VANCOUVER, B.C. - The Vancouver Whitecaps held an eventful media day at the University of British Columbia on Friday afternoon. One by one, Whitecaps players climbed the stairs of the UBC Rugby Centre to answer insightful questions from the throng of assembled media.
Goalkeeper David Ousted is one of the key components of the team that has not signed long-term contract extension. Before the MLS SuperDraft Whitecaps President Bobby Lenarduzzi reiterated that the club would continue talks with Ousted once he returned for the start of training camp. RedNation Online asked Ousted for an update on those contract extension talks.
"There still going along. There's some details that we still need to work out, but I'm positive."
As with any athlete, it would be preferable to sort out a contract extension and negotiation before the season kickoff. Ousted and his teammates would probably prefer not to be asked for daily updates on the status of negotiations.
The Whitecaps and Ousted seem to be close.
"Hopefully we get something sorted before everything gets going, but like it is with any negotiations it's a little bit back and forth. We'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks."
At this point in time this isn't a distraction. Ousted is focused on getting ready for the season just as his teammates are. When the time comes, hopefully a contract extension falls into place. The 'Great Dane' is looking to continue with his outstanding play from last season as Vancouver hopes to build on a solid MLS campaign.
"My job hasn't changed. My job is to get ready, my job is to prepare myself as well as I can for the upcoming season and with everything else we'll see what happens. I've got a pretty simple job, just get in and get ready."
Christian Bolanos is the biggest Whitecaps addition this offseason. The headband wearing Costa Rican international is not quite ready to join his new team as he will be part of a Costa Rican national team camp next week. Bolanos will join up with the Whitecaps in Tucson, Arizona on Wednesday, February 3.
Outside of Kendall Waston and Jordan Smith, most Whitecaps players are not familiar with the World Cup veteran nicknamed 'Bola'. David Ousted played against Bolanos on a few occasions in the Danish Superliga. Ousted with Randers F.C. and Bolanos with F.C. København. The 30 year-old shot stopper gave a brief scouting report on his new teammate.
"Christian's a player with great quality. He's both a guy who can makeup goals, and make assists. He's a got a mind of a footballer, meaning that I think he's intelligent in the way he plays football. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do as a Whitecap."
Did Bolanos ever score any goals on David Ousted...?
"No of course not."
Whitecaps skipper Pedro Morales was smiling from ear to ear during his availability, and why not? Morales came back to Vancouver two weeks earlier than usual to make sure his body was in tip-top shape as he prepares for the season.
"I came in two weeks before to work with John Poli and Rick Celebrini for the start of preseason. I feel okay, I feel very excited for this year. It's a big time for the club this year, more experience, coming more players. It's a big opportunity this year."
An opportunity to claim position as one of the elite teams in Major League Soccer is up for grabs. The Whitecaps certainly have the player personal, coaching staff, and resources to continue to improve this season. In order to reach that next level winning at BC Place on a more consistent level is a must. Morales realizes that Vancouver must improve their home record this season.
"I think to win at home every single game is the most important now. Score goals and win at home, try to play hard and train hard. When we play away we must win. I think last year we won too much games away and not at home. I think we have to improve much better at home."
Pedro Morales is focused on the Whitecaps and looking to find the form that saw him win the 2014 MLS Newcomer of the Year award. The outside possibility of earning a recall to the Chilean national team is something at the back of Morales's mind.
Chilean Manager Jorge Sampaoli resigned earlier this week. Could a new Chile boss bring in Morales for international duty? The 30 year-old Morales isn't waiting around by his iPhone on pins and needles.
"I don't know. My work is here now. My mentality is here. It is really bad to Sampaoli done in my selection team. If they (Chile) have a good training, a good coach this year; I think Chile have an opportunity for qualification for the next World Cup. For me now, it's in this moment. I work for the Whitecaps and then if you feel good and your training good, playing good. It's coming normal."
The Whitecaps core group of players remains mostly the same with a few tweaks here and there. Carl Robinson is still looking for a new right-back. A transfer to bring in replacement for Steven Beitashour is close, but not yet "over the line." The March 6 opener against the Montreal Impact is still a ways off and plenty of time remains for future club additions and subtractions.
Darren Mattocks will join the Whitecaps training camp on Saturday, January 23. Mattocks is dealing with a family matter and has not been traded. The club is up against it in terms of roster spots including the much covered international spots.
Vancouver has plenty of assets and hold all the cards in terms of player movement. Don't expect the Whitecaps to be done, but don't expect to see a LA Galaxy or Toronto FC player splash. The goal is to build the squad through youth development.
Currently the Whitecaps have five players 30 years-old or above and it's about building a core group of players within that can grow together, blossom, and develop. Breaking the bank for a top international is simply not how the Whitecaps operate.
Veteran left-back Jordan Harvey spoke about the club philosophy of building from the youth level.
"That's our Whitecaps style, we build young . A lot of teams have gone out brought in new players, but our brand is building young and letting those young guys grow and become some of these top players that other clubs are buying. With a year under some of these young guys belts, some of the younger guys that have grown with Whitecaps 2 that are coming to the first team. They're going to be very impactful players for this season and I think you'll see that."
The 2016 outlook for the Whitecaps is fantastic. A young talented group of players that surprised a lot of opposition teams last season. There is no reason why the Whitecaps can't continue to progress and climb the MLS standings. Vancouver is a team continuing to show that they are on the rise. Players are hungry and ready to continue progressing on and off the field.