It seemed from his first day as a Vancouver Whitecaps player, that Giles Barnes was not going to be a member of the squad for long. Many fans and pundits suggested he was a 2016 rental player and would return to England in the off-season. That is, he was a stopgap for the Whitecaps striker woes.
As the off-season continued, there were expectations that it was only a matter of time before Barnes was shipped off to Blackburn Rovers FC of the English Championship, and reunited with former Houston Dynamo coach Owen Coyle. Even as the delay remained there was still belief that Barnes was going to be transferred. What was frustrating for fans was that the delay in transferring Barnes was seen, whether correct or not, as a roadblock to the Whitecaps bringing in a replacement striker.
As of 3pm PST today, the English transfer window is closed. Giles Barnes remains a Vancouver Whitecaps player. So, what does this all mean?
For the past two months, Carl Robinson has been vocal that a new striker was coming. The majority of those comments stated that he ‘hoped’ to have the striker with them when they went to Wales for the beginning of their preseason. Although Yordy Reyna was signed last week, it seemed clear this was not the player Robinson was meaning.
Because the Whitecaps were unable to move Barnes to the rumored Blackburn Rovers, does this mean that the team does not have the funds (or roster space) to purchase a new striker, or was the new striker signing not contingent on the Barnes transfer?
As it stands today, the Caps are set to enter the 2017 MLS season with a striker stable consisting of Barnes, Erik Hurtado, and Kyle Greig. While each can probably be counted on to put a few in the back of the net, none appear to be the consistent scoring threat the Whitecaps so desperately need leading the line.
Giles Barnes is the best of the three options, but has not really shown an ability to consistently score over the past few seasons in MLS. As a result, he is probably not the best #1 option going forward.
Erik Hurtado is a known quantity, and unfortunately what is known is that while he works hard game-in and game-out, he does not appear to be a consistent goal-scoring threat in MLS. Hurtado certainly has a place on the squad as a 60-minute substitute to closeout a victory or to stretch a tired defense and try to get a goal. It is worth noting that MLS Analyst Matthew Doyle believes that Hurtado has a 8g/3a season (or two) in his future. Even if that is true, like Barnes, he is probably not the best #1 option going forward as that total probably will not cut it for what the Caps need.
Kyle Greig is a known unknown, if that makes any sense. He is a known commodity, as he played for the ThunderCaps last season, scoring 11 goals in 27 appearances, but it is unknown how he will translate to MLS-level opposition. He is older, at 26, so I would not look at him as a traditional ‘rookie’, and he seems to have a great mindset. Just have a chat with him on Twitter. He will become a fan favourite quickly, if he is not already. Nevertheless, it would probably be unfair to heap the scoring duties on to his shoulders in his first season.
So, where does this leave the Whitecaps? The inability to find a suitable striker does beg the question: Are the Whitecaps not an attractive destination for players? We know that the Caps have been searching for a striker. Robbo has made that quite clear, so I don’t think we can say that the team has not been in the market. We know it is not the city that deters players, as Vancouver is always touted as a lovely place to live; although taxes, cost of living, and other elements may factor in negatively. Has the dislike, from supporters, of how this team is managed resulted in players being hesitant to continue their career here? Or, potentially worse, are players not wanting to play for Carl Robinson? There is another option, of course, that we must consider. No matter how much a team wants a player, it doesn’t always work out, and the reason it doesn’t work out may have nothing to do with the destination squad. There are a lot of factors that we do not see. Nevertheless, the Whitecaps inability to attract a striker, any striker, to this team should be a concern. What do you think?
Despite the potential nervousness surrounding the lack of a consistent scoring threat, and how that might mean a very long season for fans, there are reasons to be optimistic. IF, and that might be a big if at the moment, the Whitecaps can find a striker before the start of the season, it could actually make a huge difference. With a midfield consisting of Laba, Bolanos, Manneh, Davies, Mezquida, Techera, and Reyna, there is certainly enough to support a strong striker. Additionally, if the Whitecaps are unable to bring in a new striker, maybe fans get what they have craved for two seasons: Manneh playing as a striker rather than on the wing. I guess we will just have to wait and see how these next few weeks pan out.
What are your thoughts on the striker stable currently assembled? Are you optimistic?