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Camilo: Disaster Could Have Been Avoided

Sometimes, you just can't help but feel a little sad for the Vancouver Whitecaps...

Camilo: From Whitecap to White Rooster?
Camilo: From Whitecap to White Rooster?
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

In the Major League Soccer era, the very brief history of the Vancouver Whitecaps reads much like that kiddie story of The Little Engine That Could - the pre-climax part, at least. For it seems that no matter how much momentum the organization builds and no matter how much determination they have, sustaining success appears to be just too much of an ask.

From an organizational perspective (read: management), it truly has been a case of one step forward, two steps back on a fairly consistent basis since the ramp-up to MLS began in 2010.

There's been instability in the coaching department, with four coaches now in the past four years. The most recent being the internal promotion of Carl Robinson after the club rather publicly tried and failed to attract much bigger fish to the grill.

There was big-name CEO, Paul Barber, brought in from Tottenham to guide the Whitecaps' ship as they navigated their route into MLS waters. He lasted two years before jumping ship. It had looked to be a huge step in the right direction for the Caps at the time, but it turned out to be nothing more than a stepping-stone move for Barber, who, at last glance, was at the helm of Brighton & Hove Albion of the Football League Championship.

Vancouver failed to hang on to Davide Chiumiento, the only true playmaker the club has ever had. He was sold to FC Zurich, but later suggested in the Swiss media that he would have been happy to remain in Vancouver for the right price.

Eric Hassli was brought in as the club's first-ever designated player. He had a nose for the spectacular, but inconsistency, petulance, and ultimately a massive dry spell put an end to his tenure in Vancouver. You can't hang Hassli's wash out on the Caps, as his resume was impressive at the time, and for a while, if you were a Whitecaps fan, life was like an endless summer at Camp Good Times.

But the name Mustapha Jarju definitely does belong in the litany of mistakes made by the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Then, there was last season's debacle involving LB Alain Rochat. In a move intended to clear salary for the soon-to-be-coming goalkeeper David Ousted, the Caps dumped the Swiss-Canadian off to DC United for a second-round pick and a conditional pick in the SuperDraft - more or less the equivalent of giving away your gently worn Versace suit in exchange for a quick zip down the aisle at Value Village. Rochat put in five matches for D.C. before the club engineered his transfer to Y.B. of Switzerland's Raiffeisen League - for a fee that the Washington Post reported to be in excess of  $500,000 USD.

Now there's the Camilo thing.

No, Camilo and his agent definitely haven't gone about this the right way, and I agree with Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi's assessment that Camilo's bolting to Queretaro and appearing in their kit is "unacceptable and inappropriate." But... it could and should have been avoided.

Immediately after season's end, the Whitecaps took their eyes off the ball in focusing solely on the search for coach Martin Rennie's successor. Camilo was the Golden Boot winner, and had scored more than 40% the club's goals in 2013 - while on a contract of $250,000 per season, about half of what other MLS players of his calibre are earning.

The window to renegotiating Camilo's contract opened the second that he secured the Golden Boot, but slammed shut after the two months that passed while Whitecaps management first pursued a coach, and then took vacations.

At this point, there is no turning back for either the Whitecaps or Camilo. We know where the Whitecaps stand - the club has been unequivocal in their assertions that Camilo remains under contract to them. It's pretty clear where Camilo and Queretaro stand - as the Twitter pics and the Mexican club's website have shown.

Who knows what MLS's stance is? Presumably, the suits in New York are apoplectic, but that's a guess. After all, they've been stone silent through all of this. And FIFA? Well there's some small evidence that the governing body has not been wholly enamored with (single) option contracts in the past. But within MLS, exclusively, such contracts are common and fully compliant with North American labour law - they're also recognized by MLS Players Union.

It's a mess - but one that could well have been avoided. Camilo Sanvezzo's proven to be The Little Engine That Could, while for the Vancouver Whitecaps making it up and over this particular MLS hill remains in doubt.