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Preview: Whitecaps Winter Window Transfer Targets

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Thomas Brown guest-writes for us, previewing some of the Vancouver Whitecaps potential Winter transfer targets.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

As the Marc Dos Santos era gets underway in Vancouver, there have been plenty of roster moves in recent weeks. A massive overhaul has left the squad with a number of glaring needs in nearly every position. The new Whitecaps gaffer recently joined local sports talk radio station Sportsnet 650 to talk about the build so far and painted a clear picture of his approach, the club’s style and where he & his staff will be headed in the coming weeks to embark on a scouting journey. He identified Italy, Spain, Belgium & Portugal as their next stop, followed by South America after the SuperDraft. Also, in the recent past has made mention of Mexico and Asia as regions of interest. Dos Santos has often thrown caution into the wind at the topic of winter transfers, making note that better players are often more readily available in the summer.

While there are no guarantees of filling all remaining rosters spots, this can be a fun exercise for the present and future.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that no other subtractions will be made to the roster, with the exception of buying out Mexican 2010 World Cup star Efrain Juarez. That leaves 13 open roster spots, 8 of which can be internationals and 3 Designated Player spots. We cannot be completely accurate in available allocation dollars but we will assume there’s plenty of Garberbucks™ to go around.

Center Backs:

- Ricardo Ferreira (SC Braga, Portugal) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Ferreira has been out with a severe knee injury for almost 12 months after making his International debut for Portugal. It was his second knee injury in 2 years, which could be a concern to player coming to a team which plays more than half of their games on an artificial surface. Before his injury, he was looked upon as one of the top defenders in the top flight of Portugal. Born in Mississauga, he would count as a domestic in MLS but would command a higher wage. The 26-year old would be an ideal fit for Dos Santos’ backline. Very mobile, passes the ball extremely well and is very disciplined, having only been sent off once in his professional career and averages a yellow card every 5 matches in the Portuguese Top Flight. Although he’s represented Portugal internationally, he’s not cap-tied. He *could* in theory still represent the Canadian Men’s National Team.

- Vincent Sasso (Belenenses, Portugal) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Sasso, a 27-year old Frenchman, is known for his cerebral type of defending. He’s an excellent passer of the ball, attacks the ball offensively on set pieces, but struggles with one-on-one duels and discipline. A product of the FC Nantes youth program, the ex-France youth international profiles similarly to Impact’s Rudy Camacho. His WhoScored.com rating this season has been an excellent 7.25 but has not been receiving the notoriety he may be deserving of.

- Nelson Monte (Rio Ave, Portugal) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Monte, 23, is a former Portuguese youth international with tremendous upside. Able to slide from the centre of defense to right back, he’s very athletic. In the early stages of this Liga NOS season, Monte has struggled with an ankle injury. He’s described as a calm defender that doesn’t dive into a challenge but uses excellent positioning to defend attacks. At 23, he would still be highly impressionable to a coach like Dos Santos.

With only Doneil Henry returning from last season’s compliment of central defenders, there’s a definite need for depth in this area as well. I would expect the ‘Caps to go after a number of MLS players available: Edmonton-native Amer Didic, the Ghanaian-born Niagara Falls-raised Kofi Opare or former Sporting Kansas City homegrown product Kevin Ellis among them.

Honourable Mentions: Florentin Pogba (Guinean – Free Agent), Diego Polenta (Uruguayan – Free Agent), Jonas Ramalho (Spanish – Girona, Spain)

Defensive Midfielders/Number 6’s:

- Nemanja Radoja (Celta de Vigo, Spain) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Radoja, 25, is a really intriguing option for the Whitecaps. He’s an intense competitor who disperses the ball well. He was linked with a move to Premier League side West Ham United in the summer but hasn’t played this season and isn’t listed as injured. There’s a possibility he’s in a dispute with Celta de Vigo, or a move has already been agreed to. If not, the twice capped Serbian international would be an excellent addition to the center of the park.

- Jose Mauri (AC Milan, Italy) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Mauri, a 22-year old Argentine-born Italian youth international. A product of the Parma youth program made a 4 million Euro move to Milan in 2015 but has yet to break through at the San Siro. A fresh start may be just what the young midfielder needs to restart his professional career. Mauri is known as a very strong passer but lacks size, measuring in at 5’6”.

With David Norman Jr. & Michael Baldisimo in the fold for 2019, the Whitecaps may want to consider a veteran option that is proven in MLS. The MLS Free Agent market is thin and a quick look at depth charts shows the trade market likely bears no fruit.

Honourable Mentions: Renato Nuno (Brazilian – KAA Gent, Belgium), Sergi Samper (Spanish – FC Barcelona, Spain), Ander Iturraspe (Spanish – Athletic Bilbao, Spain)

Central Midfielders, Box-to-Box:

- Andera Bertolacci (AC Milan, Italy) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Bertolacci, 27, is potentially a premier transfer target for the ‘Caps. He would almost certainly command a Designated Player deal but would be worth every penny. The Italian National Teamer is a left footed box-to-box midfielder who is more than adept stepping into the number 10 role. He spent last season on loan at Genoa, and only racked up 139 minutes over 4 appearances for Milan this season. His stock may be at just the perfect value for a move across the Atlantic.

- Hiroshi Kiyotake (Cerezo Osaka, Japan) Contract Expiry: December 2018

Kiyotake, 29, has struggled of late with a recurring injury. That being said, he’s still highly effective in attack. He doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a number 8 or box-to-box player but with two defensively responsible players he may fit the bill. A Japanese international who’s spent the better half of his career in Germany with Hannover & Nuremberg and Spain with Sevilla and was recently linked with a Stateside move to Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders there’s certainly a pedigree. Alternatively, he has played as a winger and could be included under that basis.

- Bryan Heynen (Genk, Belgium) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Heynen is a 21-year old Belgian Youth International with immense potential. He’s only broken through with the first team on a full-time basis this year, at 21 is stepping into the prime of his career and may be looking for a new challenge abroad. With his age and potential, he would be considered a strong option to fill a Young Designated Player spot.

- Benny Feilhaber (Los Angeles FC) Contract Expiry: Free Agent

Feilhaber, 33, has plenty of MLS & European experience. After completing his collegiate career with UCLA, he moved to Germany with Hamburger SV before shorter stints with Derby County in England and Aarhus in Denmark before returning home to MLS with New England. He spent 5 seasons with Sporting Kansas City, where his path first crossed Marc Dos Santos, where he was an assistant coach to Peter Vermes as well as the head coach of their USL affiliate Swope Park. They reunited with Los Angeles FC and certainly fits the profile of an attacking box-to-box player with tons of success in a 4-3-3. He will command a hefty salary but on a one-year incentive-laden deal, he could provide necessary veteran leadership.

With a returning group of Russell Teibert, Felipe, Simon Colyn and the recently acquired Andy Rose, there’s likely a need for one starter in a 4-3-3 while not blocking Colyn’s progress.

Honourable Mentions: Francisco Portillo (Spanish – Getafe, Spain), Afriyie Acquah (Ghanaian – Empoli, Italy), Mirko Gori (Italian – Frosinone, Italy)

Wingers:

- Hernani (FC Porto, Portugal) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Hernani, 27, is a dual Portuguese-Cape Verdean citizen without a chose international allegiance – both are areas Dos Santos is very familiar with. He brought Kevin Oliveira over to Swope Park Rangers in his time there from the Benfica program. Hernani is a right sided inverted winger with a cultured left foot. He’s a set piece specialist and an excellent dribbler of the ball. With only 9 appearances for Porto this season and one start among those, it wouldn’t be a reach to assume he’s looking for a move.

- Fidel Martinez (Free Agent) Last Clubs: Atlas (Mexico)/CA Penarol (Uruguay, on loan)

Martinez, 28, was set free by Atlas during the summer and hasn’t found a club as of yet. Another left footed player, Martinez finds himself more comfortable on the left side of an attack. Capped 30 times by Ecuador, Martinez complied 5 goals and 3 assists in 25 appearances across all competitions last season with both clubs. He certainly holds some value at the right price, although given the fact he’s been out of contract since the summer, perhaps his wage demands have been too rich elsewhere.

- Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany) Contract Expiry: June 2019

Although Dos Santos did not make mention of Germany on his scouting journey, Fabian has been rumoured to MLS time and time again. He fits the bill in the type of adaptable attacking player MDS will look to sign. He compares well in style and ability to Carlos Vela, who he had in Los Angeles. Fabian, 29, is more than capable as a 10, on either wing, or as a false 9.

We project Yordy Reyna as a winger in 2019, with no real options beyond him, it’s fair to expect several additions in this position.

Honourable Mentions: Lucas Zelarayan (Argentine – Tigres UANL, Mexico), Javier Aquino (Mexican – Tigres UANL, Mexico), Lazar Markovic (Serbian, Liverpool, England), Isaac Brizuela (Mexican/American – Chivas, Mexico)

Strikers/Center Forwards:

- Alan (Guangzhou Evergrande, China) Contract Expiry: January 19, 2019

Brazilian striker Alan, 29, is a goal scoring machine. 19 goals, 8 assists in 22 appearances across all competitions for his Chinese side is a pretty incredible rate. A former Brazilian youth international may be looking for pastures new come January having spent 3 seasons in China after his move from RB Salzburg. Alan spent the earlier stages of his career with Fluminense and Desportivo Brazil – a former employer of Marc Dos Santos. While their paths may not have crossed in Brazil, there is a good chance the Whitecaps gaffer is well aware of the talents he possesses.

- Fredy Montero (Sporting CP, Portugal) Contract Expiry: June 2019

What can I say? Would this not be the perfect story? We know that Fredy loved Vancouver. We know there is plenty of unrest between the club and supporters in Lisbon. Another move closer to home is certainly possible for the 31-year old Colombian. He’s an excellent finisher and in a setup that favours a striker that runs off the shoulder of defenders, looking to poach away at every opportunity – I would imagine his second stint in Vancouver would be more successful than the last.

Honourable Mentions: Jonathan Rodriguez (Uruguayan - Santos Laguna, Mexico), Junior Arias (Uruguayan – CA Talleres, Argentina), Sergi Enrich (Spanish – Eibar, Spain), Djordie Jovanovic (Serbian – KSC Lokeren, Belgium), Gianni Bruno (Belgian – Cercle Brugge, Belgium)

A number of these players, especially those out of favour at their current clubs could be available for free or on the cheap this winter. Which options do you find the most intriguing? Are there any glaring omissions? Let us know!