Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Lee’s return does present some risk for Whitecaps

Lee’s return does present some risk for Whitecaps

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It doesn’t seem like a major gamble. On Thursday, South Korean veteran Young-Pyo Lee confirmed that he’ll be back with the Whitecaps in 2013.

Lee was named the team’s player of the year. In 33 of 34 regular-season games, he played 90 minutes. And, he showed his years of experience playing in Europe and for the South Korean national team. If anything, Lee should have been a Designated Player — as he meant more to the Whitecaps’ success than any of those who were getting DP deals in Vancouver. At a US$140,000 base salary in 2012, you could argue he was one of the biggest bargains in MLS.

So, no doubt the Whitecaps’ were happy to announce the news that Lee had decided to extend his MLS career, as the team had decided to pick up the option on his deal.

“We’re thrilled that Lee has decided to return for a second season in Vancouver,” said Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie in a release issued by the club. “He was a cornerstone of our backline last year and a leader on the squad. Not only does he bring world-class talent, but also a wealth of experience that will continue to benefit his teammates.”

But, as fit as Lee showed himself to be in 2012, the Whitecaps need to find a way to reduce his minutes in 2013. Lee is 35. And one thing we know about athletes in the autumns of their careers is that breakdowns don’t happen slowly. When the deterioration happens, it happens quickly.

So, the Whitecaps have to temper their hopes for 2013 with the acceptance that Lee isn’t getting any younger. And the way to get the most out of a man in his mid-30s is to try and make sure he doesn’t finish in the MLS top five in minutes played.

If he does, then, the Whitecaps are indeed rolling the dice.

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