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Is There a Plan?: An Analysis of Whitecaps DPs

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Is there evidence to suggest the Whitecaps bring in designated players based on some kind of plan or vision?

Colorado Rapids v Vancouver Whitecaps Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Vancouver Whitecaps are frequently decried for having no vision when it comes to big signings. They often seem to be bringing players in out of convenience rather than players who they’ve targeted as a good fit for their team. So let’s examine if there’s any truth to this perception.

Eric Hassli:

Planned?: Yes

Based on Interviews with Teitur Thorderson it seems that Hassli was a planned signing. True he came on a free but it seems he specifically had his contract terminated to join the Whitecaps. Thorderson mentioned discussing the signing with Hassli’s former Swiss league colleagues Alain Rochat and Davide Chiumiento but I get the sense that this was to confirm he was a good character rather than the ‘Caps just signing the friends of players they already had.

Successful?: Yes (don’t @ me)

I mean sure he wasn’t the most consistent goalscorer but he was a talismanic leader who gave the team some hope at a time when the football was pretty dire. The entertainment Hassli provided helped to create a solid fan base even though the team wasn’t particularly good.

Mustapha Jarju:

Planned?: Yes

Upon signing Jarju gave an interview in which he stated that he had known of the ‘Caps interest for some time, and that they had sent scouts out to Belgium to watch him play

Successful?: Nooooooooooope

Jarju is famous for being one of the worst signings in the ‘Caps MLS history. He scored one goal for the reserves and by the end of the year was a bench warmer.

Barry Robson:

Planned?: Yes

Martin Rennie mentioned that he did “extensive research” on Robson and even considered it a long shot that the ‘Caps would actually be able to sign him.

Successful?: Not really

Robson showed some flashes but ultimately didn’t live up to the hype. His body language and constant gesticulating didn’t help matters. To be totally fair, players who come in after playing a full season in Europe often struggle at first and when you look at the improvements fellow Scotsman Kenny Miller made in his first and only full season you have to think that maybe Robson could have done better with a little more time. All things considered though, his antics probably weren’t worth the risk.

Kenny Miller:

Planned?: No

This seems to be the start of the trend of the ‘Caps signing a good player who was available rather than a player specifically signed to be a good fit. The ‘Caps signed Miller after his agent got in contact with them because Miller wanted a move abroad after becoming second choice at Cardiff. To be fair, Miller was a decently famous player and the ‘Caps almost certainly knew what he was about but it’s not like they targeted him.

Successful?: Yes

Like Hassli, Miller wasn’t necessarily prolific but he brought a veteran presence and some guidance to the ‘Caps. His partnership with Camilo helped the wee Brazilian to the golden boot.

Matias Laba:

Planned?: No

Laba became available after TFC signed to many DPs.

Successful?: Yes

There’s an argument to be made that Laba has been the most consistent DP the ‘Caps have ever signed. Pretty much every year, with the exception of 2016, Laba has done exactly what has been asked of him and been one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. Fans have been a little frustrated that he is a bit one dimensional and honestly he should probably be bought down to a non-DP contract but overall he’s been a solid player for the past four years.

Pedro Morales:

Planned?: Difficult to say

It seems Morales became available due to Malaga’s need to cut salary. However the ‘Caps did pay a transfer fee for him which suggests that they were actively chasing him. Basically I can’t find anything definitive.

Successful?: Yes (broadly speaking)

Morales’ stint in Vancouver didn’t end on the best of terms but I don’t think it’s fair to call him a bad signing. Before his series of injuries Morales was touted by some as the best player to ever put on a Whitecaps jersey. Even in the 2016 seasons when people, myself included, were getting a little fed up with him he was the team’s leading goal scorer. If all future Whitecaps DPs are of the same quality as Morales I for one won’t be disappointed.

Octavio Rivero:

Planned?: Yes

The ‘Caps had been on the trail of Rivero for a couple of years before they signed him.

Successful?: Kind of, but not really

Rivero got off to a flying start but then his confidence evaporated and he couldn’t hit a bard door with a machine gun. Rivero has since returned to scoring form at Colo Colo and even gained interest from abroad so I don’t think the ‘Caps signed a bad player, it just wasn’t a good fit, at least off the field. On the field Rivero actually fit Robbo’s style pretty well as he could hold the ball up, play in teammates, and even use his skill to carve out chances for himself. He just couldn’t, ya know, score goals.

Freddy Montero:

Planned?: No

The ‘Caps signed Montero after Mauro Rosales phoned them up and told them he was available.

Successful?: Adequate

Montero is on pace for about 10ish goals. That’s not to bad but compared to Players like Nemanja Nikolić it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed. Montero doesn’t really fit the ‘caps system very well but he’s obviously pretty talented. Not a bad place holder but it makes you wonder why the ‘Caps put themselves in a position where they needed a place holder in the first place.

Brek Shea:

Planned: I doubt it

Shea is the latest in a line of players on terrible contracts that the ‘Caps acquired in a panic. First they signed Fabian Espindola who, it turned out, didn’t want to play for them, so they traded him for Giles Barnes who turned out to be the world’s youngest washed up has been, so they traded him for Shea.

Succesful: Not really.

Shea is a DP in name alone. He hasn’t performed even close to a DP level. That doesn’t mean he’s bad, and he’s a way better deal than Barnes was, but as a DP he’s almost the embodiment of the lack of ambition the ‘Caps have a reputation for

Conclusions:

  1. There’s basically an even split between planned DP signings and non-DP signings
  2. There has been a slight increase in unplanned signings in recent times
  3. None of the ‘Caps DPs have been slam dunks
  4. The planned DPs don’t necessarily perform better than the unplanned DPs

Do you agree with these conclusions? what do you take away about the ‘Caps DP strategy (or lack thereof) from this list? be sure to let us know.