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WFC2: The Prospect Pyramid

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Who are the Thundercaps to watch out for?

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Central FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Author’s note: I’ve appropriated this format from Sportsnet contributor and YouTuber Steve Dangle. His videos on the Toronto Maple Leafs are great. I enjoy them tremendously, despite not really being a hockey fan, thanks to his sense of humour and tremendous passion. Check him out.

WFC2 have had a stinker of a season. They have barely won a game since the spring, have scored very few goals and conceded even more (they have a -19 goal differential). So there’s not much of value on the team right? Well, yes and no. I don’t think any of the WFC2 players who don’t already have an MLS deal have earned one, but I do think a lot of them show promise. A lot of the players had very little professional experience before this season and as such they’ve lost a lot of games due to a little bit of inexperience or naiveté. So I think a lot of the players could come good with another year or two of experience. Also it should be noted that there is still one more game to go, so the stats might fluctuate a bit but unless a player bangs in 6 goals on the final day I don’t think my opinion is going to be drastically altered by that one game. On that note let’s get right into the prospect pyramid!

Tier 1:

Description: These players are ready to be contributing to the first team.

Spencer Richey

Position: Goalkeeper

Key Stat: 3 clean sheets

Age: 25

Summary: I’ve discussed before why I think Richey deserves a shot at the starting role but in summary: He’s been consistently one of the best WFC2 players and if that’s not rewarded then there’s no point fielding WFC2 at all.

With David Ousted having one foot out the door, Richey and Stefan Marinovic can form a capable and cost effective goalkeeping tandem in 2018.

Marco Bustos:

Position: Attacking Midfielder

Key stat: 8 goals (leads team)

Age: 21

Summary: Bustos is another player who i’ve discussed at length before. He’s been the best offensive player for WFC2. His output has been somewhat limited the players around him, he has only two assists but 1.5 key passes per match for example. It’s also not like Bustos has been slacking with WFC2 either, as he’s looked very motivated. At 21 Bustos needs to be playing at a level that’s challenging for him. It doesn’t matter if that means with the first team, on loan, or being sold on, If Bustos is still regularly playing for WFC2 next year then it’s a waste of his time.

Brett Levis:

Position: Left Back

Key stat: 4 games played

Age: 24

Levis made the breakthrough to the first team last year but suffered a serious knee injury which kept him out for almost a year. it’s a tough time for Levis to suffer such an injury, as at 23 or 24 players are getting to the point where they are about as good as they are ever going to be. To go down with an injury just as the finishing touches are being put on your development can make things difficult. That being said, Levis certainly looks a man amongst boys at the USL level, even after his injury, and with Harvey and De Jong both on the wrong side of 30 Levis could potentially play a big role with the first team next year. But, as we’ve seen with Christian Dean, long term injuries can be tough to shake off.

Tier 2:

Description: These players aren’t ready for first team football but I have a high degree of confidence that they will be in a year or two.

David Norman Jr.

Position: Centre Midfield

Key Stat: 38 Key passes (leads team)

Age: 19

Summary: There’s a lot to like about Norman. Leading the team in key passes is especially impressive when you consider that he often played in a very deep midfield role. He has a pretty good shot on him and isn’t afraid to get stuck in to a challenge. Of course he was also part of a midfield that was frequently overrun and struggled to keep possession. I’d give him another year at the USL level to develop him more so he can really boss the midfield (and also because centre midfielders aren’t exactly in short supply right now). Of course if the rumours that WFC2 will fold are true then I think he gets signed to a first team deal so they can keep a hold of him. In the meantime, watch him (#42) in the buildup to this goal by Marco Bustos and get excited for what the future holds:

Michael Baldisimo:

Position: Centre Midfielder

Key Stat: 81% passing percentage (69% accuracy with long balls, which is pretty good)

Age: 17

Summary: The Baldisimo brothers are really hard to tell apart. They look really similar, have similar names, and are #66 and #65, it’s just a nightmare. Michael, the younger one, was initially much further down the pyramid as he had very little playing time. Then he was given a chance and he turned out to be really good. Particularly impressive his his ability to ping a Hollywood pass over great distance and with great accuracy in a way that reminds one of Pedro Morales.

Nevertheless the younger Baldisimo still has some holes in his game. He sometimes doesn’t get the short simple passes right and his defending leaves something to be desired. But he clearly has great talent and, at 17, lots of room to improve.

Gloire Amanda:

Position: Winger/Striker

Key Stat: 3 goals

Age: 18

Summary: In his first season of professional soccer Amanda has looked dominant at times. Emphasis on “at times.” Amanda, is strong, quick, and skilled but he tends to drift in and out of matches. He also seemed to often find himself on the bench as seemingly lesser players were preferred. Hopefully this just shows protecting a rookie and not some kind of attitude problem behind the scenes. I think next year could be a big year for Amanda. Hopefully he comes back next year, destroys USL and is able to springboard into the first team. He certainly has the talent, it’s just a matter of finding consistency.

Sean Melvin:

Position: Goalkeeper

Key Stat: 71% save percentage

Age: 23

Summary: We know that the ‘Caps are high on Melvin. The reveal video for their new training centre showed that Melvin has a locker with the first team. I think there’s a pretty good chance that next year he gets a first team deal and is then loaned back to WFC2 (or whoever the ‘Caps affiliate is next year). Melvin has given WFC2 a chance to win on a number of occasions (see the highlights package below), unfortunately they rarely took that chance. There was even a hint towards the end of the season that just maybe WFC2 preferred him to Richey, as he played a lot more of the games towards the end of the season. Nevertheless I still rate Richey a little higher, and I think Melvin deserves a chance at being ‘the guy’ for WFC2.

Tier 3:

Description: these players aren’t ready for first team football yet and I have a lower degree of certainty that they will make it. That being said they all have enough potential that they could one day be useful MLS players. Basically I want to be able to say “I always rated him” in case one of them does come good.

Francis De Vries:

Position: Centre Back

Key stat: 115 clearances (leads team)

Age: 22

It was a big year for De Vries. The Christchurch native lead WFC2 in blocks and clearances in a season where there was quite a lot of blocking and clearing to be done. In addition to this De Vries has also demonstrated an ability to play the ball out of the back with an 82% passing accuracy. The plurality of those passes were forward passes so it’s not like he was just passing the ball sideways to his centre back partner either. De Vries’ excellent play made Sem De Wit expendable and even lead to him wearing the captain’s armband from time to time. The biggest drawback for De Vries though is his passport. If he were from New Mexico instead of New Zealand i’d be all for giving him an MLS deal. Unfortunately signing De Vries means using an international spot on a player who would almost certainly be a backup. He also has the occasional brain fart which makes it even harder to justify using the all important international spot on him. He’s earned another season but it’s kind of hard to see what his path to the first team is.

Deklan Wynne:

Position: Left Back

Key Stat: 15 key passes

Age: 22

Wynne has made the left back spot his own this season, in the absence of Levis. His good play even earned him a cameo in the Voyageurs cup. Wynne unfortunately suffers from the same problem as De Vries; you have to use an international slot if you want to sign him. As for his play style, Wynne is a classic wing back. He gets forward very well, puts in a good cross, and chips in with the odd goal. His defending is not as good, not bad just nothing to write home about. I do think that Wynne has a more clear path to the first team then De Vries. De Jong and Harvey are both over 30, Adekugbe seems to have his heart set on playing in Europe, and Levis is a question mark with his injury problems. Add to that Robinson likes attacking full backs and you can see how Wynne might just have a chance.

Matthew Baldisimo:

Position: Centre Midfielder

Key Stat: 61 tackles (leads the team)

Age: 19

Summary: The older Baldisimo is a more defensive player. He wasn’t really a regular starter so the fact that he still lead the team in tackles is quite impressive. His passing is also reasonably good with an 80% success rate and 7 key passes. That being said he just never stood out all that much to me. It may just be that he plays a role where he quietly does his job, or it may be that he was played out of position at right back a fair amount of the time but you need to show something special to break into the first team, especially as a centre midfield player.

Cole Seiler:

Position: Centre Back

Key Stat: 2140 minutes played (leads team)

Age: 23

Summary: Although Seiler played the most minutes of any WFC2 player it often felt like this was more out of obligation then Selier’s play. He’s just been very mediocre at the USL level. Of course we’ve seen Seiler a little bit with the first team ad he’s always done alright but he hasn’t shown himself to be the dominant force at USL level that you’d hope him to be. The fact that Jacobson is usually prefered as a back up centre back suggests to me that there’s not a whole lot of trust in Selier at the MLS level. At 23, Seiler needs to show something more, and fast.

Terran Campbell:

Position: Winger

Key stat: 3 goals

Age: 19

Summary: Here’s a situation that will come up at least once or twice if you’re watching Terran Campbell play. He will create a good chance for himself, either with a clever run or a nice bit of skill, and you’ll think to yourself “wow what a player, I bet he makes it to the first team.” He will then totally screw that chance up and you’ll curse and wonder why you put yourself through reporting on this crappy reserve team anyway. Campbell is clearly very talented but his end product is almost comically bad. By my count (with generous awarding of assists) Campbell had 3 goals and 4 assists. I genuinely believe he could have had double digits in both if he were just a bit more clinical. Here is a quintessential example:

Campbell makes a great run, brings the ball down with an excellent touch and then somehow misses a wide open goal. That being said though he can also do this:

Now Whitecaps fans may think they’ve been down this road before, with guys like Darren Mattocks, and Erik Hurtado who have pace and power but can’t finish, but I think Campbell is a little different. Campbell clearly has a footballers brain as he makes smart runs and has a great touch, just no end product. His crossing is also pretty poor, though it showed some signs of improvement towards the end of the year. In an interview with Burnaby Now, Campbell said “I describe myself as a physical, speedy player who likes to go one-on-one, get the cross into the box.” Well he may like to get the cross into the box but her certainly doesn’t do it very often. Campbell completed a grand total of 9 crosses in the 2017 season (out of 77 attempted). Fortunately Campbell is still only 18 and has lots of room to improve. If WFC2 does fold I think Campbell could be one of the players to loose out the most. He’s nowhere near ready for first team football yet but with a bit of polish he could be a really special player. To get that polish he needs a place to play.

Kadin Chung:

Position: Right Back?

Key Stat: 23 key passes

Age: 19

Summary: Chung burst onto the scene last year as an exciting attacking full back. This season there has been some experimenting with him as a right midfielder. The results can only be described as “meh.” I mean he was 3rd on the team in chances created, but the team didn’t create many chances on the whole so that’s not really saying much. He just looks much less dynamic as a right midfielder. Perhaps being played further back gives him more space to run in too? Rich Fagan and his staff seemed almost determined to not play Chung at right back, at times preferring Matthew Baldisimo or Patrick Metcalfe even when Chung was available. The idea of playing Chung as a winger has some obvious appeals. Last year I joked that he was good for a goal at both ends of the pitch every game. I didn’t have any kind of platform at the time so I only said it to my dad but he chuckled. The point being that there have been some concerns about Chung’s defending. These concerns may not be entirely unreasonable...

But I still think he looks better at right back. It gives him more space to run into and his defence, while still not amazing, has improved. he had an 80% tackle success rate this season. Chung Obviously has a lot of potential but with uncertainty about his best position also comes uncertainty about his ability to make it with the first team.

Thomas Gardner:

Position: Centre Midfielder

Key Stat: 75% passing accuracy

Age: 19

Summary: During the first half of the Season Gardner was one of the most impressive WFC2 players. Unfortunately his play seemed to stagnate a bit as the season went on and he lost his starting spot to Michael Baldisimo. It can be kind of hard to justify how impressed I am with Gardner, his stats are pretty mediocre, but he just looks really good. He’s great at finding a little bit of space with a clever passes and movement.

Tier 4:

Description: I don’t know what to make of these players. They are the wildcards. They may be getting older, not have played enough to make an impact, or have some other set of circumstances that makes it hard to get a read on them. None of them have showed that they should be first team players but they have enough talent that I wouldn’t write them off entirely. Unsurprisingly the majority of the players are in this category.

Patrick Metcalfe:

Postion: Centre Midfielder

Key stat: 100% aerial success rate

Age: 18

Summary: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. With only 222 minutes played it’s nigh on impossible to get a read on what Metcalfe can do at this level. His only two starts came as a right back and as a weird winger/advanced midfielder hybrid role, neither of which are his best position. So basically I have no idea.

Chris Serban:

Position: Right back (mostly)

Key stat: 89% tackles success rate.

Age: 21

Summary: When I was first researching this article I was pretty sure Serban was at least 24. But I went and checked and it turns out he’s only 21. Serban has been with WFC2 for three seasons and he’s always been alright without really standing out. His tackle and passing success rates are pretty good but I’ve just never really noticed him. I’m honestly struggling to even describe what type of player he is and I watched him play almost 1000 minutes. He just doesn’t stand out. Maybe that’s not the worst thing for a fullback but it’s kind of hard to recommend someone get a chance at first team football on the basis of that.

Dominick Zator:

Position: Centre Back

Key Stat: 34 interceptions

Age: 23

Summary: Zator only played 9 games so it’s kind of hard to tell what he’s got. His stats aren’t all that inspiring, and the only times he’s been really noticeable have been when giving away a last minute penalty that led to a Rio Grande Valley equalizer, and getting sent off. He’s not really been bad but he hasn’t been good either. He’s also 23 so his ceiling can’t be all that much higher. It’s probably worth giving him another year but if he doesn’t get one it’s no great loss.

Deybi Flores:

Position: Centre Midfielder

Key Stat: +100 invisibility

Age: 21

Summary: Remember him? What’s he been up to? I have no idea. He played 2 games for WFC2 before being loaned back to Honduras. Information on the Honduran league is hard to come by. According to soccerway he’s made 5 appearances (out of a possible 10). Based on his signing photo with Motagua he’s clearly been hitting the gym but beyond that I have no information.

Ben McKendry:

Position: Centre Midfielder

Key Stat: 14 shots on target (this was the best on the team for an embarrassingly long time)

Age: 24

Summary: It’s hard to know what to make of McKendry. He’s been one of the best WFC2 players and has done alright in brief first team cameos. But at 24 McKendry is what he is. A very good USL player and possibly an adequate MLS backup. That may seem a little disappointing but, according to 86 Forever O.G Benjamin Massey, McKendry may have actually exceeded expectations to get to that point. McKendry has been on loan at F.C Edmonton and as far as I can tell has done just fine. The question is what to do with McKendry from here. Keep him on as a backup (and cap friendly homegrown player) and as a leader for young WFC2 guys or move him on to make an independent USL team (and eventually a CPL team) very happy?

Thomas Sanner:

Position: Striker

Key Stat: 4 goals

Age: 23

Summary: Sanner excels at one thing. Suddenly appearing in the penalty area to head the ball home and not much else. Despite being 6’4, I wouldn’t really describe Sanner as a target man, more as a poacher who’s very good in the air. His Hold up play isn’t really good enough to fill the target man role. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a specialist like that, Alan Gordon has made a whole career out of it, But you can’t justify first team football with 4 goals in 22 appearances. Sanner started the season pretty strongly and at one point I had him in tier 3, maybe even tier 2, but then he didn’t score a goal for a really long time. If Sanner can get some consistency I think it’s possible he could one day make it to the MLS as a guy who you throw on for the last five minutes to pump crosses to when chasing a lead. But to do that he’s going to have to score a lot more goals at USL level. Sanner is 23 so next season is make or break for him.

Will Seymore:

Position: Centre Midfielder

Key stat: 82% passing accuracy

Age: 25

Summary: It’s a shame Seymore has to be this far down, as he’s a pretty good USL player. But at 25 he’s never going to make the first team, especially with such a log jam at centre midfield, and the point of WFC2 is to develop players for the first team. He’ll make one of the independent teams very happy.

Myer Bevan:

Position: Striker

Key Stat: 2 goals

Age: 20

Summary: Remember Octavio Rivero? Can you imagine if he was from New Zealand? That’s Myer Bevan. He came off the back of an impressive performance at the U-20 World Cup but hasn’t made much of an impact with the Thundercaps. He has good skill to play in teammates, he’s reasonably quick, has decent hold up play, but he sure does seem to screw up a lot of chances. Of course it’s his first year of pro soccer and he’s getting used to a new country so I wouldn’t write him off yet but he certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far. There’s every chance he comes back next year and bangs in 20 goals, but it’s just as likely that he returns and continues to struggle. As an international Bevan needs to show something really special to get a first team contract.

Danny Barbir:

Position: Centre Back

Key Stat: 89% passing accuracy

Age: 19

Summary: Barbir has had a promising start but he’s only made 3 appearances so I haven’t formed a full opinion. He has a good pedigree, is strong, and can play a pass. Hopefully there’s a WFC2 for him to play for next year.

Tier 5:

Description: It’s extremely unlikely any of these players will make it with the first team.

Kyle Greig:

Position: Striker

Age: 27

Greig earned himself a first team deal with his strong play last year. He scored a goal in the Voyageurs Cup and was then loaned to Cincinnati. He’s only scored once for them so I can’t see him getting another chance with the first team.

Andy Thoma:

Position: Right Back

Age: 24

Uhhh... He was on the team I guess. He scored a goal at one point, good for him.

Nazeem Bartman:

Position: Winger

Age: 24

Can you imagine if Terran Campbell were not as good, an international, and 24 years old? No thank you.

Mark Village:

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 25

Just made his professional debut at 25 and played quite well. The fact of the matter though is that he’s never going to get into the first team, or maybe even the USL team on a regular basis. Sometimes you need a guy who’s happy just to sit on the bench, and by all accounts he’s a good locker room guy, but surely, just for his own good, he should start looking into other lines of work?