Holdovers, newcomers suddenly provide Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson with options galore

 

 
 
 
 
New Whitecap Blas Perez, formerly of FC Dallas, celebrates a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium on March 7, 2015 in Frisco, Texas.
 
 

New Whitecap Blas Perez, formerly of FC Dallas, celebrates a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium on March 7, 2015 in Frisco, Texas.

Photograph by: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

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If there is one thing Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson wants more of in the 2016 MLS season - besides goals of course - it is options.

Options provided by the uniqueness of personnel. Options in terms of attacking style and formation, in terms of dynamic substitutions off the bench. And being blessed with more options surely means more goals, something the Caps could have used more of in 2015.

Two weeks into training camp - a week of fitness work in Vancouver and a week in Tuscon, Arizona, that included a pair of pre-season victories - it appears the Caps have a pretty intriguing and diverse group of attacking players.

Holdovers include speed merchants Kekuta Manneh and - at least for now - Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado. There is an adept hold-up man in striker Octavio Rivero, a crafty, diminutive winger in Cristian Techera and a ball-spraying distributor in midfield maestreo Pedro Morales.

Now, Robinson has three newcomers at his disposal - Japanese League import Masato Kudo, a striker who is all about subtle movement and clinical finish, Costa Rican winger Christian Bolanos, whose two World Cups have armed him with all the guile and experience to be a game-changer, and big, physical striker Blas Perez, the Panamanian international who had back-to-back 11-goal seasons with FC Dallas in 2013-2014.

Suddenly, it's options galore for Robinson, who can more easily switch out of his trusted 4-2-3-1 formation.

"We've not had type of target guy," Robinson said of Perez in a Monday conference call from Tuscon. "It's something we had to explore. Last year was a positive season, we achieved a lot of firsts . . . but we needed more flexibility, different types of players to put in different positions, players who can change the dynamic of the game.

"Teams get ahead of us by a goal and they're able to limit what we're very good at. By having a big target guy, we can change the philosophy in the way we play the game at certain times.

"It's about finding solutions to problems and personnel within those solutions are important."

Mattocks scored twice in a 2-1 win over Seattle, while Manneh and Kudo scored in a 3-2 win over New England on Saturday. Bolanos will see his first action of the pre-season today against Houston.

Robinson says the 25-year-old Kudo, who had a number of good chances in the game against Seattle, has quickly assimilated into the locker room. He says the club is working on Kudo's fitness and strength by getting him into the gym, something he apparently didn't do a lot of in Japan.

Deybi Flores, the 19-year-old Honduran midfielder, had the Caps other goal on Saturday on a wonderful 25-yard strike. The teenager had a tough first season in Vancouver, particularly playing the ball. It surprised some when he was brought back, but the coaching staff believes the aggressive, hard-tackling Flores also has some skill that just needs a bit of nurturing.

"I challenged him to come back stronger, fitter and more hungry," said Robinson. "He's physically in better shape than he was.

"He's got renewed confidence . . . he looks aggressive, he's enjoying his football, which is a very good start. With a young player, you have to invest in him. We spend hours with these guys on the field. We can make them better and give them the best chance of success."

The Caps will fly back to Vancouver on Wednesday morning and resume training at UBC on Friday. A week later they will head to Portland to continue camp and to play three more pre-season games against Chicago, Portland and NASL squad Minnesota United FC.

CORNER KICKS: While Perez is training with the Caps and played 15 minutes on Saturday, the club has yet to officially announce his acquisition and signing . . . The Caps did announce Monday the signing of centre back Cole Seiler, the 16th overall selection in last month's MLS SuperDraft.

gkingston@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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New Whitecap Blas Perez, formerly of FC Dallas, celebrates a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium on March 7, 2015 in Frisco, Texas.
 

New Whitecap Blas Perez, formerly of FC Dallas, celebrates a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium on March 7, 2015 in Frisco, Texas.

Photograph by: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

 
New Whitecap Blas Perez, formerly of FC Dallas, celebrates a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium on March 7, 2015 in Frisco, Texas.
New Whitecaps forward Masato Kudo works out at the team’s pre-season camp at UBC in Vancouver.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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