The signing of midfielder Floyd Franks to the Vancouver Whitecaps is now a week old, but I should say something about him anyway.
Franks is a 27-year-old former MLS washout with a lower-back injury; that's not a promising way to start a sentence. However, while he's never been a star at the professional level he had been able to make a go of it in some interesting leagues. He came through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte wreathed in honours and was a 2006 supplemental draft pick of the Chicago Fire. After being waived by Chicago at the end of the 2007 MLS season, Franks moved to Martin Rennie and the Cleveland City Stars of the old USL Second Division. His numbers weren't too impressive but they earned him a season and a half in Europe, helping gain promotion for Danish second division side Blokhus FC. His numbers in Denmark were, according to a press release, pretty good, although I'll be damned if I can find season-by-season stats.
Like many a college star, Franks was a goalscorer, bagging three five-goal seasons coming out of UNC at Charlotte's midfield. He earned all-conference honours on multiple occasions; never a top prospect, he was a key part of a good college team and impressed with the Fire in his first training camp. He even has an MLS goal to his name, with his sole tally coming against the mighty 2007 Toronto FC.
Since then, Franks has rebranded. He has more of a Kevin Harmse feel to him now, with strong-bordering-on-vicious tackling winning him 12 yellow cards over two seasons with the Railhawks, including seven last year on a team better known for skill and finesse. He's like Jun Marques Davidson's evil clone: while Davidson is a lanky, talented defensive midfielder who thrives with athleticism and subtle play, Franks is smaller and less technical but an unpredictable hard worker who isn't afraid to get stuck in.
|Floyd Franks Career Outdoor Statistics|
The main reason I'm so pleased the Whitecaps are trying to exploit good second-division players is because it seems much better than the traditional approach of exploiting failed MLS players. But as mentioned Franks is a failed MLS player, getting two seasons of spot duty and one goal before dropping, not to the second but the third division.
That was oh-so-long ago, though. When Franks left Chicago in 2007 he was still considered an offensive prospect; in his senior year of college he even played some forward. The Fire were clearly looking to Franks for his scoring, based on old match reports and his time with the Fire Reserves (his first season, playing a very offensive role, he managed four goals in ten appearances).
Franks's lack of production in limited minutes spelled his end with the Fire, but Martin Rennie was willing to take a chance on him. The 2008 Cleveland City Stars had plenty of scoring (led by Ryan Stewart and future Railhawks depth player Sallieu Bundu) so Franks assumed a more two-way role.
Like many a player forced through the blender that is lower-division North American soccer, Franks is versatile. He's a native right-footer and usually played outside right when I saw him with Carolina, although he's been known to play centrally as well. His speed makes him well-suited to the wing, although he hasn't got a reputation for his crossing: passes along the ground and attempted through balls are his preferred repertoire. Think Nanchoff rather than Teibert.
I can't imagine Franks bringing too many assists to MLS anyway. I think he'll mostly be an energy or defensive substitution, looked upon to provide depth or hardness as needed. He brings a level of aggression that this lineup has lacked since Terry Dunfield left: he's not the dirtiest player (in fact, I don't believe he has a professional sending-off) but he isn't afraid to take liberties and tackle hard. Only Gershon Koffie comes close to replicating that in the current Whitecaps lineup; he's an old-school hardman rather than just a dirty bastard in the Adam Braz vein.
Franks was a late signing and Martin Rennie doesn't seem to be counting on him for much more than a known quantity who can play multiple positions cheap and bring some toughness our lineup otherwise lacks. That's fine. Franks was not a spectacular NASL player but he was a more-than-serviceable one; for 500 minutes a season he's better qualified than a college grunt or Peter Vagenas.