Major League Soccer’s secondary transfer window closed yesterday, with the Vancouver Whitecaps making a flurry of moves. However, the Caps were not just busy at the deadline, as they made minor moves throughout the window, opening up roster spots and sending players on loan.
The minor moves began on July 6th, with the anticipated loaning of Deybi Flores back to Honduran club C.D. Motagua. After several appearances upon his initial arrival, Flores has been relegated to Whitecaps FC 2 and loans back to Honduras. I believe that the Whitecaps are holding on to a potential asset, in hopes that he will turn it around and they can sell him off, but I don’t expect to see him with the senior squad again.
The minor moves continued with the loaning of Kyle Greig to FC Cincinnati on July 11th. This coincided with the transfer of WFC 2 Sam de Witt to Cincinnati. Both were reunited with former ThunderCaps head coach Alan Koch.
With the surprise release of Paolo Tornaghi on July 18th, to pursue options in his native Italy, Vancouver was in need of a replacement keeper, as Spencer Richey was on a season-long loan to the ThunderCaps and could not be recalled permanently. Enter Kiwi Stefan Marinovic on July 21st. Marinovic is the latest in a line of Oceanic players coming to the Whitecaps organization, with Bernie Ibini, Myer Bevan, and Deklan Wynne joining earlier this year.
The roster shakeup did not end with Marinovic. After being seen practicing with FC Edmonton, it was made official on July 26th that defensive midfielder Ben McKendry had been loaned to the club for the remainder of the 2017 season.
At the same time (July 25th), the Whitecaps announced that left back Sam Adekugbe would be going back out on loan, after spending last season with Brighton and Hove Albion FC. This time, Sam was sent to Sweden to play for IFC Goteborg for the remainder of 2017.
On deadline day, the Whitecaps made an additional three moves. Long rumored on his way out, Christian Dean was finally traded. The Caps received (the minimum) $50,000 in General Allocation Money, with another $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money possible if Dean starts at least 12 matches next season for the Chicago Fire. Coming in to replace Dean Is Aaron Maund. Maund was acquired from Real Salt Lake for Vancouver’s third-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. The Whitecaps concluded the secondary transfer window with the signing of Egyptian Ali Ghazal.
Carl Robinson has to look at this window as a success, having given several of his younger players an opportunity to see more playing time through loans. He also improved the club at keeper, defensive midfield, and center back. The Whitecaps now have a suitable replacement at each position on the field should an injury arise. It also creates realistic competition at each position. With the series of moves, I am a bit surprised that Marco Bustos was not shipped off somewhere. His move away from the club has been rumored for a while. I don’t know my feelings about a Bustos move. I believe he has not been given a fair opportunity with the Whitecaps, but also seems to be in a place of limbo. When he plays for WFC 2 he is quite successful, however, he has not excelled in the few minutes he has received with the senior club. It feels like he is in this place of being too good for USL but not good enough for MLS. I don’t know. What are your thoughts?
Looking closer at the deadline day moves, the moving out of Dean has to be look at as a positive. He seemed to be out with the Robbo after his poor showings to begin the season, and was on a $200,000 contract. I talked with Chicago Fire’s Hot Time in Old Town about Dean and let them know that Dean is thought of positively by fans and that we all wish him well, believing that he has the skill to succeed but that he needed a fresh start.
The move of Dean out of Vancouver initially could be seen as a salary dump until you learn that the incoming Maund makes $174,437. Speaking of the 26-year-old Maund, he does seem to be an upgrade over Dean, although for the salary, I think I would be okay with Seiler getting a few opportunities, but I digress. Like Dean, Maund had injury issues in 2016, suffering a fractured foot. However, this season he has lead RSL in clearances, aerials won, and blocks, and was named their Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. Maund certainly solidifies the CB depth should Waston or Parker go down (or be suspended), freeing Jacobson up to play in his natural position. He certainly is not here to dethrone the team captain (Waston) or assistant captain (Parker). What are your thoughts on the signing? You like it? See it as a waste of money, given Seiler and the solid play of Waston/Parker?
Finally, the Caps made a bit of a surprising move to close out the window, using targeted allocation money to pick up 25-year-old Egyptian Ali Ghazal. This is an impressive signing, as Ghazal made 112 starts for Portuguese club C.D. Nacional from 2012 to 2017, including being team captain. He was transferred to Chinese club Guizhou in January but was released last month due to the new rules on international players in the Super League (a la Fredy Montero). Like Montero, this could turn out very positively for Vancouver. Robbo noted that “Aly is a top midfield player who is comfortable on the ball and strong defensively”. In my eyes, he is a better version of Matias Laba and could signify that Laba might be on his way out at the end of this season. However, it could also mean that the Caps just want to solidify the defensive midfield position. Atiba Hutchinson was rumored on his way to the Caps and it was not as a replacement for Laba, but rather to play alongside. Ghazal could be the alternative, although it is worth noting that he has a similar profile as Laba in being a ball hunter. However, he also appears to be able to play a better ball than Laba. What are your thoughts? What does the signing of Ghazal signal to you?
There have been a few thoughts on the Ghazal signing so far on Twitter
Advantage of Ghazal (from highlights only, so #lollerstats) is that he doesn't lunge directly through people's legs, traps ball w/ tackles.— Paul S-H (@Subhedgehog) August 10, 2017