Monday marked the deadline for Major League Soccer clubs to announce which options they were going to exercise for 2018 and which they were going to decline. For the Vancouver Whitecaps, that meant retaining Sam Adekugbe, Marcel de Jong, Brett Levis, Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, and Tony Tchani. It also meant potentially saying goodbye to 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.
The moves left the club with 19 players currently under contract for the 2018 season, meaning the club has, potentially, 13 roster positions they can fill.
Heading into the offseason, Carl Robinson noted that there would be considerable roster turnover and that some tough decisions would have to be made. He echoed these feelings in his press conference Monday, after the announcement of which players would be staying and which would be leaving. He also noted that he would be looking at the list of players that did not see their contracts renewed, to see if any fit for the Whitecaps, but cautioned that some times players contracts may not be renewed but a player will come back to the same club on a lower salary. I would expect that with a couple of Whitecaps players as well (e.g., Bolanos and Igiebor).
Monday’s moves provided plenty of salary flexibility for Carl Robinson. The 14 declined contracts accounted for just under 2.415 million of 2017’s 3.845 million salary cap, or 63%. Depending on what happens with Brek Shea, the moves also mean that the Caps could have all three designated player slots available.
Looking at the depth chart, the club now has some glaring holes. With Spencer Richey being loaned to FC Cincinnati for 2018, the Whitecaps will need to find a suitable backup for Stefan Marinvoic. Luckily for the Whitecaps, New Zealand will not be in the World Cup, so the club will not have to worry about losing him for that time period.
In defense, the club is fairly set, with Nerwinski, Waston, Parker, Maund, de Jong, Levis, and Adekugbe all being under contract. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jacobson come back as a utility player. The club may also want to find some competition for Nerwinski, in case he experiences some sophomore slumps.
Depending on what the club elects to do with the defensive midfield, they could be fine or need additional signings. If the Caps elect to go with one holding midfielder, Ghazal seems up to the challenge. If the Caps want a more offensive partner for Ghazal, Tchani fills that role, while the resigning of Igiebor could solidify that further.
As is usually the case with the Whitecaps, the wings are a bit of a mixed bag. Currently, Shea, Techera, Ibini, and Davies seem like the most likely options. I am not sure there are two or three names in there that I would want to have the Whitecaps consistently rely on.
In the middle of the field, there is Reyna and Mezquida. A suitable two players, but the #10 role is certainly one where the Caps could improve. If that were to occur, I see Reyna and Mezquida player more as a second forward, with a #10 underneath them.
Finally, we have Whitecaps favourite position, striker/forward. Like the 2016 off-season, the Whitecaps begin with only Erik Hurtado occupying the position. While he improved in 2017, he is certainly not your go-to player. He is a good backup. I would not be surprised if Montero does not return, as Reyna playing with a imposing forward (e.g, Adi) with a playmaker (e.g, Kljestan) behind would seem like a solid fit. While Reyna and Montero were able to play off of one another quite well, their style made the club quite one-dimensional.
With the current Whitecaps depth chart (Spencer Richey and Deybi Flores are excluded as they are on loan), what do you see happening going forward?
Current Whitecaps Depth Chart
|Left Wing||Cristian Techera||Brek Shea||X|
|Right Wing||Alphonso Davies||Bernie Ibini||X|
|Attacking Midfielder||Yordy Reyna||Nicolas Mezquida||X|
|Defensive Midfielder||Ali Ghazal||X||X|
|Defensive Midfielder||Tony Tchani||X||X|
|Left Back||Marcel de Jong||Brett Levis||Sam Adekugbe|
|Center Back (Left)||Kendall Waston||X||X|
|Center Back (Right)||Tim Parker||Aaron Maund||X|
|Right Back||Jacob Newinksi||X||X|