HARVEY LEADING WHITECAPS SURGE
After watching from the bench as the Whitecaps floundered early in the season, American Jordan Harvey stepped in and has led a charge launching the team into contender status.
The 2013 campaign marks Harvey's third season with the Whitecaps. Saturday's 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders was his 50th appearance in a Vancouver uniform, which the left back punctuated by helping to pitch a shutout against the Cascadia rivals.
Though Harvey's season is now flourishing, the 29-year old Mission Viejo, CA native had to endure a frustrating opening two months. He stayed active playing with the Whitecaps Reserves and in Canadian Championship games, but failed to win a spot on the first team through Vancouver's first nine MLS games.
Harvey had back to back 30 game seasons with the Colorado Rapids and Philadelphia Union before being traded to Vancouver in 2011. In 2012 he featured in 27 Whitecaps games, including a start in their playoff game against the LA Galaxy. Looking to be on pace for his lowest appearance totals in five years though left Harvey with an unfamiliar and unwelcome feeling.
"You're humbled in the sense that you aren't starting every game. In Colorado and Philadelphia I started the majority of the games, so when you aren't doing that you're humbled and you get a lot of critics," Harvey told Yanks Abroad on his early season situation.
Like he has always done though, Harvey tuned out the distractions and focused on the one thing he could control: his own game. "I just kept my head down, kept working hard, and knew if I kept doing that things would work out because they have throughout my career. Once I got the opportunity I really grabbed ahold of it and I'm not trying to let it go anytime soon."
That opportunity finally came as the Whitecaps season looked to be on the verge of an early collapse. Vancouver had lost 2-0 to Real Salt Lake on May 4 to run their winless streak to seven games. The 2-4-3 side allowed 12 goals during that span, and hadn't registered a shutout since opening day.
On May 11 Vancouver put in a gutsy home effort against the Galaxy, and found themselves up 2-0 when Harvey made his regular season debut for the team, coming on in the 78th minute for Camilo. Sent in to preserve the lead, the Galaxy would score late to come within one.
Knowing this was his chance, Harvey not only worked to hold the lead, but added to it as well. With LA pressing Harvey jumped up on the counter attack, setting up Darren Mattocks for a goal that secured Vancouver's first win in over two months.
The performance also secured Harvey's spot in the starting lineup. Harvey has started all eight games since, during which the Whitecaps have gone 5-1-2 with two shutouts to rocket up the Western conference standings.
In addition to helping turn around what had been a woeful defense, Harvey has retained a flair for offense, scoring three goals in the last seven games. He credits this to a Whitecaps playing style that allows him to be involved upfield. "It's the way we've been playing, we play with two guys up high and it really allows me to get forward and get into the attack and sneak in the backdoor."
Along with his individual success, Harvey credits team chemistry and cohesion as reasons for Vancouver's recent rise. "I think consistency, and I say that in terms of every player knowing what their role is and working hard within the team."
Despite their recent run, Vancouver is not yet a lock for playoffs. They currently hold the fifth and final playoff spot, but sitting just two points back of them in sixth are the Colorado Rapids, followed by the always dangerous Sounders.
"I think that helps us," Harvey comments on the packed Western conference. "We come into each game realizing if we lose this we're gonna drop down in the standings. Every game is almost a playoff scenario."
"We're not going to assume we've done anything yet, we haven't," Harvey goes on to say about Vancouver at the halfway mark. "But we have to continue to work hard. It's working for one another right now, defensively we're doing really well in covering. We are playing well and if we continue to do this I know we'll make the playoffs."
With the ever positive attitude, it would be easy to think that nothing anyone says about Harvey could get to him. He does admit however that he enjoys silencing the critics who had written him off at the beginning of the season. "I think there's a little fire in me right now that's trying to prove people wrong and stay out there."
While the Vancouver media is known for being especially hard on its athletes, Harvey is in love with every other aspect of the city. "Vancouver I fit right into. We have the water, the great weather, scenic views anywhere you look. And right now the soccer's doing well so I couldn't ask for a better place to be in."
Harvey's description of his season so far closely mirrors that of the Whitecaps. "It's been ups and downs and it's frustrating at times but right now it's going really well so I'm trying to enjoy it."
With both Vancouver and Harvey's stock clearly now on the rise, Whitecaps fans can expect to see a lot more of Harvey as the second half of the season begins. And the American couldn't be more ready. "I feel great at 29, I feel in the prime of my career."