The Vancouver Whitecaps broke into Major League Soccer in 2011.

March 19, 2011, was their first game. You probably remember that game and you probably were even in that game. It was a sunny day with clouds in the sky. The Whitecaps beat Toronto FC 4-2 at Empire Field that day. Eric Hassli scored the first goal in Whitecaps MLS history. (He scored a brace that day.)

It looked like the beginning of what could be a great new era for soccer in Vancouver. Unfortunately, the MLS Whitecaps have not had much success in their 12 seasons. The club has won two Voyageurs Cups (2015 and 2022) and three Cascadia Cups. (2013, 2014 and 2016) But the Whitecaps have had only one playoff win in their MLS history and have only reached the postseason five times.

While the Whitecaps may not have a long or storied history, there are still some moments that make you wonder “what if?”

The multiverse is filled with madness and we are going to explore it today. Of course, we are unsure if the multiverse exists as we do not have the technology to find it. So this is obviously just speculation.

Since there haven’t been much rumblings on new signings, I thought this would be fun to do. Let’s look at four “what if” scenarios for the Whitecaps. I think these are the biggest ones.

What if Camilo Sanvezzo stayed?

The Whitecaps did not make the playoffs in 2013 but Camilo Sanvezzo did something no Whitecap has done since. He won the MLS Golden Boot with 22 goals including a hat trick on the final day of the regular season against the Colorado Rapids at BC Place.

But it turns out that was Camilo’s last game with Vancouver. The Brazilian was linked to Rosenborg of the Norwegian league and later Querétaro of Mexico’s Liga MX.

Then it became a really messy situation.

Camilo was heavily linked to Querétaro and many outlets reported a deal was done. However, then-Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said to the media that Camilo was under contract for the 2014 season as the club picked up his contract option months before.

However, despite Lenarduzzi and the club denying the links, Camilo was training with Querétaro. On January 17, 2014, the saga ended and Camilo was sold to Querétaro for an undisclosed multi-million dollar fee. That would be the Whitecaps’ biggest sale until Alphonso Davies was sold to Bayern Munich for 22 million dollars in 2018.

The Whitecaps called Camilo’s behaviour “unprofessional” and the club was also criticized by fans for the way they handled the situation. Months later, in an interview with AFTN, (via The Province) Camilo’s agent Lucas Teixeira revealed that the option year wasn’t viewed as an “obligation.”

Teixeira also said this:

“The whole problem was not the contract, but the lack of dialogue of the Whitecaps with a professional who gave three years on the team always doing his best.”

But what if Camilo stayed?

Carl Robinson was just appointed head coach and his coaching style wasn’t very exciting. The biggest reason was because the team lacked goals.

In 2013, thanks to Camilo’s efforts, the Whitecaps were tied for fourth in scoring in MLS with 53 goals. In 2014, the Whitecaps scored 42 goals and dropped to 14th in the league in scoring. Pedro Morales led the Whitecaps in goals with eight and Darren Mattocks was next in line with six. Camilo’s goals were clearly missed.

If he stayed for the 2014 season, assuming he stayed healthy, I’m sure he would’ve managed 18-20 goals, maybe even more. Let’s say he scored 20 and he and Morales find some chemistry. Camilo would not win the golden boot but would finish third behind New York Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips (27) and Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer (22) The Camilo boost would give the Whitecaps 62 goals and they would be third in goals in 2014 right in between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. Oh, and the Whitecaps win their first Canadian Championship a year earlier thanks to Camilo’s efforts.

With Camilo’s goals, the Whitecaps do not bow out in the knockout round to FC Dallas. They end up finishing third in the Western Conference and face the LA Galaxy in the two legs in the Western Semi-Finals.

Now this Galaxy team had Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. In this universe, they still end up winning the MLS Cup but the Whitecaps give them a good fight.

In our timeline, the Galaxy ended up smashing Real Salt Lake 5-0 on aggregate in the Western Semi-Finals with all goals coming in the second leg. But in this timeline, Camilo leads the charge in high-scoring two legs. The first leg at BC Place ends 2-2 with Camilo scoring both goals. He scored another in the second leg with Morales and Erik Hurtado scoring the other. Unfortunately, the ‘Caps lose on penalties.

The Whitecaps are encouraged by their season and Camilo’s chemistry with Morales. As a result, the club signs the Brazilian to a multi-year extension and make him a designated player since Kenny Miller left earlier in the season. As a result, the DPs are Camilo, Morales and Mathias Laba.

The Whitecaps were a defensively sound team in 2015 and with Camilo in his prime, the goals keep coming. Vancouver would finish second in the league behind the Red Bulls by a single point. Trophies would come as the Whitecaps would win the Canadian Championship again and the MLS Cup by beating the Red Bulls at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey

Camilo and Morales, Kendall Waston and David Ousted were the poster boys for the Whitecaps and I do feel like Camilo would be a key piece to a Whitecaps run to the MLS Cup.

But then again, that is in a different timeline. Camilo, by the way, currently plays for Toluca of Liga MX. When he was with Querétaro from 2014-2019, he scored 67 goals in all competitions and became their all-time leading scorer. Camilo also is the Whitecaps’ leading scorer with 43 in all competitions. Had he stayed, it would’ve been more goals.

What if Kekutah Manneh’s shot against the Portland Timbers in the 2015 playoffs went in?

Speaking of the 2015 season, it was Vancouver’s best in the MLS era. It was their best chance at winning an MLS Cup. As mentioned, they were good defensively and David Ousted was one of the MLS’ top goalkeepers. But their Achilles heel was goals and it cost them in the end.

Vancouver couldn’t get one in two legs against Portland and as a result, bowed out 2-0 on aggregate in the Western Semi-Finals. What made things worse was that the Timbers would go on to win the MLS Cup and would be the first team from Cascadia to do so.

The Whitecaps played well in the first leg at Providence Park and looked to do damage in front of over 27,000 at BC Place. If you remember anything from that night, the atmosphere in the building and even outside was electric.

But a Fenendo Adi goal in the 31st minute took the life out of the Whitecaps and the crowd. (The away goals rule was used at the time.) Diego Chara sealed the Timbers’ victory in stoppage time. That game was a classic Vancouver sports disappointment.

However, the Whitecaps looked threatening to start, especially Kekutah Manneh. Manneh was using his speed to get around the Timbers’ defenders and he managed a shot wide of the right post in the sixth minute.

But as part of our what-if exercise, we’ll focus on this shot he took in the eighth minute. Why? It is because this shot was much closer. From distance, Manneh’s shot hits the left post and then off Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey’s back and out for a corner kick. (Around the 22-second mark in the video linked below.

But what if the ball went off Kwarasey’s back and into the net?

In our timeline, Manneh got injured shortly after this as he seemed to have hurt his ankle. The butterfly effect kind of comes into effect here. If Manneh’s shot went in, he probably would not have gotten hurt.

For the Whitecaps, that goal would have given them momentum. In our timeline, it gave the Timbers momentum but in this timeline, momentum goes the Whitecaps’ way.

The crowd is into it and Ousted and the defence manages to hold off the Portland attack. The Whitecaps hold on and win their first playoff game at BC Place. As a result, they move on to the Conference Finals and face FC Dallas.

The Whitecaps would continue to be defensively sound against FC Dallas but goals were hard to come by as we get a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg at BC Place and in the second leg, they lose 1-0 in stoppage time. In this timeline, FC Dallas would go on to win the MLS Cup.

Scoring was a huge issue in 2015 and even in an alternate universe where they get by the Timbers, I feel like it would still be an issue in the next round.

As for Manneh, he showed a lot of speed and flair in his time with the Whitecaps but he was inconsistent and often made the wrong decisions with the ball. In this universe, he would have scored the biggest goal in Whitecaps’ history. But like in our universe, he probably would have not seen eye to eye with Robinson. Maybe he would have stayed an extra year or two, but that’s about it.

What if the Whitecaps clinched the Western Conference in 2017?

2017 was the second-best season in Whitecaps MLS history. But it could have been better.

The Whitecaps were looking to win the Western Conference and in late September, a point separated them between the Timbers and SKC in the race. The Sounders weren’t too far behind as they had a 13-game unbeaten run but it was snapped by Real Salt Lake.

The Whitecaps went 1-3-1 in their last five games and finished third in the Western Conference with 52 points. Seattle and Portland finished with 53 points but Portland won the conference. The Whitecaps lost 3-0 twice in those five games. The first was in Seattle and the second was at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.

The last game was in Portland and the Whitecaps lost 2-1. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mattocks, the former Whitecap ended up scoring the winner to clinch the conference for the Timbers (and the Cascadia Cup but the Whitecaps were already out of the running for it) on Decision Day. All Vancouver needed was a point and they would’ve had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Whitecaps would beat the San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 in the knockout round but fell to the Sounders in Western Semi-Finals and did not even manage a shot on target.

Vancouver had a chance to clinch the West by beating the Earthquakes on October 15. They were less than 20 minutes away from doing so but a Valeri Qazaishvili shot got one past Stefan Marinović in the 77th minute. It didn’t help that Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell was making great saves left and right.

In this alternate timeline, the Whitecaps manage to hang on by a thread and win the Western Conference. They still lose to the Timbers the following week but Montero doesn’t get injured in training a few days before.

As a result, the Whitecaps get a buy and Portland finishes above Seattle. Vancouver faces Houston in the semi-finals and manages to get by them. In our timeline, they beat the Timbers and Portland was dealing with injuries. In this alternate timeline, Houston isn’t too much of a problem for the Whitecaps.

Seattle and Portland face off in a Cascadia Clash and the Sounders manage to outclass the Timbers. As a result, it is Vancouver vs Seattle in the Western Conference Finals. The Sounders were really good in 2017 and in this timeline, I still think they get past the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps manage to go down 2-1 in the first leg at Centurylink Field but the away goals rule makes it a tie.

The second leg is at BC Place and the Whitecaps manage to score early thanks to Fredy Montero. But it all falls apart in the second half as the Sounders get two away goals with both coming late. It just feels like classic Vancouver sports all over again.

But the Sounders manage to win back-to-back MLS Cups as they beat Toronto FC in the final yet again. Different universe, same pain.

What if the Waterfront stadium was built?

BC Place looks beautiful on the outside but it is criticized for its inside.

The food prices are too high, security sucks and of course, the turf. But the Whitecaps originally had BC Place as a temporary venue. What they originally planned was a stadium on the Waterfront. It would be located near the Waterfront Stadium and it would be built near the railyard where a parking lot currently sits. Whitecaps majority owner Greg Kerfoot apparently owned a plot of land there.

Artists rendering of the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. Photo Credit to the Vancouver Whitecaps via Daily Hive

The proposed site of the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. Screenshot from Google Maps.

The stadium was first proposed in 2006.  When Vancouver was awarded an MLS expansion team in 2009, the club wanted to play their first season and possibly it’s first five at BC Place. That meant the Waterfront stadium was a possibility.

However, the Whitecaps have committed to BC Place and the plans for a Waterfront Stadium fell through. The Waterfront Stadium plans haven’t been brought up for years.

But what if they managed to convince the City of Vancouver and The Port of Vancouver that they could put a 20,000 to the 30,000-seat stadium there?

In an alternate universe, the Whitecaps, the city and the port manage to agree to the stadium being built. Let’s use the original plan of the club playing its first five years at BC Place. Construction begins in 2011 and the stadium opens in 2016. What could the stadium be called? Well, considering that the Whitecaps called the BC Place pitch “Bell Pitch,” Bell Field makes sense.

The stadium would provide views of Burrard Inlet and have natural grass! Perhaps that would be more attractive to new signings and maybe the Whitecaps could have signed a big name like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Whitecaps owning the stadium would mean they could adjust the food and drink prices. A bottle of water probably wouldn’t be around $5.00.

Summer would be the best time to watch a Whitecaps game. Great views, nice weather and there is no worry about a roof being stuck shut. The atmosphere in an outdoor stadium would’ve sounded much better than BC Place. Fans could even find a way to bring flares and smoke bombs.

In some alternate universe, the Waterfront Stadium is seen as one of the best stadiums in MLS. But it looks like the Whitecaps won’t be leaving BC Place anytime soon in our universe.

I had a lot of fun (despite writing this all afternoon) writing this article and hope you did. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 of this. Let me know what you think!

Hopefully, some actual Whitecaps news regarding signings happens soon and we could focus on this universe’s team.