One thing we know for sure is that the Vancouver Whitecaps are a better team when Nigel Reo-Coker is on the pitch.
Now, that last sentence would have held true, at least until a couple of weeks ago, before the 2014 season actually started.
Nigel Reo-Coker was signed by the Vancouver Whitecaps in February of 2013, and the Barclay's Premier League veteran took little time to start making an impression on his new teammates, new fans and new league. The Vancouver faithful were witnesses of his ability of being able to grab a game by the scruff of the neck by providing a much-needed physical presence on the pitch. The exciting, surging runs forward and magnificent crunching tackles (who doesn't remember fondly that wonderful sliding tackle that sent Sam Cronin flipping through the air?) earned him the right to wear the captain's armband when Jay DeMerit and Kenny Miller were unavailable for selection.
His form, however, went through peaks and valleys throughout the campaign. There were brilliant games and some others where the veteran did not have a big impact on the pitch. Yes, a case might be made that Reo-Coker's performance took a bit of a dive towards the end of the season. However, that can be attributed to the adjustment needed to the lengthy MLS season and, more importantly, to the long travel required when playing for a team in the Cascadia region. While Reo-Coker's consistency was an issue for many fans, his performances in 2013 sparked a debate about the merits of a contract revision and a possible designated player status for 2014.
It is not a secret that Reo-Coker came to Vancouver with the idea of playing his way into a more lucrative contract, and hopefully earning the coveted Designated Player status in the process. There were rumblings in the offseason that talks between Reo-Coker and the club were held, but with the addition of Matias Laba and Pedro Morales as DPs, the door has (at least) temporarily closed on Nigel's DP status. Perhaps the club wanted to see Reo-Coker's performance in his sophomore season before forking out a bigger contract?
The 2014 season has started and with three games on the books it is perhaps Reo-Coker the player who has had the most disappointing performances thus far. Paired up in the defensive midfielder slot next to Matias Laba, the veteran has looked out of shape, outperformed and out of position in several occasions throughout the first three games. He is constantly chasing the play, committing avoidable fouls and starting to accumulate yellow cards. One of the biggest differences between the Reo-Coker of early 2014 and his own 2013 incarnation is the amount of turnovers he has given up. Most notably are the balls he coughed up that led to the Chivas goal in California and the one that ended up earning him a yellow card early in the game versus New England.
Reo-Coker's performances of late seriously put into question his spot in the starting XI. Players behind him, such as Gershon Koffie, are pushing for minutes and perhaps it is time to give them a chance to see what they can do. One thing is certain, it is in everyone's best interest that Reo-Coker's perfomances start to improve again. The Whitecaps will be able to field what can be considered one of the best central midfield tandems in the league and Nigel will have a strong case for his new contract. But as of now, Reo-Coker's DP aspirations are disappearing quicker than a pizza at a frat house.