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Whither Marcus Haber?

Marcus Haber, then of the Vancouver Whitecaps
Marcus Haber, then of the Vancouver Whitecaps

Nobody reading this is likely to need an introduction to Marcus Haber. The twenty-one year old came to the Vancouver Whitecaps last season, coming over from an unsuccessful youth career in FC Groningen, where he set the USL-1 alight. He was the league's Rookie of the Year and the team's second-leading scorer behind only big veteran and eventual Golden Boot winner Charles Gbeke. On a team that, until the playoffs rolled around, wasn't quite meeting expectations, Haber was utterly surpassing them. It was joyous to watch, and it had a joyous ending: English Championship side West Bromwich Albion, on the verge of promotion to the English Premier League, paid a six-figure transfer to the Whitecaps for Haber's rights.

Surprisingly, that's when it all started to go wrong.

Haber didn't make the gameday squad for Albion in the 2009-10 season. Which wasn't really a surprise, one supposed: the jump from the USL First Division to the English Championship was a bit of a wide one. He went on loan to Exeter City, a club near the bottom of League One, and played five matches. But he did not score and wasn't particularly impressive.

Albion had a clever trick up their sleeve, though. They sent Haber back on loan to the Whitecaps, where with Gbeke gone he became pretty much by default our number one striker. The midfield had improved from last season, MLS was coming, and expectations were high. Haber got in eleven games in his second go-round with Vancouver and scored... once. On a penalty, no less; the English Championship striker was not able to score in open play a single time. If he couldn't score against Crystal Palace Baltimore, what hope would have against actual Crystal Palace?

Haber has once again failed to breach the first team at West Bromwich Albion this season and is once again out on loan, this time to Scotland and St. Johnstone FC. So far in his Scottish Premier League career Haber has two starts and... no goals. It's becoming a very tiresome routine at this point.

Haber hasn't got a lot of speed and his aerial ability is surprisingly marginal for a striker of his side. But he has bags of skill. Unfortunately, his second tour with the Whitecaps was a master course in how not to use it. Haber would get the ball from one midfielder or another and thunder down the wing, deking out some poor USSF D2 schmuck and corkscrewing him into the grass of Swangard Stadium, he'd blast out way too wide, and he'd either misplay the cross or try and play his way out of trouble and in neither event would he succeed. On occasion he would actually be given the ball in perfect goalscoring position, and even then he'd try to play his way out, as if a good chance wasn't good enough and he had to have a perfect chance. On those rare occasions when he just fired the ball, he'd show power but not accuracy.

Not only was Haber not scoring as a Whitecap, he wasn't even making the goalkeepers work to deny him. That was the worst part of his second tour in Vancouver. He couldn't score and it never looked like he would.

With international friendlies coming up, Haber's name is being bandied about in certain quarters as a potential callup to Canada. Haber has never appeared with the senior international team but did get into twenty-one U-20 games, where he scored... once. I've seen very little of him outside of Vancouver, snippets here and there, but it seems like he's keeping up that noble habit of having all the skill in the world and not doing a thing by it. I realize that he's a 21-year-old getting regular minutes in good professional leagues, but what's it matter if he can't do anything in those minutes?

More and more it looks like Haber's one year in Vancouver was the fluke, not the rest of his career that's surrounded it.