We reported last week that the Vancouver Whitecaps had come to an agreement with DC United for DP striker Fabian Espindola. With the departure of Octavio Rivero, the acquisition of Espindola seemed like a good piece of business by the Whitecaps front office. It provided the Whitecaps with a needed striker, who was familiar with MLS and could provide veteran leadership, who played with a bit of a bite to his game, and, potentially most importantly, was on an expiring contract.
The expiring contract was important as it would allow the Whitecaps to add a striker with some scoring ability in MLS for the rest of the season, without making a long-term commitment. That is, the Whitecaps could take their time in identifying what will be one of the most important signings in the team's history. Let's face it, the Caps are a good team and a consistent scoring threat might be the only major thing holding them back (less the 'minor' RB situation).
Back to why trading for Espindola was a good move, it is common for summer transfers to struggle in acclimating to the MLS schedule and travel. Moreover, they are coming to MLS in preseason mode while the rest of the league is in mid-season fitness. While Espindola has not played often this season and has a history of injuries, he should be in better game-shape than any outside-the-league signing and will be familiar with the travel and weather.
Unfortunately, it appears that Espindola may not be coming to the Whitecaps organization.
At first, the comments seemed fairly innocuous. Espindola would not be joining the Whitecaps in Houston because he was just organizing family things. However, as this story has progressed, it seems those family things may result in Espindola refusing to report to the Whitecaps. Understandably, Espindola is not too keen on moving his family across the continent, only to do it again 6 months later.
I would be surprised if the Whitecaps would want Espindola for anything more than a rest-of-the-season rental and as a result, it would appear that it is unlikely that Espindola will be representing the Whitecaps at BC Place any time soon.
This is another blow to the Whitecaps front office who seem to be involved in too many player-related hiccups; especially attacking players. Although you may recall a similar situation for Rochat, when he had a young family and was shipped out.
The question now becomes 'now what?'. While the Whitecaps are just barely in the playoffs, many of the eventual MLS Cup winners of late have had a poor first half, only to excel in the second. The Caps certainly have their problems and seem to be lacking a cohesive identity, but at the same time, they could be close to honestly being a contender for the MLS Cup. It is hard to imagine them competing at the end of the season though with a tandem of Hurtado and Kudo. Yes, Kudo has looked good in his Whitecaps appearances, but he will surely need help later in the season. Hurtado has had a strong work ethic, but is basically two years removed from any evidence he can put the ball in the net. Perez has played well but appears to be very limited in his minutes (a la Earnshaw of last season). At the same time, you do not want the Whitecaps to make a rush decision and sign a high-end striker who underperforms. I am actually okay with them waiting until January.
I pose the question to you now: What do the Whitecaps do next?