When Perry Solkowski first tweeted that WFC2 would be folded in favour of an affiliation with USL expansion side Fresno F.C I was concerned but I saw some merit in the plan. Solkowski stated that there would likely be about 8-9 players loaned to Fresno. When looking at the WFC2 roster, of the players who didn’t already have a first team deal, only about 8 of them had a serious chance at making it to MLS. Was it really worth losing a ton of money on the off chance that the Thomas Sanners and Dominick Zators of the world might suddenly set the world on fire? Probably not. Then consider that the 8 players who would get loaned would get to play in an environment that pushed them to win and they may even get their chance against MLS competition in the U.S open cup and there’s a lot to like about the move.
Well the day has finally come (or did earlier this week but I had exams) and the ‘Caps have announced their USL roster moves. How many players have been assigned to Fresno? Drumroll Please...
Three, it’s three players. Terran Campbell, Sean Melvin, and Matthew Baldisimo. All three players are quite good and have a lot of potential but it’s hard not be a little underwhelmed by only assigning three players to Fresno. Even more concerning was the press release which announced that everyone else signed to WFC2 last season, with the exception of Michael Baldisimo, Deklan Wynne, and Myer Bevan would not be back as part of the USL structure (Bevan and Wynne have both been offered first team contracts , with some sources in New Zealand reporting that Bevan has already agreed to sign) This means that a lot of players are going to be cut loose and will play at a level that they are far to good for.
The most obvious name amongst this group is Gloire Amanda. Amanda is pursuing collegiate options according to the press release. Amanda has already burned his NCAA eligibility so he’ll likely end up in CIS. Amanda is way to good for that level of football. He should be playing at the pro level but instead will spend at least the next year dominating a bunch of college kids. The senior team has seven open roster spots, surely there’s enough room for the talented, homegrown, cheap Amanda. It seems a huge waste to just let a player like that go. Now to be fair to the Whitecaps, it’s possible Amanda is just really keen on getting an education. He was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania so I can understand the desire to set yourself up with more security and a degree after coming from such an unstable beginning. That being said though it’s hard not be frustrated that one of the ‘Caps best prospects is being let go for nothing.
Michael Baldisimo has been sent back to the residency program. The younger Baldisimo is 17 and was just starting to establish himself at the pro level. In Europe such a player would continue to get time in a professional environment but now he will be spending at least the next year, like Amanda, dominating a level he is way to good for.
Francis De Vries has signed for Canterbury United in the New Zealand premiership. The New Zealand premiership is not a fully professional league. De Vries was always on the bubble of potential MLS talent but he’s 100% to good to be playing semi pro football. He’s a solid defender so it’s a bit odd that Fresno wouldn’t want him.
Kadin Chung is currently on trial in Germany. Carl Robinson has said he doesn’t want to block players’ pathways which I can respect but it sure would be nice to get, you know, some transfer fees for all these players we’re developing. It’d be especially disheartening to lose Chung when the team is in need of a back up for Jake Nerwinski at right back.
Thomas Gardner is also pursuing college options and Patrick Metcalfe has already joined UBC. I suppose TSS Rovers are going to have a pretty killer team next year at least.
Danny Barbir is a pretty weird one. Why did they sign him with only 4 games left? Surely they knew at that point that they’d be folding WFC2. Wouldn’t they have set up to keep a hold of him in Fresno? He looked pretty decent in limited time, what was the point of signing him if they were just going to dump him right away? Strange.
All in all that ‘Caps have made a lot of strange decisions when it comes to their USL players. For a club so committed to development it’s very odd that they seemingly gave up on so many players that have potential. Now maybe i’m overreacting. It’s still early days. Maybe Chung doesn’t catch on in Germany and comes back, maybe Amanda decides to stick with pro soccer. Maybe there are some players about to graduate the residency with the potential to go on to do big things (i’m not that knowledgable of the residency set up so I can’t comment) but it just doesn’t look good. We’ve put in all this money on developing players, and all we could come up with to send to Fresno are three players? This is especially egregious when there are players who have shown they are at least good enough for USL being cut loose. For the sake of argument let’s say Wynne and Bevan both sign and get loaned to Fresno, five isn’t much better especially when two of them are imports that didn’t go through the residency. It’s early days yet but it looks like the already narrow path to professional soccer just got narrower for Whitecaps Residency players.