The Vancouver Whitecaps currently have five wingers under contract. In addition to this some of the best WFC2 players are also wingers. They have a lot of players on expiring contracts and, while i’m sure they have options on most of them, this provides an opportunity for restructuring should they want to. They’ll also have at least one DP slot available which they may not really have an option but to use on a winger (more on why that is later). This leaves them in quite the conundrum for what players they want to keep around next year.
Christian Bolanos: Bolanos has lead the team in assists, is probably the best passer on the team, and has been a major part of the ‘Caps proficiency from set pieces. However he is 33 and on an expiring contract. Of course Bolanos’ game doesn’t really rely on pace or power so it’s very possible he could continue to be a contributor for some time.
Cristian Techera: five goals and four assists is a pretty good contribution from Techera so far. Of course we’ve also seen the bad side of Techera in 2016 but hopefully that was just a blip on the radar. If Bolanos isn’t back then Techera’s set piece delivery will be important. Techera is also on an expiring deal.
Alphonso Davies: The boy wonder. Davies is the centre of a lot of the complications about the ‘Caps wingers going forward. Davies might not be as good as some of the other wingers right now but his ceiling is much higher then any of them. If they continue what they’ve been doing by gradually increasing his minutes every year then he’ll likely be a fairly regular starter next year. With Davies gold cup performance he seems to be getting closer to MLS starter level where his directness and willingness to take a player on can help to unsettle defences.
Bernie Ibini: Hasn’t played a whole lot due to injuries but has shown some flashes of quality. His goals per minute is pretty impressive though he’s only actually scored one goal. Ibini seems happy as the super sub and that’s probably where he’ll stay. It’s possible he could even do more with a full pre season free of injury (though that might be a big ask).
Brek Shea: We’ve covered Shea before but to summarize it quickly he’s an average MLS winger on a DP contract. I doubt he’ll be back next year unless he’s will to take a monstrously big pay cut. Even then though it would probably be better to just give those minutes to Davies.
WFC2 Options: I don’t really think any of the WFC2 wingers will be ready next season but it’s worth keeping an eye on Gloire Amanda, Terran Campbell, and even Kadin Chung to fill those roles two or three years down the line. Shameless plug: you can read all about their exploits in my monthly WFC2 round up.
Future DP’s: With Shea likely to depart, Laba seemingly having one foot out the door, and the return of Montero no guarantee the Whitecaps could have up to three DP slots available. MLS teams tend to invest their money in attacking payers and the Whitecaps’ history of DPs is no different. So at least one of those slots will be spent on a striker, most likely a returning Montero but not necessarily.
But what type of player would fill the other DP slots? The natural inclination is to go for a #10 but with Reyna playing so well it doesn’t really make sense to drop him to the bench.
So the next logical place would be on the wing. The problem with adding a DP winger is that it would only serve to increase the log jam and possibly push Davies further down the depth chart. I’m not saying Davies has to be a regular starter but he probably at least play should have a rotational role. Davies has already doubled his MLS minutes from last year and it’s important that his minutes continue to increase. I’m not saying he should start every week (after all he’ll only be 17) but there should be a steady increase in his playing time.
Davies is a very direct player, as are Techera and Reyna so it makes more sense to rotate him with Techera rather then Bolanos in order to preserve balance in the front line. If you field an attacking midfield line of Techera-Reyna-Davies then you’re not going to be keeping a lot of possession, and for a team that already struggles in that department. So if you’re going to sign a DP winger it will probably aught to be more of a wide playmaker then a traditional winger. This would mean Bolanos possibly moving on or being relegated to the bench. This seems like a waste of his talents, not to mention that keeping a TAM player on the bench isn’t a good use of resources.
If you did spend big money on a more direct goal scoring type of winger, like say Joel Campbell then you’d need to add at least some players who can slow the play down and keep possession. This would mean adding a more, shall we say, deep lying player. But could you imagine the scenes on twitter if the Whitecaps signed another defensive midfielder?
A further possibility is moving Davies into a box to box midfielder role to fit both him and a DP winger, such as currently unsettled Arsenal and Costa Rican national team player Joel Campbell. There are some things to like about this solution. Davies has shown some promise in the box to box role in limited minutes there. He works hard to win the ball back and his physical attributes and dribbling ability can certainly move the ball up the field. This would probably hinge on Laba moving on as having either Laba or Ghazal on the bench would be wasting a lot of cap space on a bench player. Ghazal and Davies behind a front three of Davies-Reyna-A new DP (such as Joel Campbell who fits the profile of Robbo signings perfectly and is currently unsettled at his world famous club) looks pretty tantalizing.
The possible downsides of this solution are 1) the problem of to many direct players could lead to the ‘Caps being without the ball more often then not and 2) that the ‘Caps be moving a young Canadian to a position that isn’t necessarily his best to facilitate a shiny new toy and that isn’t the best precedent to set. Besides Davies has interest from Manchester United and he’s worth about a billion dollars, give or take, to Jose Mourinho as a winger who tracks back.
What configuration of wingers would you like to see next year? Where would you like to see a DP slot in? How would integrate Alphonso Davies into the squad? Have your say in the comment section below.