VANCOUVER, B.C. - It was a tough debut season in Major League Soccer for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but things can only get better in 2012.
The Whitecaps finished the regular season on the bottom of the Western Conference with just 28 points, tied with the New England Revolution for the worst in the league.
Vancouver failed to win a road game all season, posting an 0-12-5 record on its travels away from British Columbia.
But perhaps most worrying of all was Vancouver's leaky defense that conceded the third most goals in the regular season (55) and its inconsistent offence that scored the fewest goals (35).
The Whitecaps were very dependent on Eric Hassli and Camilo for goals as the two strikers combined for 22, more than half of the team's offensive output. Vancouver's third-highest scorer was Alain Rochat with just three goals.
It is not ideal for a club to rely on two sources for the vast majority of its goals, so the 'Caps front office addressed the offensive deficiency during the offseason and turned the front line into one of the most potentially dangerous scoring threats in the league with two simple additions.
Vancouver used the second overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft to select University of Akron speedster Darren Mattocks. After catching a glimpse of the Jamaican during preseason, some of his Whitecaps teammates cheekily likened the striker to track star Usain Bolt.
But the club did not stop with the addition of Mattocks. A couple of weeks later, Vancouver went out and snapped up Sebastien Le Toux from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money, much to the dismay of Union supporters.
Le Toux, a fan-favorite in Pennsylvania, will not only look to relieve some of the scoring burden on Hassli and Camilo, but will try to create opportunities for his partners as well. The Frenchman concluded his two-year stint in Chester, PA with 25 goals and 20 assists, demonstrating that he can be just as effective setting up others as he can finishing chances for himself.
The overlying dilemma regarding Vancouver's newfound offensive potency will be how new head coach Martin Rennie manages to appease each player's wishes for playing time. But if he can develop an effective rotation policy that keeps everyone on the front line fresh and happy, then the 'Caps could have the makings of one of the scariest strike forces in the league.
Vancouver also did well to sort out its goalkeeping situation in the offseason.
The 2011 season saw Jay Nolly and Joe Cannon split time in goal with neither stopper proving to be more effective than the other. But with Nolly being dealt to the Chicago Fire, Vancouver should benefit from having one constant voice leading the defensive efforts from the back, especially one as well- versed in MLS as Cannon.
2011 IN REVIEW: It was not a great start to life in MLS as Vancouver Whitecaps FC finished dead last in the Western Conference after amassing 28 points. The 'Caps also finished last in scoring and without a win on the road.
ACQUISITIONS: Bryce Alderson (M), Martin Bonjour (D), Jun Marques Davidson (M), Chris Estridge (D), Brad Knighton (GK), Lee Young-Pyo (D), Sebastien Le Toux (F), Darren Mattocks (F), Lee Nguyen (M), Matt Watson (M).
LOSSES: Jeb Brovsky (D), Philippe Davies (M), Bilal Duckett (D), Geinier Garcia (D), Greg Janicki (D), Mustapha Jarju (F), Nizar Khalfan (M), Jonathan Leathers (D), Alexandre Morfaw (M) Jay Nolly (GK), Shea Salinas (M), Peter Vagenas (M).
OUTLOOK: Things can really only get better for Vancouver. A good team on paper, the Whitecaps have a lot of the quality pieces necessary to make a run at a postseason berth. It will all hinge on how Rennie can fit the pieces together, which may be somewhat of a tall order for a coach making his debut in MLS after spending the past few seasons in charge of lower-division teams.