It’s refreshing not to have a goaltending controversy running rampant on at least one Vancouver sports team. For once, the space between the sticks was arguably an area of least concern for the Vancouver Whitecaps. With David Ousted’s consistent play stapling down his starting spot for every MLS game this season, and a solid backup in Paolo Tornaghi, there wasn’t much to worry about. But now, because this is MLS, there will be a roller coaster ride of drafts, potential trades, more drafts, and a salary cap to worry about. Despite the lack of regular season goalie hullaballoo, the Whitecaps will still have plenty of decisions to make during the offseason. Protect or leave keepers exposed for the expansion draft? Use them as potential trade bait? Hire ex-Milan player Tornaghi as a kit designer? These are all questions that will be deeply pondered by the ‘Caps management over the coming months. And as with any big decision, it pays to have a little background.
Nickname: The Stork
The Great Dane had a league leading 13 clean sheets this season. That’s three more than Bill Hamid, four more than Stefan Frei, and six more than Nick Rimando. While shutouts aren’t a definitive representation of individual goalkeeping skills, there’s no denying that that stat is impressive. The backline as a whole has been a strong point for the Whitecaps this season, and that’s in no small part thanks to Ousted’s strong play and leadership. The Whitecaps have reportedly already picked up David Ousted’s contract option, so clearly they want him around next year. The only big decision left is whether to risk leaving him unprotected for the expansion draft. Both Orlando City SC and New York City FC have already signed goalkeepers. Tally Hall was recently traded to Orlando from Houston, and Josh Saunders made the move to New York back in July. But despite the quality and experience of the two keepers, it’s unlikely either new franchise would pass up on David Ousted if he were to be made available. I don’t think the 'Caps should take any risks with their number one keeper. Not only is he the best goalie the team has had since inauguration, but he’s an important personality to keep in the locker room. In spite of having three young kids to look after, he frequently appeared at community events and fundraisers and was voted the 'Caps 2014 Humanitarian of the year. While his persona on the pitch may be loud and intimidating, he is clearly a great mentor for the younger Whitecaps and the team in general.
It’s hard not to feel a little bit sorry for Paolo Tornaghi. His main role for the 'Caps this year has been squarely in the center of the bench. The one time he tried to get onto the field was against Real Salt Lake on April 26th after a late game-tying screamer from Sebastian Fernandez, and it led to a suspension and a fine. The former Inter Milan youth player showed well in preseason but was a casualty of David Ousted’s consistency. Tornaghi’s only real chance to play this year would've been in the Canadian Championship. However, due to Carl Robinson’s new policy of playing predominantly Canadian talent in the competition, Marco Carducci ended up with the starting spot. I can’t see Tornaghi being protected for the expansion draft (backup goalkeepers are hardly irreplaceable), but I would like to see him stick around. With the addition of CONCACAF Champions League games to the Whitecaps schedule next season, he’ll almost certainly get some playing time. And although his contribution this year was limited to the little time he had in preseason, the skill and composure he showed then looked promising.
Nickname: The kid who made his Whitecaps debut before graduating high school
Though he was signed at the beginning of the season to the usual homegrown fanfare, I didn’t expect to see him play at all this year. Of course, Carl Robinson had other ideas, and we got a sneak peek at the future star back in May against Toronto FC. Considering that most goaltenders don’t peak until they’re nearly 30, the teenage Carducci has some serious potential. He may not be the tallest keeper the 'Caps have ever had, but he’s a great shot stopper and evidently does well under pressure. He only really made one notable "error" in his two games this season, and it was arguably the result of a foul by Nick Hagglund. With Carducci being a homegrown player, he's automatically protected for the expansion draft. So as long as the Whitecaps can keep developing the young Canadian and get him enough playing time to keep him happy, they should have a quality keeper for years to come.
- The season review continues tomorrow with Jorge and a look at the 'Caps defense, stay tuned..