The first major off-season deadline for Vancouver Whitecaps fans passed on Monday. Likewise, the Caps elected to pass on some contract options.
Over the weekend, Andrew Bahl gave you his take on which contracts the Whitecaps should pick up and which ones they should decline. As is typically the case with Major League Soccer, many more contracts needed to be decided on than we had originally anticipated. In total, seven options were picked up with 14 being declined; and Fredy Montero’s loan coming to an end.
It is no surprise that the options that were exercised were heavily defensive focused, with defenders Sam Adekugbe, Marcel de Jong, Brett Levis, Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, and Kendall Waston, and ‘defensive’ midfielder Tony Tchani all being picked up. It is likely that these defenders will comprise the back four heading into next season, and play the majority of matches.
Those that saw their option declined were David Ousted, David Edgar, Cole Seiler, Sheanon Williams, Christian Bolanos, Marco Bustos, Nosa Igiebor, Matias Laba, Ben McKendry, Mauro Rosales, Russell Teibert, Kyle Greig, Jordan Harvey, and Andrew Jacobson.
Carl Robinson noted that the club was still in talks with free agents Harvey and Jacobson, loanee Montero, as well as Bolanos, Bustos, Edgar, Laba, Igiebor, and Teibert. While we have known about David Ousted for some time, and several of the moves are not a surprise (Rosales, Greig, and Seiler) there were a couple names of note that may be leaving the club.
I was hoping to see Edgar come back as I felt the club needed a reliable third center back, with the possibility of injuries, and Waston’s departure during the World Cup, being strong motivators. However, it may have been the size of Edgar’s contract ($183k) that was the deciding factor; or believing that Aaron Maund was a suitable third CB.
Additional salary cap casualties may have been Williams ($184k), Harvey ($180k), Jacobson ($175k), and Bolanos ($253k).
Three Canadians could also be leaving the club, including the longest serving Whitecaps Teibert. Joining him are Bustos and McKendry. While none occupied a senior roster spot, and thus were easier players for the Caps to maintain, I believe the decision not to exercise these three contracts was made, in part, by the players desire to see game time. Bustos has been stuck in limbo, as he seems too good for USL but not good enough for MLS, while McKendry was shipped off to the now defunct FC Edmonton.
Russell Teibert is an interesting case. The longest-tenured Whitecaps player, and the only true ‘successfully’ developed player to date (potentially to be joined by Alphonso Davies). After his breakout campaign in 2013, in which he played 1,777 minutes (19 starts) and registered two goals and nine assists, he appears to have fallen out of favour under Carl Robinson; seeing his playing time shrink to just 696 minutes (8 starts) in 2016, and 731 minutes (8 starts) in 2017.
Previously a regular on the Canadian National Team, the soon to be 25-year-old is still young enough to have a solid rebound if put with the right club and given an opportunity to play on the wing instead of as a defensive midfielder. Many have noted, and I agree, that he will be a strong talent in the new Canadian Premiere League. He will probably be joined by Ben McKendry, while Bustos may move abroad (Chile?).
Three declined options that may be a surprise to many are Igiebor, Bolanos, and Laba. Brought on for the last few matches of the season, Igiebor appeared to play well, despite being thrust into action at an inopportune time. He was not extremely impressive, but he did show an ability to pass accurately and control the ball; something the Caps have severely lacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Igiebor come back, however (jab at Robbo coming), maybe his ability to hold on to the ball is seen as a negative in the Caps system!
Bolanos had a very poor season for the Caps. So much so, that he was unanimously named Biggest Disappointment by our writers, despite leading the team with seven assists. However, he remained a starter with a strong Costa Rican squad and was the 2016 CONCACAF Player of the Year. Despite the poor finish to the season, Bolanos will probably want to play in a place where he is comfortable and feels established to give him his best shot at starting in the 2018 World Cup. I hope that is with Vancouver.
Finally, many might be surprised that Laba saw his option declined. While there were rumors that Laba was going to be transferred during the summer, the serious ACL injury he suffered put a stop to that. Given his large contract and the signing of Ghazal, to go with Tchani and Igiebor, it is understandable why Laba was let go. If the club kept Laba, in hopes of transferring him later, he is still going to be out for a while, and the subsequent transfer fee would probably be substantially lower. With MLS taking a substantial cut of the fee, it was probably not worth while for the club to tie up so much salary cap space in an injured player.
Those are our takes on the players that were kept and release. Were any a surprise to you? Of the contracts that were not exercised who do you see coming back? Who do you want back?