When Russell Teibert and Simon Thomas report to training camp for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, both will do so as proud members of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Similarly, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Kyle Bekker and Jonathan Osorio will be peeling off their red Toronto FC kits for red Canada kits.
The same cannot be said for defender Adam Straith, midfielder Julian de Guzman, midfielder/forward Randy Edwini-Bonsu and forward Simeon Jackson. All four players will report to training camp in Oxnard, California sans club, barring any last-minute summer signing surprise.
Since the Whitecaps are down a Canadian (technically) since the trade of Alain Rochat, seeing four national team names without a club attached to them got me thinking: would any of the four unattached players be of value to the 'Caps? Considering that the team recently brought in goalkeeper David Ousted despite being one injury away from a full-blown catastrophe on defense (sorry, Adam Clement), circumstantial need is clearly not an issue here. With that in mind, let's take a look at the four unattached players and see what, if anything, they could bring to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
(Disclaimer: The vast majority of this article is opinion. I pulled what numbers I could off of the MLS online player database and each player's Wikipedia page. Take everything with a healthy grain of salt.)
JULIAN DE GUZMAN - MIDFIELD
5'7"; born March 25, 1981 (age 32)
The elder de Guzman enter the ranks of the unattached by way of a relegation release clause in his contact with 2.Bundesliga side Jahn Regensburg. De Guzman made fifteen appearances for the now-relegated club following his departure from FC Dallas at the end of Dallas' 2012 MLS season. Prior to that, de Guzman spent three seasons with Toronto FC, four seasons with Deportivo La Coruña in Spain's La Liga, three seasons with Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga and two seasons with FC Saarbrücken in the 2.Bundesliga, giving de Guzman's career a full circle of sorts.
Tack on 64 appearances for the Canadian national team and, in short, de Guzman's been there and done that. You could do far worse when it comes to finding a world-traveled defensive midfielder, though at the ripe old age of 32, de Guzman is likely nearing the end of his international career, if not his playing career.
The question isn't whether or not de Guzman can play, though; the question is, would the Whitecaps find value in his signing? Short answer: no. While de Guzman could conceivably be an upgrade on Jun Marques Davidson, the pricetag and age barrier would make de Guzman an expensive rental at best and a disastrous money-sink at worst.
Julian de Guzman scored all of three goals in MLS. This was his only one with FC Dallas and for Whitecaps supporters it came at a horrible time. Forget a sour taste in the mouth if de Guzman signed; it'd be like sucking on a box of combustible lemons that could also score golazos at will.
RANDY EDWINI-BONSU - MIDFIELD / FORWARD
5'6"; born April 20, 1990 (age 23)
A name that should be familiar to long-time Whitecaps fans, academy product Edwini-Bonsu spent three years with the USL-era 'Caps before moving on to AC Oulu in Finland's second-tier Ykkönen. Twenty appearances and sixteen(!) goals later, he signed on with 2.Bundesliga club Eintracht Braunschweig. While he managed eight league appearances in each of his two seasons with the club (plus a substitute appearance in the DFB Pokal Cup), Edwini-Bonsu failed to register a single goal in Germany and was released at the end of his contract.
Edwini-Bonsu has appeared at the U17, U20, U23 and senior level for Canada, notching a combined 26 caps and five goals, though it should be noted all of those goals came at the U17 or U20 level.
I realize scoring at nearly a goal-per-game pace in the Ykkönen isn't going to raise too many eyebrows (barring any Finnish second divison afficionados lurking out there) but bear in mind Randy Edwini-Bonsu accomplished this at the tender age of 21. The potential is there, plain as day; whether or not he can translate that into success at the MLS level, let alone the national level, remains to be seen. That said, he is a former Whitecap with international experience. If we're looking for a striker with his entire future ahead of him to refine his finishing, Edwini-Bonsu would be a great choice.
SIMEON JACKSON - FORWARD
5'8"; born March 28, 1987 (age 26)
If Randy Edwini-Bonsu is too unproven for you, how about someone with experience in English football from the Premiership all the way down to non-league? Simeon Jackson's career took him from the now-defunct Rushden & Diamonds to Gillingham to Norwich City, experiencing the joy of promotion and the pain of relegation along the way.
While Jackson can claim he did play and score in the Premier League, he unfortunately cannot claim he did so with any regularity. Jackson struggled to get first-team minutes with Norwich, earning only eight league starts in the 2011-12 season, though he did make twelve substitute appearances. His goal production that season was less impressive; only three league goals to his credit, though he did tack on another two goals in the FA Cup off three appearances.
A lack of minutes and production in the 2012-13 season would eventually lead Jackson to join the ranks of the unattached, having only managed three goals across all competitions -- one each in the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup -- and relatively few appearances: thirteen in the Premiership, two in the FA Cup and four in the League Cup, the latter all as a substitute.
Still, at a sub-Premiership level, Jackson proved he can bang home goals; that's good! At the international level, he's still good -- just not exclamation-point-worthy good. In thirty-five senior appearances, he notched six goals. Four of those were during the "beat up on the minnows" stage of FIFA World Cup qualification: an insurance marker against Puerto Rico and a hat-trick against Saint Lucia. The other two were in friendlies against Cyprus and Ukraine, though it should be noted the goal against Cyprus was the game-winner (albeit as the only goal scored in the game).
If Vancouver could land Simeon Jackson, I would be pretty darn stoked about it. Whether Jackson could or would, say, mimic Kenny Miller's two-way work ethic and goal production from this season, is entirely up in the air. That said, MLS defenders aren't yet at the level of an English Premier League backline, so that works in Jackson's favour on the attacking end. Plus, he's a domestic player and a current international entering the prime of his career with not-too-shabby experience under his belt. What more could we want? ...well, aside from hoping against hope Jackson takes a salary that won't break the bank.
Verdict: Yes (if Vancouver can afford it).
ADAM STRAITH - DEFENSE
6'2"; born September 11, 1990 (age 22)
Another Whitecaps Residency graduate that made his way to Germany, Adam Straith latched onto 2.Bundesliga side Energie Cottbus by way of their reserve squad for the start of the 2008-09 season. He made his first team debut in spectacular fashion the following season, scoring his first (and only) goal for the club.
Straith's 23 senior appearances in the 2009-10 comprised the majority of his remaining minutes with Energie Cottbus, manging only 17 appearances across all competitions in the next two seasons. He went on loan to 3.Liga's FC Saarbrücken in January 2012, earning 36 appearances and another goal before nearing the end of his Energie Cottbus contract.
On the one hand, Straith has one -- and only one -- solid season of 2.Bundesliga experience under his belt. The rest of his experience is spotty 2.Bundesliga duty and a 3.Liga loan spell. Is that really enough to prepare someone for MLS action, even if they were only to come off the bench? Signing Straith based on his current body of work would be a gamble. Either he proves to be an excellent centre-back to partner with Johnny Leverón, giving the 'Caps a long-term pairing to succeed Jay DeMerit and Andy O'Brien, or he fizzles out after being unable to step up his game.
On the other, more crazy hand, a young Canadian national team defender with German experience is out of contract right in the middle of an injury crisis?! Sign him! Now!
Rituro is a freelance nerd, sports fan and avid gamer. Feel free to throw a tweet his way and follow @ThatRituroGuy.