It must be winter because the offseason is in full swing in Vancouver, and the media tidbits are coming as fast as the rain is falling.
Outside of Vancouver Whitecaps HQ, Marc Dos Santos addressed a small crowd of media, to field questions about where the club is as we head towards the end of November, and alluded to what we can expect to see next month and into 2019.
The big questions were asked up front, and MDS has done a bit to prep us all with the videos being released on the official website this morning.
The Goalkeeping Situation
I’m sure many people saw that notably Stefan Marinovic’s option was not picked up, and nor was Spencer Richey. This definitely raised a few eyebrows and rather than make anyone read any further, I’m just going to get right into what was said.
When asked about the reasoning behind allowing the New Zealand international to leave, MDS outlined that the club “evaluated Stefan very well, his strengths, his weaknesses, what he can bring. [The club] also looked at the other possibilities because before you don’t take the option of someone, you need to be back up with other things you can do. I think what we’re doing next is also very exciting.”
Pretty clearly, at least a few players are lined up, so the now incumbent number one (since he’s the only goalkeeper on the roster) Sean Melvin, is certainly not a lock to start between the posts come 2019. Dos Santos clarified that by telling reporters “we’re looking at adding new goalkeepers to the club, that is exactly what we’re doing, so Sean is one of the three or four goalkeepers we would call it.”
As for Spencer Richey, there has been speculation that he would have been lost to Cincinnati FC in the expansion draft as is, whether his option was picked up or not. Having spent last season on loan with one of the newest franchises on the block, he performed well enough that Alan Koch views him as the man to help make their first MLS season successful, and while it’s nice to keep your in-house talent, it appears the club accepted the situation and simply cut their losses.
Out of Contract
With the announcements of whose options were picked up and whose were declined, there were also four notable players that are currently out of contract. Last season’s leading goal scorer Kei Kamara, midfield fan semi-favourite Cristian Techera, and late additions to the 2018 squad in US veterans Sean Franklin and Brian Rowe are all presently out of contract.
Several questions were posed to MDS surrounding the future of Kei Kamara, and whether he would be back with the club. Dos Santos simply stated, “I’m hopeful that this club is going to have the right forward, moving forward with Kei or without Kei.”
He certainly didn’t close the door on the forward returning in 2019, when asked about where goals could potentially come from in 2019 without Kamara, Dos Santos stated “we haven’t lost [anyone] yet. We’re just assessing the situation and hopefully we’ll know more soon.”
As for Techera, it appears that the Uruguayan is also looking at his own options outside of MLS. The links haven’t exactly been there as to where that may be, but for now, it certainly looks as if The Bug’s time in Vancouver has come to an end.
The latter two, were decent role players and depth options, but don’t seem to fit the “younger, energetic, dynamic type of players” that Dos Santos is looking for, which brings us nicely to the next most important part.
What We Can Expect
Obviously there is a lot of flexibility in the roster, there have been some very large pay cheques unloaded, and potentially more still to follow. With Kendall Waston’s status still up in the air, even after today, with MDS simply stating that the conversation between himself and club captain Waston is one that needs to happen face to face.
At this point, Waston has had almost no time off in the last year, which included plenty of travel to and from Russia with the national team along with his club commitments. At the end of the season of course, Waston again linked up with the Costa Rican national team, and only now is beginning to reset and recuperate. Reporters were told that he would be back soon, and that conversation about his future and his commitment to the club would be handled then.
That being said, there are still 11 spots to fill to just make-up the full 28 man roster the ‘Caps will need for opening day, and when asked if we can expect the club to be busy come the December half-day trade window, MDS said we can expect the club to be “very active, we’re very active at the moment. It’s what we think about every night, and what we think about every day. We’re working very hard on re-building this roster.”
When asked about what that means for incumbent players, Dos Santos was still adamant that they will get a chance. Speaking of the likes of Theo Bair, Simon Colyn and Michael Baldisimo he said “they’re going to have a chance to be in pre-season, show all the qualities they have, and to win a spot.” Of course, he was non-commital about giving anyone an idea of how much leash those types of youngsters could get, as everyone has to earn their place. Dos Santos added “For me to guarantee that they’re going to play 5, 10, 20, 30 games, I can’t do that right now.”
His vision seems very clear, and keeping the likes of Mezquida and Hurtado are signs of the type of players that fit in with what he wants to do with this club. Asked about their attitudes, and professionalism, Dos Santos was quick to state “it’s important to have players that show up everyday. They show up to training, they show up to every event, that’s part of creating a winning mentality.”
The work ethic will certainly be important, and MDS very clearly knows that the re-build in Vancouver isn’t going to be a quick overhaul. One media member asked Dos Santos, that this is a massive job, is it not? To which MDS was in full agreement adding “It is, 100%, but again you know at every big job and every big club, when you want to change something and you want to move forward, you’re going to have to start by almost… destroying something to rebuild, and this is what we’re doing at the moment.”
Ever the realist, Dos Santos responded to me when I asked him what a successful 2019 campaign would look like, and he stated very clearly, “Making the playoffs. That is what is going to guide us in the locker room everyday.” Of course, the noises before from the club have been the goal to win MLS cup, but on that matter Dos Santos tempered expectations well, adding “to just come out and say that we want to win it of course [we do.] But everyone does” and that “we want to make everybody aware of how difficult it is to win the MLS cup. Do we want that? Yes, 100%.”
While much is still to come next month, today was certainly a starting point towards establishing a new look Whitecaps club. There is still going to be a lot of movement, and that goes both ways, certainly in and out of the organization. Where it starts though, is in the culture, and the culture runs downhill.
Right now, all signs point to a man that is talented, knowledgable and probably most importantly, realistic about where the Whitecaps go from here.
If you’re so inclined as to read through it, the full transcript of this mornings media session can be found here.