's hard. I don't try and judge things too quick. Everybody's just getting here and you've got to let them settle. Some guys you think, maybe they should do a little better than other guys, and others, oh they're doing better than I thought.

You've got to give it time. Sometimes the young players coming flying out of the traps and you think, woah, they're outstanding. But then over a few weeks they maybe fade away.

So far everybody's done well and everybody's put their best foot forward, so I feel comfortable with it."</i>

That said, with week one now in the bag, the new look Caps' management team already have some tough decisions to make, in deciding which players will make next week's trip down to Arizona. For some though, it will be the end of the road in their Whitecaps career:

<i>"There's a couple of guys who maybe aren't quite at the level that we're going to need. Most people will get time to show a little more."</i>

If you're looking at cuts, then the four draftees on trial would be the guys considered vulnerable. Although it's not that easy as one of them, Greg Klazura, has had a stand out week.

Klazura was the Caps' second round pick in this year's Supplemental Draft, and the 21st pick overall. The 5'11" defender from Notre Dame has impressed many this week by with not only his defensive capabilities, but also with his desire to get forward and into some great positions.

Klazura has spent the last five years with the Irish and although he didn’t see game time in his freshman or sophomore years in 2007 and 2008, he made six appearances during his junior year and his senior year saw him establish himself in the side, making 20 appearances, all starts and all as left back, notching one goal and one assist.

He came back to Notre Dame for a fifth year in 2011 to take courses to boost his resume for medical school, turning down an offer last year to go to the MLS combine. I like his character from what I’ve been reading about him. He has spent time volunteering at a health clinic for low income patients. Obviously that means nothing on the football pitch, but it’s nice to see that community involvement all the same.

His fifth year with the Irish saw him as one of three team captains and continuing as the starting left back, but he can also play the defensive midfielder role, which could be a position the Caps may want to look at developing him in.

A lot of people, ourselves included, don't put a lot of stock in the Supplemental Draft, but as we said before, there are some gems to be found in there. Could Klazura be one of those?

<i>"I think with him, he was highly regarded last year and everybody expected him to maybe even be a Generation Adidas player. For whatever reason that didn't happen, and Notre Dame didn't do so well last season, so maybe he didn't get as much attention but he's actually a very good player and he has had a good week."</i>

Although some of the starters look to be a given, especially at the back, Rennie cautions about looking too far into things at this early stage, as a lot can still change with the squad:

<i>"There's still a couple of other guys to come in, that aren't here yet. So there's still work to be done to get better and it's up to everybody to show that they deserve to be starting."</i>

A central midfielder is still the missing link, everyone knows that by now. Rennie is wanting an all round player in that position. One who can tear forward, wins balls on the deck and in the air, but also tracks back, defends and controls the middle of the park. Not an easy find. I think every team would like such a player.

We may not see this dream midfielder next week in Arizona, but he will be coming soon.

For those players already here, the hard work is set to continue.