Blaise Nkufo celebrating a goal. Hey, that sounds good! (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Of course the Vancouver Whitecaps aren't going to sign Blaise Nkufo. Of course. Inking a 35-year-old malcontent from a Cascadian rival goes against everything Tom Soehn and Teitur Thordarson have been building. This is so obvious I feel a little embarrassed point it out and, besides, Marc Weber said so.
That doesn't mean it wouldn't be a really good idea, though.
Nkufo is neither young nor quick. His wind's not the greatest; a problem when you're coached by Teitur Thordarson. He's a fairly limited player, and some would say that he's too limited for the money the Seattle Sounders have spent on him. However, he's plenty talented and finishes very well. When he started to find his stride in MLS last season, Nkufo looked positively dangerous. He's something of a known quantity and the Whitecaps could probably rely on him to pile in eight, nine goals if he was in the starting eleven. We forget about it in the excitement of signing Eric Hassli, but the Whitecaps still aren't exactly set at forward. I'm not at all convinced by Atiba Harris, Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo last scored a goal in Malta, and Long Tan was the fourth-best forward on FC Tampa Bay last season.
Seriously! Isn't this a team just crying out for the Blaise Nkufo experience?
Even if Nkufo is a pure final-third player, that's exactly the sort of guy you want to have! The Seattle Sounders no longer have one and they got to watch O'Brian White do what he does best instead. They're valuable sorts in every league, and they're doubly valuable in MLS when defenders are often either unathletic or unskilled. Come on, Tom Soehn. Show some aggression for once.
(Again, I know you won't.)
When I talk about Blaise Nkufo, I am reminded of a little subplot from last season. The Whitecaps strike force looked decent on paper, with a healthy Marlon James, a loaned Marcus Haber, and the promising Randy Edwini-Bonsu in the fold. But none of those guys were sure things and the team, at the very least, needed some depth. So after he was sent home from Toronto FC for looking Preki directly in the eyeballs, I started pimping for the Whitecaps to sign Ali Gerba. Sure, he wasn't the most athletic guy on two legs, but he could bloody well score and that was just what he needed.
Unfortunately, when Teitur Thordarson came out to mingle with the Southsiders at a season-opening barbecue, he openly scoffed at the idea of signing Gerba. Apparently those limitations were a bit too limiting. The Whitecaps wound up with an offense so inept it cost them a championship, while Gerba sat around on his couch eating cheese slices for months before going to Montreal and scoring nine goals in thirteen appearances, single-handedly turning them into USSF D2 title contenders despite arriving midseason and taking four games to even get into match fitness.
Is this ringing any bells? Any at all?
I like Eric Hassli. He seems like a good egg as well as a good forward. I mind Long Tan a lot less than I thought I would, I see promise in Camilo Sanvezzo, and Atiba Harris, um, is also here. But are any of them sure things? Hassli seems great but this is his first trip to North America and he has got an injury history. Sanvezzo and Tan are both appallingly unproven at this level. Omar Salgado is a long-term hope, but he's not available until September and even then he's just eighteen: touched by the soccer gods he may be, but there's no substitute for experience.
And, of course, in MLS everything depends on the contract and his trade value. Would the Sounders demand an arm and a leg for sending Nkufo to a Cascadian rival? "Let's start with Davies, Teibert, and Salgado, and build from there?" Of course, then Soehn would be wise to fart into the handset and hang up. For that matter, would Nkufo need a new contract? So far the Sounders and Nkufo have just "cut ties"; it's not clear whether that's an outright release or whether Nkufo is borrowing Ali Gerba's couch and cashing paycheques. If he's released the Whitecaps would of course have to give him a new contract; if Nkufo is planing to retire at the end of the season as previously reported that would be fine. If he wants to hold on until he's 55 and get a million dollars a year, that would be a problem. But if he wants to take a one-year contract, play out the string, and maybe get an extension for next year if he's happy and productive, then frankly I don't mind giving him a designated player deal.
When Toronto FC signed Mista, he was obviously a failure and they got rid of him. But what harm did the signing do? He came, he saw, he wasn't up to the challenge, he left. They needed help at the position (still do, actually). It cost them nothing but money, which was in large supply, and had it worked out at all Toronto FC would have challenged for a playoff berth. Acquiring Nkufo would be unlikely to be any worse. It would probably be much better, since Nkufo's proven he can score in MLS.
Come on, Tom. Just for once. It's not your money you're gambling with. Go wild.