Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 started the 2016 season with the longest undefeated streak in the USL, and ended it with a surge to earn both its first postseason berth and a trip to the Western Conference Final of the USL Cup Playoffs. A number of key players from the club’s successful second season are back for another year, too, which gives new Head Coach Rich Fagan a good framework to build around. Having led Whitecaps Academy teams to success previously, Fagan’s knowledge of the young talent at his disposal should also prove invaluable as WFC2 looks for a second consecutive postseason trip.
Head Coach: Rich Fagan
Stadiums: Thunderbird Stadium and McLeod Athletic Park
2016 results: 12-9-9, 45pts
2016 postseason: W 2-1 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC; W 3-2 vs. OKC Energy FC; L 3-0 at Swope Park Rangers
Goalkeeper: Sean Melvin returns after making his international debut for Canada this offseason. The 22-year-old made eight appearances for WFC2 a season ago and should be expected to see more action this season. Spencer Richey, who signed this offseason with the Whitecaps from WFC2, could be an option as well after recording 14 regular-season starts and all three postseason contests a year ago, while the club re-signed Mark Village for another season as veteran cover.
Defense: Vancouver’s defensive improvement was a key to its success in 2016, and Sem de Wit returns to lead the group after finishing first on the team with 2,416 minutes of action a season ago. New Zealand international Deklan Wynne and Chris Serban are also back, as is 2016 USL 20 Under 20 selection Kadin Chung after representing Canada at the 2017 CONCACAF U20 Championship this offseason. Former PDL standout Francis de Vries – who won two PDL championships with the Michigan Bucks and was the No. 28 prospect in the league last season – should be a solid addition, while the signing of Andy Thoma from the Portland Timbers 2 will provide a good option at fullback.
Midfield: Vancouver saw a key part of its midfield move on this offseason as Daniel Haber joined Western Conference rival Real Monarchs SLC. Finding a way to replace that gap in the attack will be important for the side, but it could again call upon Marco Bustos to lead the way creatively. The No. 9 selection in the 2016 USL 20 Under 20, Bustos has scored 14 goals in the past two seasons for WFC2 as the Homegrown Player awaits his opportunity for the Whitecaps in MLS. Among others returning are Thomas Gardner and Will Seymore, while the addition of David Norman Jr. will be one to watch.
Forward: Thomas Sanner had four goals in his first season for WFC2, including a memorable late hat trick against Arizona United SC (now Phoenix Rising FC) that earned him Player of the Week plaudits. After being primarily a bench option a season ago, Sanner is likely to see much more time in the starting lineup after re-signing with the club and seeing WFC2’s leading scorer a season ago Kyle Greig make the move to MLS with the Whitecaps. Gloire Amanda has also appeared for the side this preseason after scoring 14 goals in 27 regular-season games for the Whitecaps FC U18 squad last season.
Photo courtesy Bob Frid / Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Strengths: WFC2’s defense should be strong again. With the return of Sem de Wit and Kadin Chung, a likely increase in minutes for Deklan Wynne and the addition of two-time PDL champion Francis de Vries, the side will have a good platform to build on defensively. The team will want to improve its consistency over a full 90 minutes, it conceded 27 goals in the second half of games last season, but all the ingredients are here for success.
Weaknesses: A key question for WFC2 will be whether it can find a consistent leader for its attack, which saw Kyle Greig record 11 goals before signing with Whitecaps FC this offseason. With the departure of Daniel Haber, the load could fall to Thomas Sanner and a group of younger players to ensure the side finds the net regularly over the course of the coming season.
Key number: 15 – WFC2’s increase of 15 points from its 2015 regular-season total was the most of any side in the Western Conference in the 2016 regular season.
Noteworthy matchups: WFC2’s first home game of the season is a clash with Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders FC 2 at McLeod Athletic Park in Langley, B.C., and is the first of five games at the venue this season. Vancouver visits Swope Park on May 5 for a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Final, while the final month of the regular season will be a busy one as it welcomes Orange County, Phoenix and Portland north of the border down the stretch.
Coach’s view: “I am honored and privileged to be taking on this new position with Whitecaps FC. Developing talent is my passion, and the club has created the perfect platform here in Vancouver. I’m excited to help more young players progress in their careers and give their all for the amazing supporters of this club.” – Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 Head Coach Rich Fagan
Current roster (updated: March 22, 2017):
Goalkeepers: Sean Melvin, Mark Village
Defenders: Matthew Baldisimo, Kadin Chung, Sem de Wit, Chris Serban, Andy Thoma, Deklan Wynne, Dominick Zator
Midfielders: Michael Baldisimo, Terran Campbell, Thomas Gardner, David Norman Jr., Will Seymore
Forwards: Thomas Sanner