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Wileman: Reo-Coker caps quietly effective off-season

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Luke Wileman, TSN.ca
2/22/2013 11:16:46 AM
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With the confirmation of Nigel Reo-Coker's arrival in Vancouver, the Whitecaps squad is now pretty much set ahead of next week's season opener against Toronto FC at B.C. Place (Catch it live on TSN and TSN Mobile TV, Saturday at 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt.)

The signing of Reo-Coker was the second arrival of the week for Martin Rennie's men and will provide them with even more veteran leadership presence. At 28 years old, Reo-Coker still has plenty of good years ahead and he also has a point to prove.

In a career that has seen him play at the highest level, Reo-Coker has spent time with clubs such as Bolton Wanderers, Aston Villa and West Ham United. At one point his performances were rewarded with a call up to the standby list for England's World Cup squad, but over the last couple of years he hasn't quite managed to fulfill that potential.

There have been questions raised about whether he is coming to Vancouver for the right reasons and if he will be a good fit. After the disappointment of Barry Robson's time in Vancouver it is understandable that there will be some skepticism amongst Whitecaps fans, but this is a slightly different situation.

Reo-Coker isn't coming here as a Designated Player. He's on a very reasonable deal to begin with and that will take away some of pressure and expectation brought by the DP tag. Along with 'Caps President Bobby Lenarduzzi, Martin Rennie spent much time in conversation with Reo-Coker prior to signing him. He had all the right answers to their questions.

They are also getting a player who has plenty more to give. He's not coming to the end of his career anytime soon, and is challenged by the chance to show what he is capable of on a new stage. Hopefully for the Whitecaps and Reo-Coker, a change of scenery will help bring the best out of a player who has the potential to be a big success in North America.

A few days prior to Reo-Coker's signing, the Whitecaps brought in Honduran international defender Johnny Leveron. He's a player who has already gained plenty of experience despite being just 23 years old, including captaining his country at the 2012 London Olympics.

Leveron will continue to develop in the care of the Whitecaps and has enormous potential but he will also be able to contribute in the short-term.

Along with the individual qualities the two signings bring, they also provide Rennie with a number of different options.

In a salary cap world, versatility is vital, and that's something both Reo-Coker and Leveron will bring. Reo-Coker is most commonly known as a central midfielder, but he can also play right back, and it's likely he will start in defence for the 'Caps allowing Korean World Cup star Y.P. Lee to switch to left back.

Leveron is a few weeks away from being fully fit, but once he is ready for action he can be deployed at left back or defensive midfield as well as his favoured position in the centre of defence.

While Martin Rennie could still add to his squad if the right player comes along, at this stage the arrivals of Leveron and Reo-Coker seem to be the final pieces of off-season strengthening in Vancouver.

The club has done a good job at adding some valuable players during the winter in order to improve a squad that qualified for the MLS Playoffs last year. One of the biggest plusses from the 'Caps offseason building is that they now have a much deeper squad.

The signings of Reo-Coker, Leveron and Brad Rusin give them options right across the back line. Reo Coker and Japanese flair player Daigo Kobayashi will also be able to contribute in midfield. Then there are the attacking additions of young speedsters Kekuta Manneh and Erick Hurtado from the MLS SuperDraft along with signings Tom Heinemann, Paulo Jr. and Corey Hertzog.

Without making too many big splashes, the Whitecaps have quietly gone about their business this off-season, adding a number of important pieces that should allow them to come back stronger than they were a year ago.

Nigel Reo-Coker (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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