The USL regular season came to a close and thus I feel it is time to look back on how the various Vancouver Whitecaps prospects who went out on loan this year did. It’s no secret that it was a bit of a disappointing year as far as player development went, but there were still some positives.
Richey began the year as the backup to Cincinnati’s very capable veteran goalkeeper Evan Newton. In fact, as this article was being written Newton was awarded USL goalkeeper of the year. By midseason Richey had become a sort of 1B option to Newton and played about 1⁄3 of the games. After several man of the match performances Richey seems to be first choice going into the USL playoffs. Richey has played fourteen games and kept five clean sheets. Richey has achieved all he can in USL and it’s time for him to be given a chance, at least as a backup, in MLS. Of course this was true last year as well and the Whitecaps still sent him out on loan because...well I don’t really know why. The chance to sign Brian Rowe was just to good to turn down? The Whitecaps have no reason to give anything up to bring in a backup goalkeeper next year. They already have at least that in Richey. If they let Richey, a player they’ve spent four years developing, walk for nothing I’m going to be extremely angry. Yet, to my horror, I find it not at all difficult to imagine them doing just that.
Bevan went on two loans this year. The first to Husqvarna in the Swedish 3rd tier and the second to the ‘Caps USL affiliate Fresno F.C. Bevan managed three goals in eight appearances in Sweden for the relegation threatened Husqvarna. In Fresno, Bevan made seven appearances and did not score, but managed a couple of assists. He also put up an average of about 1.4 key passes per game in Fresno. I’m not quite sure what the Whitecaps plans are for him. He’s shown some flashes but it hasn’t really translated to a great deal of production at this stage. He’s twenty-one, which is still young, but he’s getting to the point where he is what he is. If he doesn’t play regularly at a decent level next year, and bag considerably more goals while doing it, I doubt he ever plays any part in the Whitecaps first team. I think it would probably be fine to leave Bevan in Fresno next year. Unlike the other prospects on this list they actually played him and they generally did a good job of getting service to their strikers. Fresno, despite finishing 14 points outside of a playoff spot, generated the 5th most shots in the league and had a number of players with really impressive chance creation numbers. If Bevan can’t score there then he’s not good enough for MLS.
David Norman Jr.
Norman was far and away WFC2’s best player in their final season, leading the team in chances created despite playing mostly as the deepest of a midfield three. Despite this and the frankly dreadful performances of Efrain Juarez, Norman has thus far played only 45 minutes of first team football for the Whitecaps. He’s been loaned to Scottish side Queen of the South and thus far has only made a few cameos from the bench. It’s still early on in that loan, so he still has time to work his way into the first team. Like Bevan, Norman is still young at only twenty, but he needs to be playing and performing at a high level in the next year. In 2018 the Whitecaps wasted a potentially key year of development for one of their top prospects in favour of playing veteran players who woefully underperformed. This should be shameful for a team that claims to want to develop it’s own players. Fortunately there is still time for them to fix this, but their track record of getting players in a situation to reach their potential is terrible so it’s hard to get excited. I think the best thing for Norman next year is to be part of the rotation of the first team and play about 10-15 times. If he isn’t going to get this with the first team it is imperative that the Whitecaps find him somewhere he will play.
A technically gifted winger, Verhoeven exploded onto the scene with Fresno, gaining plaudits and a profile on the USL website for his exciting dribbling skills. These good performances led to a call up for Canada’s Toulon Tournament team where he scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Turkey. Upon his return, Verhoeven struggled to get back into Fresno’s first team, making most of his appearances as a substitute. All-in-all Verhoeven made twenty three appearances for Fresno and played 1085 minutes. Verhoeven has a lot of qualities that make him exciting and at only nineteen still has plenty of time to grow. The biggest thing I’d like to see from him is to play with a bit more confidence. I once had a coach who had made a few appearances in the Bundesliga. He, like Verhoeven, was a dynamic technical winger. He told us that when he got to the Bundesliga he was a little over-awed and tried to play it safe. The problem being that the things that got him to that point were the exciting things he did with the ball. I can’t help but feel I see a bit of this in Verhoeven, especially in the second part of the season. Too often he’ll beat a player and then make a safe backward or sideways pass instead of continuing his run and taking more players on as Alphonso Davies often does. This is probably why, despite looking very impressive, Verhoeven only managed one assist and fifteen chances created in 2018 (though that’s still a respectable 1.2 key passes per 90 minutes, or about what Yordy Reyna did for the first team). I think it would probably be best for the Whitecaps to find a place other than Fresno for Verhoeven next season. Fresno is very deep in the wing positions and they can probably find him a team where he’s a more assured starter. If Verhoeven takes the big step next year I think there’s a good chance we see him in a Whitecaps kit soon. But the Whitecaps have to put him in a position to take that next step and again their record of doing that is sub par.
Baldisimo played only three times in the league for Fresno, though he also made a cup appearance. He always played perfectly fine in these games but this did not translate to more starts. Fresno consistently preferred veteran players like Augustin Cazarez and Rony Argueta in the central midfield position. In terms of underlying numbers Baldisimo, Cazarez and Argueta were almost identical but Argueta and Cazarez played regularly while Baldisimo played about once a month before being banished back to the phantom zone. On the one hand Baldisimo’s play was not clearly head and shoulders above his rivals. On the other hand though it’s incredibly frustrating to see a young player with the potential to grow into something special be kept out by veterans who don’t provide anything meaningfully different. Thus two things are true simultaneously. Fresno does a poor job of living up to their side of the affiliation deal and Baldisimo also did not do enough to differentiate himself from the veterans on the team. Baldisimo will be twenty one at the start of next season. There’s still time for him to develop and he’s got a lot of qualities that make you think he could be a solid MLS player. He tackles in a way reminiscent of Matias Laba and looks much more assured on the ball than the Argentine DP did (albeit at a lower level). That being said, if Baldisimo doesn’t put those qualities into practice it’s easy to see him going the way of Marco Bustos. If Baldisimo’s next season isn’t a home run then I’m not sure he’ll ever make it with the Whitecaps. There are a lot of good qualities but if he doesn’t play regularly next year he likely won’t be able to reach his potential. I think the CPL would probably be a good destination for Baldisimo next season.
Campbell was identified in preseason by Carl Robinson as a player who could take a big step in 2018. The twenty year old was given a grand total of 43 minutes of first team football in the league by Fresno. This is made double frustrating by the fact that in one of the few games Campbell actually got to play, in the US Open Cup, he scored a goal and had an assist to send Fresno through to the next round. Granted this was against NPSL competition but surely this shows that Campbell is way to good for that level of competition and should be given a chance against the next level. Such a chance was not forthcoming from Fresno. He was played in the next cup game as a fullback. He obviously struggled as that is not his preferred position and then it was back to the phantom zone with him. This year has been a total disaster as far as Campbell is concerned and the Whitecaps must find him somewhere else to play next season. The newly formed USL division 3 league or the CPL would both be options.
Vancouver’s 3rd round pick in the draft, Brown managed a respectable 1025 minutes for Fresno. The twenty two year old New Zealander is short for a centre back at 5’9 but weighs 187 pounds. This means that he is so muscular that on the BMI scale he is technically considered obese. This mildly interesting fact aside though, Brown is not a very exiting prospect. His actual stats are pretty bad and he almost certainly will never play for the Whitecaps but Fresno seem to like him so I see no reason to move him.
Melvin was a standout with WFC2 in its last year of operation but at time of writing the only game the 24 year old has played in 2018 is the MLS homegrown game. Fresno didn’t play him because...well again I’m not quite sure why. Incredibly mediocre 34 year old Kyle Reynish just couldn’t be denied I guess. The Whitecaps signed him to a first team contract and...still didn’t play him. I have no idea what the Whitecaps were thinking at any point in this series of events but the result was yet another promising player totally wasting a potentially key year of development. I don’t even know what they could do with Melvin at this point. What do you do with a 24 year old who hasn’t played in a year? Perhaps a loan to his hometown Pacific F.C.?