With the first half of the season officially in the books, it’s a perfect time to hand out some meaningless hardware in the form of the WFC2 Midseason Awards.
After a stunning start to their second season in the USL, the ‘Caps have had no shortage of heroes to thank for the perch atop the Western Conference table (8W-2L-5D) as the second half looms. Perhaps most deserving of recognition is Alan Koch. In his second season with the team, Koch has helped transform the young group into one that plays with a maturity and mental fortitude that often lacked last season. His group’s single loss on the road is a testament to Koch’s imprint on WFC2. Unfortunately for Koch, the lack of drama in handing out a mid season “WFC2 Coach of the Year” award means that he’ll have to spectate this from the sidelines yet again on this one.
These prestigious awards were voted upon by an astute panel of experts (consisting of yours truly), and include all players that have played for WFC2 this season, including MLS players loaned down to the USL.
MVP: Sem de Wit
Runner Up: Kyle Greig
At first glance this would appear to be a no brainer, with the team’s captain and the league’s second leading scorer running away with the award thanks to 10 goals in 15 matches. However, before the pitchforks are drawn, hear me out. A year after conceding the second most goals in the Western Conference with 53, the ‘Caps are on pace to allow only 40 this season, which will feature two more games compared to last season as well. The biggest cog in this turnaround has to be the newly acquired Dutch centre back. The 21 year-old de Wit, has played all but 90 minutes of the season so far, an attribute to his consistency and his importance to Alan Koch’s side, especially considering how much line up shuffling a development team faces. Game in and game out, de Wit instills a sense of calmness for the team, both on and off the ball. His reading of the game and fearlessness in the tackle are only half the story. The Dutchman’s poise once he’s won the ball back has been a major key for the club’s ability to play their possession based style. By consistently winning the ball and playing the right passes, de Wit allows the team to transition from defence to attack quickly and efficiently.
Greig’s accomplishments should not be overlooked, the team’s leader has led the line brilliantly as a lone striker. However as last year’s team showed, attacking flair has never been a problem for this group, and the chances created by his supporting cast continue to show that this year. Greig has been fantastic in his role, but de Wit has been able to make a position of real weakness, into one of strength.
Biggest Disappointment: Marco Bustos
This award is more indicative of the level of expectations that Bustos set for himself after bursting onto the scene in the second half of 2015. Despite joining the team more than halfway through the year, Bustos would go on to lead the team in scoring, and continually shone, as quite easily, the team’s best player. That breakout however, led inflated expectations for the Winnipeg native in 2016. While his season with WFC2 so far has not been a total flop, he’s heated up as of late, including a pair of goals against Swope Park on June 12, he hasn’t nearly hit the heights that many had forecasted for him. Too often the 20 year-old dwells on the ball, taking unnecessary touches instead of being incisive on the ball, especially in and around the box. In order to fulfill his promise and continue his march into the first team, Bustos is going to have to show the Whitecaps he can get it done more consistently in the USL.
Unsung Hero: Will Seymore
After splitting time between centre back and holding midfield late last season, Seymore has found a home this year as a classic defensive midfielder for the ‘Caps. The sturdily built Colorado Springs native provides WFC2 with a physical presence in the middle of the park, something that not many of their players can offer. The 24 year-old typically sits in front of the back four and protects, allowing his midfield mates to venture forward. His two shots on goal this year are indicative of his role with the team, one that features more crunching tackles than fancy step-overs. His bone-rattling challenge against Sacramento in the home opener sparked a scrum between the two teams and epitomized the toughness that Seymore provides the relatively small Whitecaps2 side.
Most Improved: Kadin Chung
While Alphonso Davies has been getting all the headlines, it has in fact been a different teenager that has shined the brightest for WFC2. The 17 year-old Chung joined the team late last season and got a taste of the professional game. Despite flashes of promise late last season, he understandably, looked like a high school kid trying to compete against grown men. This year however has been a whole different story. Earning a starting spot on opening night, Chung has developed into the first choice right back for Koch through the early part of the season and for good reason. In spite of his slight physical stature (5’9 135 lbs), the Port Coquitlam native has held his own defensively against the physically mature opposition, relying on his pace and anticipation to head off danger before a measure of strength is needed. Offensively however, is where Chung is a difference maker. Showing the make up of a prototypical modern full back, Chung bombs forward at every opportunity, often showing an impressive burst to go along with good feet. His spin- o- rama assist on Kyle Greig’s goal against Tulsa on May 4 remains one of the highlights of the season.
Goal of the Season (so far): Ben McKendry, April 27 @ Swope Park
This one is hard to argue. McKendry’s dipping volley from thirty yards is going to be one of the goals of the year in the USL when it's is all said and done.
Save of the Season (so far): Marco Carducci, June 12 vs Swope Park
Poor Swope Park can’t stay off the highlight reels. The fingertip save alone is quite good, even excellent, but the context of it is what really makes it the save of the season (so far). Having seen a 3-0 lead at home to the Rangers dwindle to 3-2 in the dying moments, Carducci was forced to save the Whitecaps2’s bacon on what turned out to be the last kick of the game.
So, there you have it. These are my picks so far. There is still half of the USL season to play for so it will be interesting to see if the awards change hands when it is all all said and done.