Alain Rochat

Alain Rochat traded to D.C. United

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have dealt the versatile Alain Rochat to D.C. United for a pair of draft picks.

The move not only bought Vancouver a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional pick in 2016, but cleared up Rochat’s $190,000-per-week salary and opened up a roster spot.

Rochat, a natural left-back, had lost his spot to Jonathan Harvey. Vancouver has experimented with him in the midfield and at central defense a few months before being moved.

“(Alain) has been a great guy, a great player,” said Harvey. “We battled for a position — all year last year and the year before. I can only say good things about him. I’m going to miss him.”

Head coach Martin Rennie says the move is a chance to look elsewhere.  “It gives us the opportunity to consider other options. We’ve got quite a number of players who can play a similar role in midfield, so when we got the opportunity to make a move, that was why we did it.”

The experienced 30-year-old has 65 appearances to his name during his two and a half year stint with Vancouver.  Before that, the Canadian played for a number of years in Europe, with Swiss sides BSC Young Boys and FC Zurich, as well as French side Stade Rennais.  He played in the Champions League in 2009 for Zurich against clubs such as AC Milan and Real Madrid.

Rochat was also capped once by his national side Switzerland in 2005.

Despite a reputation of being both composed and fluid, Rochat’s play the last year or so has diminished and he’s slowed a little. However, Rennie has also used him out of position a lot recently despite still being quite adept at his left-back position.

D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper looks forward to having that kind of experience in his squad.

“Alain will provide us with immediate help with his experience and leadership. He is a highly technical and intelligent player who can play on the backline or in the midfield. We are very pleased to welcome Alain to D.C. United.”

Major League Soccer team previews: VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

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Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.

No. 7 in the West are the Vancouver Whitecaps:

Significant additions and subtractions: Barry Robson is the biggest “loss.” The Scottish international was brought in as a Designated Player, had the team built around him, but never quite justified the love. It was also unclear he ever warmed to the move, part of the reason he’s now in the third-tier of English soccer.

To partially fill his boots, Vancouver’s brought in 30-year-old Daigo Kobayashi, though the team’s unlikely to rely on him the same way they tried to depend on Robson. With the once-capped midfielder on this fifth team in sixth years, that’s probably a good thing.

Farther back, the team has added Nigel Reo-Coker to their defensive midfield. If Martin Rennie gets good Reo-Coker, the former West Ham, Aston Villa standout will prove a very valuable addition.

Strengths: Vancouver has a number of individuals capable of transcending whatever struggles appear around them. Defenders Jay DeMerit and Lee Young-Pyo are among the best at their positions in the league. Gershon Koffie would be one of the most talked about young players in MLS if he were playing in a different market, while it’s no longer edgy to say Darren Mattocks is set to break out (everybody agrees).

Rennie could change philosophy every 45 minutes, but if those players are on the field, Vancouver have a puncher’s chance.

Pressure points: That starts with Rennie. The Whitecaps’ boss took a chance with the team last year, shifting gears midseason after an unexpectedly strong start. A couple of key trades and the signing of Kenny Miller remade the team for the worse. That mistake needs to turn into a learning experience.

The team also needs to settle into a way to play (a problem that lingers from last year’s makeover), and they need to find somebody to augment Mattocks’ goals. That means playing in a way that gets more production out of Miller and Camilo.

With the acquisition of Reo-Coker pushing Alain Rochat back to left back, the biggest question is in goal. Is it going to be Brad Knighton or Joe Cannon? Knighton seems the right choice, but Cannon is awfully veteran-y.

source:  Difference maker: If Jay DeMerit isn’t the best defender in the league, he might be the most valuable. His experience and talismanic play augment his defending with valuable leadership at a crucial position. The problem is age combined with the specter of nagging injuries, with an Achilles problem hampering his preseason preparations. For a 33-year-old, that type of problem could cause a cascade.

Potential breakout player: No doubt about it: Mattocks (right). On a per minute basis, the guy was already a strong scoring option last year, a season where injuries and rookie adjustments held him back. With Jamaica out of the Gold Cup (and Mattocks no lock to make the team for World Cup Qualifiers), the talented attacker will be at Rennie’s disposal more often.

The question is how much to expect. Break out your TI-85s and do some prorating and it’s not hard to see mid-teens as a reasonable output for Mattocks. That would make him one of the league’s best goal scorers.

Is it too soon for that? Nobody who has watched this kid played would deny the talent. It’s all about how much he plays and whether he has made the adjustments.

If he comes good, Vancouver’s biggest problem is solved. They have a consistent goalscorer.

Bottom line: If the Whitecaps carry over last fall’s form into 2013, they’re not a playoff team. Add in likely improvement from Dallas and Portland, and Vancouver will be hard-pressed to replicate last year’s finish.

(MORE: the entire roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

Major League Soccer positional Top Tens: LEFT BACKS

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Major League Soccer’s full backs may be evolving, but particularly at left back, the pool’s a bit shallow. Three of the first six players in our Top 10 are the get forward types that weren’t part of the game in previous seasons, but the list falls off quickly.

One of the top players shot up the chart over the last year. Another was recently left exposed in expansion. One player spent a lot of time in midfield last season, while another no longer starts for his team. Our Top 10 list may not have much depth, but at left back, one California team certainly does.

Yesterday is was the right. Today, it was the left, with a crowded field at the bottom of our ranking sure to inspire debate among MLS hardcores.

Here are our Top 10 Major League Soccer left backs.

1. LA Galaxy’s Todd Dunivant (pictured)
2. San Jose’s Justin Morrow
3. Real Salt Lake’s Chris Wingert
4. Sporting KC’s Seth Sinovic >

Sinovic was a free agent in May of 2011 and was exposed in expansion later that year. Now he’s one of the top four left backs in the league? It’s hard to argue he should be much lower than this.

5. Toronto FC’s Ashtone Morgan >

You can’t help but think Morgan would be higher on this list if the situation at Toronto FC has been more stable last season. Maybe Ryan Nelsen starts tapping into his potential. He’s still probably going to be TFC’s highest ranked individual player, and he’s only fifth.

6. Houston’s Corey Ashe
7. San Jose’s Ramiro Corrales >

He’s been around since 1996, and if it wasn’t for the emergence of Justin Morrow, he’d still be in Frank Yallop’s starting XI. When healthy, he still finds plenty of playing time between defense and midfield. A lot of other teams in the league (good ones) could use the 35-year-old.

8. Vancouver’s Alain Rochat
9. Chicago’s Gonzalo Segares
10. D.C. United’s Chris Korb

(MORE: the entire roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)