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Found 8 results

  1. "It’s a great signing for the club," Robinson told reporters on Thursday. "We’re delighted to have Cristian on board. Hopefully we can get him here quicker, as quick as we want, next week sometime, with all the visas and paperwork done. We’re delighted to have him. He’s coming in to the right environment here. He's coming into a place where he knows a couple of the guys." Techera speaks little English at the moment but he'll be made to feel comfortable in his new surroundings by the number of his fellow Latinos at the club. Amongst them will be two familiar faces in Nicolas Mezquida and Diego Rodriguez. Techera played alongside Mezquida on the regional team of Paysandu years ago and has spent the last three seasons as a teammate of Rodriguez's younger brother Leandro. Techera came through the youth system with Peñarol, before moving across the city to sign pro forms with River Plate in the 2009/10 season. He made his pro debut with the Darseneros on April 11th 2010, coming on as a second half sub in the 2-2 draw with Cerro Largo. It's always somewhat tricky to find exact stats for some of the South American players, but from what we can initially uncover, Techera went on to make 84 appearances, scored 20 goals and registered 17 assists in five seasons with River Plate, in all competitions. He played 5,013 minutes overall, picking up one red card and nine bookings. Techera's farewell to the River Plate supporters came in Sunday's 2-1 loss in the Montevideo derby against Peñarol. Techera didn't get on the scoresheet, but he did bag both of River Plate's goals in the 2-1 win against Fenix the week before. With his signing imminent, Robinson was an avid viewer of Sunday's game against Peñarol and was happy to see his new player come through unscathed. He also feels that anyone who has watch Techera play in these last two games will have been given a great insight into what the wee winger will offer the Whitecaps. "I watched him with great interest hoping he’d get through that," Robinson admitted. "I think you could see in that game, against a top Peñarol team, what he can do and what he’s very good at. We know that he’s quick and he’s got great technical ability. He’s got a lovely left foot and takes set pieces and brings something different to the table to than what we’ve got here. "He’s an addition to the group. He’s going to come in and fight for his place. He’s a winger, a natural winger. We lost Seba last year, who was an outside to in player, and we're delighted to bring Cristian on board." River Plate were obviously disappointed to be losing one of their key pieces. Techera has scored 10 goals in 24 matches for them this season and reports last week out of Uruguay indicated that the team were disappointed by just how much they are initially getting out of the deal. That's not the Whitecaps concern if they've let an important player go cheap and the focus is now on integrating Techera quickly into the Whitecaps first team squad. Part of that will see some movement of season long loans to the USL squad, with Andre Lewis the prime player there. Techera now becomes the latest signing from what was a very productive pre-Christmas South American trip from Robinson. The winger joins Rodriguez and Octavio Rivero in the haul he brought back, and the 'Caps coach explained just how the move came about. "I went down to watch him in the offseason when I went down to see Diego and Octavio," Robinson said. "Cristian caught my eye as someone who could help this group moving forward and I earmarked him then at that time to try and bring him in. Fortunately enough we were able to do that today." If he has anything near the initial impact that Rivero has had, then this is going to be fun to watch.
  2. Schuler is a 5"11' striker who spent last season in MLS with San Jose Earthquakes, making six league appearances for the Quakes and one in CONCACAF Champions League action. His MLS debut actually came against Vancouver, coming on in the 'Caps 3-2 win at BC Place last May and playing the last 11 minutes of the match. He made his one and only start for San Jose in the 1-0 loss at Seattle two weeks later and played 137 MLS minutes altogether. Capped by the US at U17 and U20 level, Schuler had a successful college career with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, going on to score 29 goals and contribute 15 assists in 79 appearances and lifting the 2011 College Cup. That Championship win prompted Schuler to come out college after his Junior year (which was actually his fourth year as he had one redshirt year through injury) and head over to Europe, joining Swedish club Hammarby IF. After two seasons in Sweden, which included a loan spell with Nacka FF, Schuler decided to head back to the States and joined San Jose last season before being freed in Dominic Kinnear's reshuffle of the team. The Quakes' loss is WFC2's gain and coach Alan Koch is delighted that the soon to be 25-year-old striker has landed in Vancouver. "He's a great attacking player," Koch told AFTN at WFC2 training on Friday morning. "He can play as a 9, as a 10. We even looked at him in the last session as an outside player too. Great kid, great player. Not quite match fit yet at this stage. It's going to take another week or two to get where he needs to be, but as soon as he's ready, he's going to compete for a starting spot for us. Schuler is joined as the newbie in the squad by former New York Red Bulls midfielder Ian Christianson. Christianson has spent the last two seasons in New York, after being selected 22nd overall by the Red Bulls in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. He made three sub appearances, lasting nine minutes, for New York last season before being released at the end of the year. Like Schuler, Christianson also has some CONCACAF Champions League experience under his belt, starting two of the Red Bull's games in their 2014-15 campaign. Christianson came to MLS from Georgetown University and he captained the Hoyas in both his Junior and Senior seasons, on his way to scoring 14 goals and adding 10 assists in his 78 appearances. His college career came to a heartbreaking end however when Georgetown lost the 2012 College Cup 1-0 to Indiana. The midfielder is certainly familiar with USL. He spent three of his summers playing PDL, first with Chicago Fire Premier and then with Reading United, and he had a short loan spell with Orlando City last season, making three appearances for the Lions in USL PRO. Christianson can play both midfield and defensive roles and that versatility will definitely be one of his attributes that appealed to the 'Caps. "He's a silky smooth, left-footed midfielder," Koch told us about Christianson. "He can also play potentially as a left full-back or as a central defender. Very, very comfortable on the ball. I think he's going to suit the way that we're going to ask our team to play. "Great guy too, just like Billy. They're both excited to be here. They can see already that we've got a lot of young talented players around them. They're both a little bit older than our teenagers or 20-year-olds and 21-year-olds, so we're literally speaking that they're going to give us a little bit of experience, which we'll definitely need in some intense games." It's unlikely that either player will feature in the starting line-up for WFC2's inaugural USL game against Seattle on Sunday, but they may feature on the bench and expect to see both of them pushing for starting minutes in the near future. Their additions and experience certainly round off the USL squad nicely. Now all that remains is to finally get the season off and running.
  3. "We're talking," was all Robinson would say to reporters. "I've spoken to Earnie numerous times about it. [A decision] doesn't need to be by the weekend but to be fair to him I will make it sooner rather than later with him. "We've had a good look at him now. He knows me inside out and he knows us inside out. We're just taking it day by day now." It was clear from early on that Robinson would love to have Earnshaw in Vancouver and the striker would love to ply his trade here. In the way were the CBA negotiations and what any new deal would mean to the salary cap and what Robinson had available to spend on any further new additions. That deal is done now and the Whitecaps know exactly where they stand and what cap room they have to manoeuvre with. "I think it will give us a little bit more flexibility in the cap, but we were in a very good cap position anyway," Robinson said. "I'd planned to have a certain rise anyway. What I don't do, is I don't make rash signings and I don't make short term signings for the club. All signings I make here will be for the long term benefit of the organisation, whether I'm here or not. "We're in a decent position. If the cap goes up, which it is, we'll be in a very comfortable position, which we are." That should mean a deal with Earnshaw can be agreed any day now. Robinson has previously spoken about his desire to add an experienced, veteran striker to his young group. A proven goalscorer and ideally one with previous MLS experience. Earnshaw ticks every box. With 17 years of experience in the pro ranks at both club and international level, and a history of scoring regularly with every club during his career to date, Robinson knows what having a player of Earnshaw's qualities can mean to the Whitecaps this season. "It's a very interesting option for us," Robinson told AFTN last week in Portland. "He brings a lot to the table in regards to his experience. Someone who's scored 250 goals in his career is maybe not a bad option to have coming off the bench now and again. "He's also a great guy. You see him talking to the younger lads here and the guys have already taken to him as well." And it's that desire to impart knowledge to the younger guys in the group that is also very appealing to the Whitecaps. When we spoke with Earnshaw a couple of weeks ago, he spoke of his eagerness to share what he's picked up in the game over the years, telling us "I find myself giving what I’ve learnt and what I think with more inexperienced players". It's not just talking the talk to earn a contract, Earnshaw has been showing it in abundance in his short time at the club. On Wednesday he was a very active part of the coaching team at WFC2 training, assisting Alan Koch. It was clear the players were keenly listening to his advice and for me was just another sign of what Earnshaw will offer the Whitecaps this season. "He asked me if he could do it and because of my background and the opportunities I was given at New York under Hans Backe, I want to give something back to players as well," Robinson told us. "I did it with Kenny when he was here for a short time and I'll do it with Robert. "He's going through his coaching qualifications. He's getting a certain number of hours in that he needs. It's something that he wants to do and I'll help him with that, whether he's here or whether he's not here. "But a lad who's scored 250 goals in his career has certainly got some experience that he can pass on to a team that apparently doesn't score enough goals." If Earnshaw and the Caps can get a deal done within the next 24 hours it will mean that we could see the Welshman take the pitch against his former team Toronto on Saturday. It's another interesting storyline to add to the First Kick clash. And one thing I think we've all seen over the years is former players coming back to haunt their old clubs. Let's hope that continues at BC Place at the weekend.
  4. Robinson told AFTN last year how highly he rated McKendry and indicated that there was a MLS contract waiting for the defensive midfielder whenever the player felt the time was right. That time is now. McKendry becomes the eighth homegrown signing on the current MLS Whitecaps roster, and the 27th player on the squad in total. As a homegrown signing, McKendry is likely to have signed a two year guaranteed deal with options and although he will get most of his minutes in USL PRO this season, he will be entrenched with the MLS squad and with the number of games facing the 'Caps this year, he is fully expected to see first team minutes. McKendry was a member of the Whitecaps' Prospects program from 2007 before officially joining the Residency program in September 2010 and was part of the highly talented 'Caps U18 side that narrowly lost the USSDA Championship game to FC Dallas in 2012. The young midfielder made 20 appearances for the 'Caps in PDL action during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, but with no MLS contract on the table, and no real pathway to help get there at that point, McKendry decided to head to college and went down the NCAA route with New Mexico Lobos. McKendry explained the thought process behind that decision when we chatted with him just over a year ago. His game has developed well with the Lobos, allowing him to make the switch from a more central midfield role to that of defensive midfielder, where he has excelled. The development of McKendry these past couple of seasons will now benefit the Whitecaps. They are getting back a talented and composed DM, but also one who has a keen attacking eye and a good finish. In his three years at New Mexico, McKendry scored 14 goals and had 5 assists in his 61 appearances and 4702 minutes of soccer, most of which came in the defensive midfield role. 106 shots in amongst those stats as well, along with a knack for grabbing game winning goals. McKendry played a key role in helping the Lobos reach the Final Four of the NCAA College Cup in 2013, scoring the decisive goal in the quarter finals against Washington Huskies to send them there in his sophomore season. Having lost a number of seniors, New Mexico struggled to follow up that success in 2014, failing to make the postseason. McKendry shone though and started to get the attention of many in the college game in the US, earning several plaudits along the way. The influential TopDrawerSoccer.com ranked McKendry 7th in the nation in the midseason player rankings, and he eventually finished 36th after the Lobo's late slump (fellow 'Caps Residency alumni, goalkeeper Callum Irving, finished 15th incidentally, and Vancouver's number one draft pick, Tim Parker, was 76th). The Whitecaps have kept close tabs on McKendry while he was down in New Mexico, with former assistant coach Paul Ritchie travelling down to see him play on several occasions in the past. Robinson is a fellow defensive midfielder and rates him highly. McKendry has regularly returned to train with the Whitecaps' MLS squad these past three seasons, keeping his homegrown eligibility intact. But with other clubs starting to show an interest in the midfielder, the Residency alumni's stock was high and he was faced with the dilemma of whether to come out of school early or complete his senior year in 2015 and join the pro ranks a year from now. A lot can happen in 12 months though. Players can get injured or see their form and their stock take a dip. Managers who rate you can move on or decide to go in a different direction in terms of role specific personnel. Coming out of school early, without finishing your degree, can hurt future job prospects if it doesn't work out in the world of soccer, but you can also finish your degree at a later time. Much to weigh up, and in the end it was a no-brainer - McKendry had to take his chance and the Whitecaps were in the perfect position to offer it to him right now. There is no doubt that the addition of a Whitecaps USL PRO team has been a key influencer for McKendry to leave college in his Junior year. Whereas other homegrown talents like Bryce Alderson and Philippe Davies have been stunted and frustrated by the lack of opportunities and key competitive development minutes, the new 'Caps team guarantees McKendry much-needed regular playing time at some level. With the first team having over 40 games this season in MLS, Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League action, McKendry will feature at some stage, but as talented as he is and as highly as the 'Caps rate him, there is a lot of work ahead. McKendry is coming to a Whitecaps MLS squad that isn't exactly short on defensive midfield talent. Whereas Carl Robinson went with a regular two-man defensive shield last season in a 4-2-3-1 line-up, he is expected to go more with a 4-4-2 diamond formation this term. Matias Laba clearly has that job, with Gershon Koffie and then Russell Teibert looking to be back ups. McKendry is clearly the number one DM for the USL PRO team now and will gain valuable experience playing there at the next level up for him. Opportunities in the first team will be scant, but there will be injuries, there will be suspensions, there will be players rested and there will be games where Robinson looks to return to that two man shield. So for those that haven't seen him play, how would we rate McKendry in terms of Whitecaps prospects? Better than Bryce Alderson in the DM slot has always been my opinion of McKendry and that hasn't changed. The fact that he can bring an attacking and goalscoring threat to the defensive midfield role is a big plus, and don't forget he can also play other midfield roles. He's bringing versatility and hunger with him. It's certainly a depth and strength upgrade to what the Whitecaps had last year. Having watched a lot of his New Mexico games these past couple of years, including a couple in person, he can make a team tick. At 21, he's coming in at a great age and he's had excellent experiences and performances at USSDA, college and international levels. Now comes the next step. Robinson will give him chances to show his worth both in preseason and as the season progresses. As he's said to all his young players, they'll get their chances, it's then up to them to take them. That applies to McKendry now and we're delighted for him.
  5. One month later and Banjo is in the pro ranks with the Whitecaps. It's quite the story and turnaround for the 22-year-old and one he didn't think he'd ever see coming. "It's a dream come true," Banjo told AFTN. "I've been working at this for years and it's a great feeling for it to finally come true. Banjo still remembers the shock and heartbreak of the meeting that broke the news that Towson were axing their soccer program. Staying on and finishing his degree was the only option he seriously considered, even if it meant no soccer. A meeting with UMBC head coach Pete Carinji Jr convinced him that taking a year out and then trying to go pro was not the right option or timing for the young striker and he made the move to the Retrievers for one final college year. It proved to be the right decision, with UMBC, led by Banjo, going further than any side from the school had previously managed, and coming to within one game of playing for the NCAA National Championship. After everything that had happened, it was an amazing experience for Banjo and one he'll never forget. "Because of where I came from, being in the tournament the next year, it wasn't anything that I thought was going to happen. God always has his plans and it worked out for the best. It was a great feeling and I'd never change that for anything." Banjo certainly seems to be an exciting prospect and a striker that has been able to find the back of the net on a regular basis in the college ranks. He shone with the Towson Tigers, scoring 15 goals and contributing 11 assists in 43 games during his three years there. As mentioned, he continued to find the back of the net when he switched to UMBC, and was unanimously named the America East Conference 'Striker of the Year' for 2014. Banjo went through a bit of a dry spell to end the season though, going six games without a goal or an assist. Consistency is definitely going to be a key for the talented striker moving forward and something which Carl Robinson has already identified. "I've seen exactly the same as you," Robinson told us in a conference call yesterday. "I've seen exceptional talent in him but I haven't seen enough consistency. Part of my job as a coach is to try and get him more consistent and with the opportunity we'll have with a lot of Major League Soccer games and USL games, there will be chance for him to do that. "Because if we can get him consistent, there's no doubt that he's got talent. You can't just have talent and no consistency, so it's a little project of ours and mine and it's one that I'm excited for. I do see a lot of raw potential in him." When you ask Banjo what aspect of his game he feels he needs to improve in most, he feels what every young player should feel when starting off in the pros - every aspect of it. And consistency is part of that. "It's the coach that's sees it more," Banjo told us. "Every player really has to think about everything but that's the coach's job to see it and if that's how he feels I just have to put my head down and figure it out and work on improving." Robinson is big on character and speaking to Banjo for ten minutes, you soon see that he is another player that fits right into the mould of player that the Whitecaps are looking to bring in to the squad. He's grounded, he's confident without being cocky, he seems a nice, humble, quiet guy, who has the skills on the pitch to back it all up and some hard life lessons to learn from after what played out at Towson. Described by Robinson as a "raw" talent, but one with real potential if he thrives in the professional environment now afforded to him. It's now up to him to see if he can take it and move on to that next level. As with all draft picks, you have no idea what way this will really all go, but he'll get his chances. Fellow draftee Tim Parker felt that there was a real connection between himself and Robinson when they had their pre-draft chat at the combine, and it's a feeling echoed by Banjo. So just how did that chat go? "He pretty much pointed out all my strengths at the combine. It just seemed like everything I said was already what he was thinking and pretty much that's what drew us together. We really did click in the conversation. "We talked mainly about mainly about myself, not soccer as much. But the times we talked about soccer it was much the same thing we were thinking and that showed we connected." Robinson is always keen to know what makes a player tick off the pitch. What motivates them, what interests them away from soccer. For Banjo, it's simple. "Just being close to the family and being surrounded by good people. Nothing really big. I'm just a people person. I just try to surround myself with positivized people." And he'll find a lot of those around the Whitecaps right now, although he doesn't know and hasn't come across any existing 'Caps in his soccer career so far and is another who has never been to Canada before. "I don't know one player from Vancouver [personally]. I mean they're really far up there!" he joked with us. "I don't really know anybody there but I'm excited to find out and meet new people." Coming to a Whitecaps MLS squad, already almost bursting at the seems, Banjo knows he needs to hit the ground running and impress once the preseason training camp gets up and running next weekend. So for those who haven't seen him play before, how would he describe his game and the skills and qualities he'll bring to Vancouver? "I'm quick on the ball, I'm quick thinking. Great team player and I'm versatile. I can play on the wing or forward, wherever is needed. A lot of long range shots. I have vision. Strong, powerful, quick. The lot." He can certainly shoot and registered 180 of them in his four years and 65 games at college. That's an average of just under three a game, with almost a 3.5 average during his time with UMBC last year. He's primarily played forward at college level but when the Whitecaps drafted him, it was hard to see him getting too much initial opportunity to that right now. Kekuta Manneh has struggled to find those minutes and you may see Banjo get minutes in that position in USL PRO, whilst being turned into a winger in the process. He certainly has the speed and skill to make that adjustment but what does he see as his preferred position? "I'd rather play the forward role," Banjo told us. "If it's needed I'll play on the wing too but I feel comfortable in both spots." Talking of USL PRO, it's also hard not to see that being where Robinson sees the 22-year-old striker fitting in right now. If that is where he ends up for most of this year, it's an opportunity Banjo is already approaching with the right attitude. "Playing that it gives you development for the first team I feel like. If that's what the coach feels that that's what I have to do to prove myself, then I will." Wherever Banjo ends up getting minutes in 2015, the big benefit for him is that he's coming to a club that doesn't just talk about playing younger players but actually does it and that's something that himself, Parker and others are all very aware and excited by. "That's what got me interested in everything he was saying," Banjo said of his initial chats with Robinson. "He's more about the younger players and development. That's what he saw in me and I'm excited to join."
  6. "That was part of my plan coming in to the draft," Robinson admitted during a conference call to local media on Thursday afternoon. "To try and get the best player available, of course, but it had to have some substance and I needed to know what positions I was slightly weak in. Obviously losing two centre backs was an area, and we addressed that. The wide areas, Kay can fit into that if need be or if we're able to bring someone else in. It was a very promising draft for us." You never know how players are going to adapt to the professional ranks. Can they make the grade? Can they hack going from being a regular first choice starter to often a reserve player or at best a bench guy? How do you feel when you're drafted for MLS but playing USL? It takes a mentally strong individual to handle it all it sometimes. Christian Dean has previously admitted that he had found some of last season tough going but Robinson feels that while it was a difficult year for Dean, he will have learned from it and be better as a result of it. Both Parker and Banjo look to have potential, to perhaps varying degrees. Parker is by far the more MLS ready, whilst Banjo has some exciting attributes that need honed in what is now the ideal environment for him. Robinson had highlighted Parker as a target before flying down for the MLS draft and combine. The Whitecaps were the first team that the St John's senior spoke with and Robinson not only got his man, but a player he feels has the attributes he wants in a Whitecaps player and the skillset to make a difference to the team and his backline. "We knew about Tim going into the combine," Robinson said of the overall 13th pick in the draft. "I think his performances in the combine, he was arguably the best centreback there. If you speak to him, he's educated, he's cultured. I think the fair thing to say about him is he's a typical Whitecaps player. He's got personality, he's respectful and he's tough. If you're going to win things then those are the characters you need and we're delighted we've got him. "They say that 13 is an unlucky number, but today it was our lucky number because we actually picked up the guy that I wanted out of the draft in Tim." There was a moment of hesitation for Robinson though just before Vancouver's first round selection. Seattle were amongst the teams looking to trade up in the pecking order and Robinson had to weight up taking a deal but perhaps at the risk of losing the main player he wanted by dropping a couple of spots. A five minute timeout was taken but in the end it was a no-brainer for the 'Caps coach. "As always here at the draft, you get a lot of MLS teams that come to you at the last minute or whatever and they try and get in your head before you have to make a decision. There was talks of allocation money, there was talks of moving up and down the draft table but when Tim was still on the table there was no possibility that we'd contemplate doing that. We took our time, we got everything right and we took the player that we wanted." So just what is it about Parker that piqued Robinson's interest and made him his number one target? What does he bring to the Whitecaps table? "We considered a lot of players but after interviewing Tim, he fits the mould that I am and he also fits the mould that the club is," Robinson said. "He's very respectful, he's honest, he's hard working and I feel that he is MLS ready now. I think he's got great attributes for a defender. It was the perfect fit for me. "I think he's got great attributes for a defender. We've just lost Andy O'Brien and we're a little bit short in that area, so I wanted to strengthen. It was a perfect fit.We're changing that area at the moment, with one or two players moving on. We identified Tim in the draft and we got our man, so we're delighted with that." Character and attitude are clearly important, as Robinson has highlighted many times, but Parker's on-field qualities also excite him and having scouted him over his senior year, Robinson was particularly impressed by what he showed at the combine. "I thought he did the fundamentals very well. As a defender you're talking about reading the game, positional sense, aerial battles, playing simple when you need to. Defenders are in there to do a job. They're not in there to try and beat a centre forward with a little stepover or anything like that. The fundamentals he did very well and that's what stood out. "Not just to me but to other teams as well. After completing the draft just now I spoke to a few other teams and they're disappointed they weren't able to pick him up. I'm very happy with that. "He's tough, he's competitive. His understanding and his reading of the game is exceptional. He plays with his brain. He's very smart tactically and you need to be smart tactically. If you look at the top MLS defenders, which are mostly American in this league, then they're all very smart and Tim's definitely a smart guy." Parker was captain of St John's in his Senior year and Robinson has no doubts that he could be a future leader with the Whitecaps as well. "I do, without a doubt. One of his main qualities is that he's an organiser. Being respectful off the pitch and being competitive on the pitch. You saw that at the combine. It's an important factor and an important trait if you're going to be a solid defender in Major League Soccer and he certainly brings that to the table. "I hope he comes in in the next two weeks and tries to put his mark on because he'll be given a fair opportunity, as will every single one of my other players, and it's down to him to try and win a place in my team and my squad." While Parker may be close to being MLS ready and challenging for minutes over the course of the season, Vancouver's other SuperDraft pick today is more a long term proposition. Kay Banjo is another senior, who shone with UMBC as they advanced to the NCAA Final Four in December. Banjo grabbed 8 goals and 5 assists from 23 games last year, but went his last six matches without being able to add either. An exciting talent when on his game, from what we saw of him, he sometimes drifts out of games and can look a little lost. "I've seen exactly the same as you," Robinson told AFTN. "I've seen exceptional talent in him but I haven't seen enough consistency. Part of my job as a coach is to try and get him more consistent and with the opportunity we'll have with a lot of Major League Soccer games and USL games, there will be chance for him to do that, because if we can get him consistent, there's no doubt that he's got talent. You can't just have talent and no consistency, so it's a little project of ours and mine and it's one that I'm excited for. I do see a lot of raw potential in him." The addition of the 'Caps USL PRO team this coming season is a massive developmental boon, not just for the club but for the players as well. It's something Robinson is excited about and a tool he plans to utilise fully. "It's very important and it's something that we weren't able to have last year and I think some of my younger players, not lost their way a little bit, but didn't manage to get the competitive minutes that I wanted. It's an important piece of the puzzle to us this year. There are players who will go down and play in the USL and I think it's important for them that when they do go down they take their opportunity. "If they take their opportunity then that puts them in a very good position to compete for minutes in Major League Soccer with our team. It's a very important piece and it's probably the next stage of the development for younger players as well because we've graduated a lot of our Residency guys and if they can't crack into the first team right away then it will be important for them as well." What players will end up playing where is still up for grabs but Robinson promised that every player will be given a fair chance to impress and show that they deserve to be part of the MLS mix. "That'll be dictated in preseason. I'm giving my young players an opportunity and guys in the draft today are going to be given those opportunities and it's down to them. If they can crack into the first team squad, then there certainly will be a position there for them. If they can't, and I feel they need a year in the USL for their development, then that's where they'll be." The Whitecaps still have five draft selections left in next Tuesday third and fourth rounds. Having highlighted an initial list of players in the draft that interested him, are some of those options still available to him in the next two rounds and how does he see the club approaching it? "There are, but we've got to be smart with our decisions when we decide to make our picks," he told us. "I can't totally fill up the roster with all young players. The majority are young players but we'll have our eye on our USL roster with the next round of picks that we have, so we have to be sensible and smart with our decisions but there are certainly guys that are still very interesting to me." Robinson also promised a further three or four new faces still to come, which he hopes will be in place for either the start of training camp or soon after, and despite the addition of Parker in the draft and Rodriguez on Wednesday, expect a fifth centre back to join the ranks, and perhaps a familiar one at that. "It'll probably be [someone] within the league," Robinson said. "I could go and find another young, talented centre back like I've already added in recent weeks, but I know if we are going to be competing and winning, then I do need some leadership in certain areas. It's probably going to be a guy that's got experience within the league and is a little bit older in years. It's probably going to be an older guy." One thing is for sure, it's going to be a crowded training camp and if players want to be considered part of the MLS mix going forward, they're going to need to stand out early and consistently.
  7. Rodriguez comes to Vancouver as an unknown quantity. He spent three years with La Liga side Malaga, making 42 appearances for their reserve side and scoring five goals, before returning to play with Uruguayan Primera Division side Juventud last season. He's not exactly a household name in Uruguay, never mind Canada, but his highlight video (which we'll put at the end of this article), experience and his obvious skillset certainly seems to indicate that he has what it takes to be a success in MLS. The proof will come on the pitch of course. Robinson identified Rodriguez on his scouting trip to South America in December and watched the defender play and train on three separate occasions and feel he will fit right in with the 'Caps style of play. "Excellent signing for us," Robinson told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. "Got experience of going to Europe. He was over there for two years with Malaga. Manuel Pellegrini had recruited him. He had the background, he had the potential, without playing any games for their senior team. "One of the hardest positions to find is a central defender who nowadays enjoys defending and he's got a huge upside in him being so young." Although he feels Rodriguez still has work to do in his game, Robinson liked what he saw and what he can bring to the Whitecaps. "He's a good talker and has got a presence with him as well," Robinson added. "The fundamentals you want any player to have and to do, he does very well. His footwork is excellent, his strength and his dropping. He's a defender, He loves clearing balls and he loves putting himself in situations to block the ball from going into the goal." But what of those weaknesses? "He should have more attacking attributes than he's got," Robinson noted. "One of my observations was that he probably should score more goals. In one of the games that I watched, he probably should have scored four goals from set pieces. He will bring an element of aggression in the opposition box as well as Kendall and Octavio. It's something we need to improve on as we haven't been good at set pieces for a long time now and we'll try and address that." Robinson has often talked about bringing in players with the correct character and the right mentality and he feels he's found another such player in Rodriguez, highlighted by their first chat together. "He wants to learn," Robinson said of Rodriguez's desire to improve. "One of the first questions when I sat down with him that he aimed at me was "how can you make me better?". From a manager's point of view, that's actually refreshing to hear. A player is asking you the question as to how you can make him better and what can you do to let him progress to the next level. He's got the right mentality and mentality in this game is a major thing." So all in all, it looks like a good addition for the Whitecaps. But there are some concerns, aside from establishing an immediate chemistry with Waston. As we mentioned, the Whitecaps defence last season was strong, solid and stingy. It was also quite unsettled in the centre, as it has been for the past few years. Robinson will be hoping that will come to something of an end now, with Waston and Rodriguez marshalling the middle of the box moving forward. We know that Waston is going to pick up at least a couple of suspensions over the season and could also be missing on international duty. Let's not even look at any possible injury jinx hitting that spot yet again. There will be changes in the backline as the season progresses due to the sheer volume of games as well in MLS, Champions League and Canadian Championship action. As things currently stand, the Whitecaps are heading into training camp next weekend with just three signed centrebacks, with Christian Dean making up the trio. O'Brien and Leveron were both taking up international spots and last season took home $371,187 between them. Veteran O'Brien took home the bulk of that on $280,000 and we're led to believe that the Caps offered him the chance to return to Vancouver this season on around half of that. Whilst O'Brien loved being with the 'Caps and was prepared to take some kind of cut, the feeling was that this was just too much of a reduction for him to consider and it looks pretty certain that the former Irish international won't be back. "Over the last few weeks, we've had very, very good discussions with Andy but we've been unable to come to an agreement," Robinson sadly admitted. "We're probably going to be moving in a different direction now and Andy's exploring things over in Europe at the moment. "After having discussions with Andy and his agent on a number of occasions, there was some very good talk. We have to be a club that moves forward at some time and the time is probably now for us. Unfortunately we haven't come to an agreement, so we move on." A player, media and fan favourite, O'Brien's departure will leave a void in the locker room as well as the middle of the defence. Sure there were times last season where he was starting to look his age, but his experience helped the younger players both on and off the pitch and we would have loved to have seen him come back and take on some kind of player/coach role. O'Brien made it clear though last season that he wanted to play and he still felt he had another good season of playing in him. The chances were he was going to have more of a bench role and the Whitecaps couldn't afford to pay big bucks to someone for that. They also couldn't risk signing a big money deal and then O'Brien going down injured with a season ending injury like DeMerit. Always a risk with a 35-year-old. But O'Brien looks set to not be the only defender moving on and Robinson admitted that talks with Johnny Leveron have not progressed well, with the indication being that the Honduran international is another one not likely to be back in Vancouver for the new season. "We're still speaking to Johnny at the moment," Robinson added. "We're going to have 40 plus games next year, so I want to build a strong squad. If that means that's with Johnny, then great. If that means it's not with Johnny, then we'll move on. At the moment we're in talks with him and his agent but we're not very close to agreeing anything. We're just keeping our options open on that one. "I don't know if we'll come to an agreement or not, which is why I've made the move [for Rodriguez] now." So, the Caps are down to three central defenders, but this isn't likely to be the situation for too long. "Ideally I would like to have five centrebacks on my roster because I know it will be a very long season and there will be injuries and suspensions," Robinson continued. "I've got three [signed]. The minimum I will require is four, so I hope over the next few days we can add a fourth. There could be a fifth." Whilst the Whitecaps have some age and experience in the fullback positions through Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey, it's a fairly young central defensive mix right now. Waston is 27, with Rodriguez 24 and Dean 21. They need to have an experienced head in there and Robinson hinted that that might be coming and it won't be from overseas. "It's a tricky dilemma bringing in international players, as we all know, because we only have a certain amount of players. Ideally I like to try and bring in international forward thinking players. My belief, and my coaches belief, with Diego was too good to pass on because he brings a quality that I think we've been missing and I know that he will step up to the plate. "Having said that, I've got Kendall, who is an international centreback, and also Diego now. It is important that we do keep some core guys, some American guys, some Canadian guys, which obviously we've got a lot of younger ones of them, but domestic players. "I will be looking at trying to bring a domestic centrehalf in because I think it is important. A lot of successful teams in Major League Soccer do have a lot of domestic players. I'm not shying away from that element. It's important to have that as well but I will be looking for a domestic centreback." But before the pro-Canadian player crowd get too excited, it doesn't look like Whitecaps Residency alumni, and current Canadian U20 international, Jackson Farmer is going to be that guy just yet. "Jackson is an option for us," Robinson admitted before adding, "I see Jackson more as a USL player for us next year. He needs a little bit more experience and a little bit more games in a competitive environment. Our USL team will help us to do that. He will be coming in preseason to get a little bit more experience with us but if I can add someone that's got perhaps a little bit more experience than Jackson and allow Jackson to get competitive games under his belt in the USL, that's probably the way I'm thinking at the moment." The Caps may also look at adding a centreback from Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, with Robinson admitting that they've identified five or six possible options from their scouting. In amongst all of this centreback upheaval, it should also be remembered that the Whitecaps' offseason additions are still in their early stages. Rodriguez is only the second new player to be added so far, but he's far from the last. "I'm still looking at two or three new additions," Robinson said. "There will be more faces coming in. Can I give you a definitive timeline on that? No. But we are in the works with a few targets." So with less than two months till the new season kicks off (CBA pending of course!), what does Robinson see as still the main areas of concern in the Whitecaps squad that he needs to address? "I want to try and build this squad as strong as I can," he said. "I want to have a pool of players I'm comfortable with, whether they're young or old. There are still three areas that I'm looking at. "I'm looking in a wide area, I'm looking at the centreback area and I'm looking at the forward area as well. I've got good options in the midfield areas, I've got good options in the number 10 areas, so it's just those three areas I'm looking to strengthen. "Hopefully I'll be able to do that by the time training camp starts. If it means me starting tomorrow by getting the player I want or have identified, then I'll do that. There will be four or five news paces, including the picks we have tomorrow, coming in in preseason." The Whitecaps player report back to training on January 24th. Exactly who will be there still remains to be seen.
  8. Rivero has been playing his football in Chile's Primera Division with O'Higgins FC for the past six months, where he scored 10 goals in 16 Torneo Apertura appearances and his performances had reportedly been attracting interest from top Chilean sides Colo-Colo and Universidad. You can see some of what was generating that interest, and what the Whitecaps have added to their squad, in the highlights video below: The striker came through the youth ranks with Uruguayan club Defensor Sporting before making his pro debut with Central Espanol in the 2012-13 season, scoring three goals in his 18 games. He made another move the following season, joining CA Rentistas, where he notched 10 goals in his 17 appearances for the Montevideo side. Rivero joins the South American ranks in the Vancouver locker room and comes to the Whitecaps as a young Designated Player, which on current terms would mean a cap hit of $200,000. As always, terms of the deal and transfer fee are currently unknown, but earlier reports out of Chile indicated that the player had a $3 million transfer fee attached to him. The striker will have at least one familiar face in the 'Caps dressing room in the shape of fellow Uruguayan Nicolas Mezquida, with the pair playing together for Uruguay's U17 side in 2009. Rivero's signing comes after undergoing a medical in Mexico earlier this week and the striker will arrive in Vancouver next year where he will be officially introduced to the media. For now, he is just delighted at the opportunity the move to the Whitecaps and MLS affords him. Now, in the clamour for the Whitecaps to add a goalscorer, it will be easy to expect immediate results and pile the pressure on Rivero to perform. He will undoubtedly be expected to hit the ground running and although a new league and playing environment always takes a bit of getting used to, MLS seems to suit South American talent and he has shown that he has what it takes to perform and score in top level leagues. We'll soon see and know if that can transfer to MLS with ease. By getting this signing done early, it will give Rivero a full pre-season to train and settle into his new environment, as well as coming in match fit. He will no doubt also have to live with constant initial comparisons from some quarters with Camilo, but the 'Caps look to have added just what was missing to their attack and there could be some more to come soon. At 6'2", Rivero is the big target guy that Carl Robinson was crying out for all last season. His highlight video above shows some really nice and composed finishes, along with some headed goals. The partnership he could form with Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales and the potential damage the three of them could do in MLS next season really is mouthwatering. The spine of the Whitecaps side for 2015 is looking very promising. With David Ousted in goal, Kendall Waston running the defence and Matias Laba just in from of him in the DM role, that's a solid defensive core. Add in Morales, Rosales and now Rivero and the attack is looking strong too. Robinson described the addition of Rivero as being "another piece to the puzzle", as he continues to build the squad he wants, adding "His skill set fits well with the way we want to play." Robbo and his assistant Martyn Pert were recently both in South America on a scouting mission. Robinson was in both Uruguay and Chile and it is believed that Rivero was his number one target from the trip. He got his man. What other pieces come out of the clubs South American and European scouting trips remain to be seen. Right now, Rivero become Vancouver third DP alongside Morales and Laba, but it has yet to be confirmed whether Laba will retain DP status next season. If he doesn't and the Caps can use allocation money to buy his salary down, that would free up another spot for Robinson to fill from his European reconnaissance. Which could be in the shape of another striker or winger. Factor in having another former DP in Rosales and that's a formidable side for what will be a formidable Western Conference next season. So well done Santa. Thanks for delivering the goods. Now, about that bike I asked for in 1978....
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