33-year-old Englishman Andy O'Brien is the newest member of Martin Rennie's, shall we say, mature back line.
The average age of the Vancouver Whitecaps' probable starting lineup on Saturday is 30.3. That's as compared to the Portland Timbers' likely starters' average age of 26.9. In fact, the Timbers have just two players on the entire roster -- Jack Jewsbury and Donovan Ricketts -- who are older than Vancouver's starters' average age.
I bring this up because of the unfavorable comparison that could be drawn between the Portland Timbers' and Vancouver Whitecaps' respective sophomore campaigns. Clearly the two teams look to have switched spots in the standings from one year to the next, and for some people that's evidence that the Caps have done a better job of building their system and their team.
But looking at the team Vancouver has built, and particularly at the players they have added most recently -- Dane Richards (28), Kenny Miller (32), Barry Robson (33), and Andy O'Brien (33) -- it seems to me the only thing they're building is a retirement home.
Nowhere is Vancouver's senility more evident than in their defense -- the area of the field that was so sorely lacking last year. If DeMerit is cleared to play this weekend, Vancouver's youngest defender starting against Portland will probably be Alain Rochat, age 29.
For now, though, Vancouver's defensive dinosaurs are an effective bunch, with the notable exception of when Jay DeMerit is out of the lineup. The Caps have lost all three games he has missed this year, including their last two matches, allowing a total of eight goals. Ouch. The MLS injury report lists him as "probable" to line up next to Andy O'Brien for Saturday's match.
In the midfield, Jun Marques Davidson has been a constant presence in the center role all season, usually matching up with Gershon Koffie. But with Koffie serving a suspension this weekend, either Scottish newcomer Barry Robson or John Thorrington will likely take his place.
Camilo Sanvezzo and Dane Richards have mostly been counted on to play the wings, with Richards, acquired from the New York Red Bulls for Evil KFC, bringing yet another solid veteran presence to the lineup. Camilo, relatively young at age 24, had been annoyingly inconsistent in the eyes of the Southsiders, but since becoming a fixture in the lineup with the departure of Davide Chiumiento, he has one goal and three assists in six starts.
Lining up at the striker positions (or attacking mid/striker) for Vancouver will probably be Darren Mattocks and Kenny Miller. We've all seen the amazing things Mattocks can do when he has time and space to consider his options. Miller's contributions have been somewhat less visible since he joined the team in late July. In five appearances (two starts) Miller has logged just two shots, with neither requiring a save.
In all, the Vancouver side Portland is preparing to face on Saturday is very different from the team they faced at the end of May, with quite a few new (old) pieces having been added in the interim. Those new veterans, experienced though they are, have in some cases taken their sweet time getting acclimated to their new environs, and the team has suffered.
Portland's hopes for success will rest on whether they can continue the progress they have made in recent weeks, while shoring up their flagging defense.
My prediction (based on mathematical calculations): an entertaining 3-2 win for the Rose City.