There was a moment during Fridays training session in Obetz, Ohio, where Whitecaps players were doing their “2 in the middle” drill, a fun warm-up exercise they would have performed hundreds of times. As me and some other stragglers were chatting informally with Caps Coach Carl Robinson, an explosive roar came from the group, some of whom were now on the ground laughing. I said to the coach, “Thats a good sound." "Brilliant” he replied. Something special is happening within a group that has representation from all over the world and that varies in age from 20 to 34. Theres a togetherness, despite a language barrier that could easily divide the locker room between the Latin-based players, the younger Americans and the senior pros. Midfield maestro and Designated Player Pedro Morales was in the hotel lobby with a few teammates having a coffee when he remarked on how this might be the best team spirit hes experienced in his career. This is a 10-year pro who was playing in La Liga only a few months ago with Malaga. Prior to Wednesdays Amway Canadian Championships, a game which featured a very young, Canadian heavy squad, all the senior players remained in the locker room right up until kick-off to offer support and encouragement for the youngsters who are likely to replace them one day. Nigel Reo Coker, a veteran of the Barclays Premier League, who played in the Toronto game, teased the armband-wearing Russell Teibert as the Niagara Falls, Ontario native gave his first captains speech in the huddle. “Speak up, Russ. I cant hear you.” More laughter. More calming of nerves before a team of kids was about to battle a line-up that featured Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Gilberto. The Whitecaps more senior group then followed up the Toronto performance with a solid, cohesive and monstrous away win at Columbus, where 23-year-old Eric Hurtado, in only his fifth MLS start, scored his first MLS goal. It was a moment of individual brilliance, as the sophomore took an ousted clearance off his chest and rolled his defender before turning and unleashing a left-footed blast into the top corner. His celebration was oddly muted, as if hed scored that type of goal a hundred times. But the occasion wasnt lost on his teammates who gathered quickly to mob him. When asked about the goal after, Hurtado immediately acknowledged his colleagues role in the goal and the win. It might be overly simplistic to compare team-building with cooking a dish - you follow a recipe that you think will work and then add certain missing ingredients until it tastes just right. Only, there is no recipe for team-building. While the 2014 edition of the Whitecaps is nowhere near ready to put on top of the table, what is simmering on the stove has a wonderful aroma. Its also creating a healthy appetite for hungry Whitecaps fans. Will Barton Jersey
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