After a couple weeks of making paranoid idiots like me worry, the Vancouver Whitecaps finally sealed the deal on four more of their promising trialists. Defender Michael Boxall, midfielders Alexandre Morfaw and Russell Teibert, and forward Camilo Sanvezzo have finally agreed to terms with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"Promising", of course, is a relative term. Alexandre Morfaw is a 22-year-old central midfielder, a cut below most of the young competition at his position despite being older. He's a reasonable enough player. He doesn't make a tonne of mistakes and he has a bit of sandpaper in his makeup. He makes the opposition angry and he has a couple dandy plays in him. But he is what he is: a lower-end midfielder who might become a better player but will never be confused for a star.
Russell Teibert, meanwhile, is a two-time Canadian U-17 player of the year who had an injury-plagued 2010 but roared through preseason like a bat out of hell. He may be just eighteen years old but he's virtually won the starting left winger spot and not because he lacks competition. He's been the pleasant surprise of the preseason, and I'm saying this as a guy who was always convinced Teibert's pretty good.
Doubtless, all four of these players will play a role in the Whitecaps' fortunes in 2010. But only a few of them are likely to be important beyond that.
At risk of pimping my work on another website, I'm going to pimp my work on another website. On Tuesday I wrote an article about the remaining trialists in Whitecaps training camp, and I singled out a few of them for you-should-sign-these-guys special praise. Camilo Sanvezzo (as I've decided to call him just because the Whitecaps do; "Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo" has a bit more of a ring to it) didn't get much attention because, at the time, he was in Seattle trying to get a work permit sorted out. Supposedly this was just to extend his trial with Vancouver. Apparently it became a little bit more than that: perhaps Tom Soehn liked what he saw of Sanvezzo's ability to fill out paperwork, or maybe the powers-that-be said Sanvezzo would only get into the country with an actual contract, not merely another trial. Who knows? Probably somebody, but not me.
Either way, Sanvezzo is a nice addition. It's not often an MLS team signs a player who's been the leading scorer in a professional league, and even if that league is just Malta Sanvezzo's proven he can put the ball in the net. He's also a pleasantly young twenty-two years old and can play the undersized sparkplug role with plenty of mobility and on-the-ball skills: the lightning to Eric Hassli, Atiba Harris, and Omar Salgado's thunder. I'm not writing him into a starting spot, even in the medium term. He's got a lot of work to do if he's going to get used to the physical nature of MLS and the guy ahead of him on the depth chart, Davide Chiumiento, is simply miles in front. But Sanvezzo has most of the tools and, given how empty the Whitecaps roster still is, it's the smart move to give him a chance. He could become the next Andrea Lombardo but, frankly, there's quite a bit more Jeff Cunningham in him.
Michael Boxall is the least flashy of the four signings. In fact, he might just about be the least flashy player in the world. He's huge, his running is strictly point-A-to-point-B, he can jump and he can outmuscle just about anyone and given his relative inexperience he's got an awfully good soccer brain. I like Michael Boxall. I like him a lot. You'll be unsurprised to hear that I therefore like his signing. Unusually for a guy who came out of the supplemental draft, I wouldn't mind if Boxall started a game or two. It wouldn't be ideal, but if Greg Janicki pulls a muscle or gets tired or even struggles a little bit, I see Boxall as a perfectly viable replacement. His game is simple, utterly no-nonsense. He hasn't got bags of skill but he has got bags of sense, meaning that he makes the right play instead of the clever one. As long as he can keep up mentally and athletically, he's the sort of player who adjusts to just about any league in the world. So far, Boxall's had no problem keeping up.
Alexandre Morfaw I've spoken of, of course. I'm not the president of his fan club but can't really object to his signing no matter how hard I try. I mean, look at the Whitecaps' central midfield: Terry Dunfield and John Thorrington are both fine but have had injury problems in their careers; Thorrington is fighting a knock right now. Michael Nanchoff is an unproven SuperDraft pick who's still hurt and might be needed on the right wing anyway. Gershon Koffie looks exciting but is also a teenager. There's a lot of room there for something to go wrong. Morfaw is no sure thing, but at least he's not bad. He needs to come off the bench or go a few games starting, he won't embarrass you. He did show signs of improvement last year in division two; maybe he picks up the way things work in MLS sooner than we all thought and becomes a legitimately useful squad player. But in the worst case, he provides some useful depth at a position which needs it.
Then there's Russell Teibert. I've saved the best for last, in every sense. I should give him more of an in-depth writeup because he deserves it: he's just a special, special player. He's a little ball of footballing fury. He sidesteps and makes moves like this is a rec league, except he's doing it against MLS opposition and it works anyway. It'll take the start of the regular season to see if Teibert can be as formidable against the professionals when the games count, but so far everything is coming up his way. Even if he does need a bit more time to prove himself, he's eighteen. How many eighteen-year-olds are effective starting lineup skill players in Major League Soccer? If Teibert struggles a bit and winds up on the bench as a substitute, I'll be able to contain my disappointment.
And yet somehow I don't think I will be disappointed. I was so worried when Teibert wasn't signed early by Vancouver. Not because I thought there was any reason for complications, but because this is a player I don't want to get away. Even a 1 in 100 chance he'd somehow slip through our fingers and wind up in Toronto or Montreal was 1 in 100 too many. I'm glad the deal is sealed. The rest is up to Teibert.