Newly-drafted Omar Salgado poses with two-thirds of the Vancouver Whitecaps brain trust. (Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
You turn your back on them for just ten seconds and the Vancouver Whitecaps grab a million new players.
It's my own fault, I suppose. Those ten seconds included the MLS SuperDraft and the Supplementary Draft, two big opportunities for a team to grab a million guys I've never heard of before and likely will never hear of again. The Whitecaps also signed defender Alain Rochat from Zurich but, frankly, that's not news: anybody who's been reading this site for the last six months knows everything there is to know about Rochat. The only news is that Rochat will now officially be on the Major League Soccer roster, when before he was just more-or-less officially on it.
Still. That doesn't mean I don't have to make up for lost time, and that doesn't mean there aren't a half-dozen newly-minted Vancouver Whitecaps sitting in their hotel rooms desperately waiting to hear me pronounce sentence. So I may as well run through them as quickly as possible. After the jump, the first part of my look at the newest Vancouver Whitecaps, where I address those we picked up in the entry draft and what I think their deal is.
The second part of this series, covering the supplemental draft and rounding up the Whitecaps' roster as is, hits tomorrow sometime. I swear.
Since I didn't get to it at the time, let's get to the MLS SuperDraft right now. Obviously, the Whitecaps created a bit of a kerfuffle selecting Omar Salgado first overall. The 17-year-old Salgado is a United States U-20 international and a formidable striker physically, standing almost 6'4" with a lean but increasingly strong frame. He drew rave reviews as a member of the Guadalajara youth academy (not to be confused with Chivas USA, as I'm sure you were going to) and coming up the Mexican youth ranks before his international defection. I've never seen the kid in person but, by all accounts, he just looks like a striker. Tall. Strong. A good eye for the goal, like a kid who's been scoring on his peers his whole life and sees no reason to stop now. A powerful shot that brings to mind a young Ali Gerba, which I guess would be Ali Ngon, but with the athleticism, speed, and work ethic to keep it up.
I think it was a bad pick.
Firstly, as we've discussed, I'm a big believer in selecting the best player available. I thought the best player available was Darlington Nagbe, but it turns out he didn't want to play in Canada because he's
an asshole concerned about the implications with his United States immigration papers. If we didn't want the questionable Nagbe, the next-best choice was obviously midfielder Perry Kitchen. Kitchen is only eighteen, plays a variety of positions, is also a United States U-20 international, and by all accounts might be a better all-round prospect than Salgado. Even if we need to fill Salgado's position more than we need to fill Kitchen's, if Kitchen is a better player we could have traded him for superior value.
So that's what irritates me most of all. DC United was definitely interested in Nagbe and were, by all accounts, willing to trade up. We couldn't have gotten something of value to trade down to number three? Anything? Allocation money, an international spot? There was a chance that DC and Portland could both take Kitchen and Salgado, leaving us holding the recalcitrant Nagbe, but a) that wasn't going to happen, and b) if it did happen we'd still have Darlington Nagbe. There are teams out there who'd cream themselves to trade for Nagbe even if he wound up being unable to play in Canada, and that was by no means certain. Picking Salgado first overall is poor asset management. I dislike poor asset management.
Will he be a poor player? Probably not, but there are question marks the size of Volkswagens. It's worth remembering that Salgado can't play in Canada until his eighteenth birthday on September 10, meaning that not only is he not a short-term solution (not that anybody could expect him to be one) but he won't even be able to get into either the Whitecaps or the Whitecaps Residency lineups for a competitive match. It's conceivable that he'd be able to play only away games (I'm not an American lawyer, unfortunately, so I couldn't tell you), but that would be pretty poor consolation. Salgado has also spent the last calendar year roving the soccer landscape; trialling here, training there, and generally lacking match experience. In his most recent appearances for the American U-20s, Salgado was described as being a step behind and a bit of a disappointment simply because he was so out of practice. Another eight months without competitive soccer isn't going to help that. There are also questions about attitude and ego, but such questions dog most great athletes who aren't Wayne Gretzky. I'm willing to restrain my judgment in that department until I actually see him.
At eighth overall, the Whitecaps pulled midfielder Michael Nanchoff out of the University of Akron. I didn't mind this pick. I'm definitely cynical about Akron churning out so many players allegedly ready for MLS. They may have been NCAA champions, but they can't have been that good, and while there were doubtless a few good alpha dogs there may also have been a lot of players selected just riding on somebody's coattails. That said, I am definitely persuaded by Nanchoff. He's a two time all-Conference first-team midfielder, which speaks well to his all-round game, and he also had a highly successful run with the Cleveland Internationals of the USL Premier Development League. Nanchoff was highly-esteemed even by the standards of the University of Akron soccer program, and he had parts of three good seasons playing summer soccer in a highly competitive league.
Nanchoff checks almost all my boxes for a midfielder. He's highly intelligent and fits naturally into that "midfield general" role we all want. He's got an absolute howitzer of a left foot. He's quick enough and agile enough to play professionally. But he's small. At 5'8" height isn't the problem, but Nanchoff is virtually rail-thin, and MLS is infamous for inflicting a pounding upon its skill players. As a professional, it might wind up being important for Nanchoff to adjust to playing the left side (he was a central midfielder throughout his college career) and that may not be an easy transition for him. I'm generally in favour of this pick and like the player, but we did pick him eighth overall so we can't pretend he hasn't got warts. All the same, I like this chances of being better than Nathan Sturgis.
We next added midfielder/striker Jeb Brovsky with the first pick of the second round. Brovsky looked very good at the MLS Combine, but frankly I don't put a lot of stock in the combine. It's an out-of-season tournament played between teams who aren't familiar with each other on a cricket ground with the explicit intent of building up each player's individual ranking. Not exactly relevant to the real world of professional soccer. Brovsky, though, doesn't come entirely unrecommended: he's a good midfielder/withdrawn striker type, with decent size and speed combined with solid, but unexceptional, ball skills. He seems like a useful player, even if he's not the one I would have taken personally. With Michael Farfan, Anthony Ampaipitakwong, and of course my boy John Rooney still on the board, there seemed to be some real talent still available. Nothing against Brovsky, who looks like a useful acquisition. He just wasn't the best player available.
In the third round, Vancouver added right back Bilal Duckett. A teammate of Brovsky's at Notre Dame, Duckett is a right back with speed and size. I know very little about him personally; he's another one of those guys said to have risen at the combine. He has been described as a project, somebody a step behind technically even if he has all the physical ability in the world. Basically, a young Willis Forko, and I hated Willis Forko. On the other hand, Duckett can't be expected to do more than kick around in the Reserves and understudy with Vancouver's more experienced defenders, and I look forward to seeing how he comes along. You're not going to grab a world-beating player in the third round, and if Duckett turns out to be a quick study we might have stolen one.