Earlier this week I wrote an article detailing some of my frustrations with the affiliate deal between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Fresno F.C. Normally, articles about the Whitecaps’ development process don’t get all that much attention, but this one did. It sparked a great deal of discussion, which is good, but due to my not expecting many people to read it, I engaged in a great deal more hyperbole than I normally would. I suppose this is a lesson I can take under consideration moving forward. Nevertheless, I still stand by the central thesis of the piece: The ‘Caps stand to gain very little from this affiliate deal and that Fresno has made that situation more frustrating by putting together what I consider to be a poor squad. But I think the tone that I struck may have caused some of those points to be obfuscated. Somebody posted the article to the USL subreddit where it was roundly criticized. Somebody suggested “Somebody should comment on the page with a link to this thread” which they did. What sort of internet hack would I be if I didn’t write almost 2000 words in response to a Reddit post with 26 comments and 14 up votes? In all seriousness though I think some of the points raised are worth addressing, even though I don’t think that they really refuted any of the points that I brought up in my piece. So let’s go through some of the comments.
“I just don’t see how in the future USL independents will co-exist with the type of ‘purely developmental’ MLS2 team that he is calling for. USL should be positioning itself as a place for MLS fringe players to find a career, not serving as a reserve league. The MLS-USL partnership still can be mutually beneficial, but the landscape has changed a lot since 2015.”
I don’t know why ‘purely developmental’ is in quotation marks since I never said that’s what USL should be, but let’s put that aside and get into the meat of the argument. There are many variations of this point that appear throughout the thread, which I think is a misunderstanding of the point of the article. I am not saying that USL should be an MLS reserve league. I have very fond memories of supporting the Whitecaps in their USL days. I took great pride in the identity of my club and I’m not looking to take that kind of experience away from anyone else. The point I was attempting to make is, at this stage the affiliate deal looks to be pretty much worthless from a Whitecaps perspective and I question why either side agreed to the deal in the first place if the loanees aren’t going to be given proper playing time.
(In response to my assertion that the residency grads are better than the players being played ahead of them) “Yea (sic) they are better, VW2 had 24 points last season with a -24 goal differential. I mean get over it, the USL isn’t your reserve league play thing anymore. IF there is anyone to be mad at look at the club not USL team trying to put together a first year squad.”
It is true that WFC2 were pretty bad in the 2017 season. But we now know that they knew they would be ceasing operations and weren’t really trying all that hard. In the 2016 season, however, they were pretty good. They went on a decent playoff run, three players (Spencer Richey, Brett Levis, and Kyle Greig) earned first team contracts and other players who were on the team went on to play at a pretty decent level. Kianz Froese for example is on the verge of becoming a Bundesliga player after signing a first team deal with Fortuna Dusseldorf. So just because WFC2 were bad in 2017 does not mean that they can’t have good players. The players who have been sent to Fresno were the top players from WFC2 and are more than capable of being first team players on a USL team. I’m not asking Fresno to give Dominick Zator 1000 minutes. All I ask is that the top prospects they’ve been provided with get playing time. Fresno are an independent club but they are also in an agreement with the Whitecaps which, as of right now, they seem very uninterested in holding up their end of.
(in response to the previous comment) “I agree it’s only the first week and this guy is rambling over nothing at this point.”
True, it has only been one competitive game. This does not mean, however, that I can’t make inferences about what Fresno plans to do based on what they’ve done so far. It is clear from the types of signings Fresno has made that they are reticent to take risks by playing young players. That’s fine, they’re free to do that, but if they are going to do that why are the Whitecaps in an affiliate deal with them?
“it’s good for talk. but, the author didn’t do a lot of homework. the white cap (sic) players saw action during preseason, and are in the rotation. one game and guy is acting like their 4 players have been buried under the bench for half a season.”
Total aside, it drives me up the wall when people spell it ‘White Caps.” Whitecaps are an actual thing. It refers to the white surf on the waves or the snow caps on the mountains. The team is not named after white headwear. Getting to the actual points put forward by the comment; action during preseason doesn’t mean much. Bryce Alderson always saw preseason action, and was considered a top talent, but Martin Rennie never played him and he retired to pursue a career as a businessman. Prospects age fast and 18-21 is a vital period in their development. They need to be playing during that period. I understand that Fresno isn’t necessarily invested in the development of our prospects but they have entered into an affiliate deal and I think it’s reasonable to ask them to hold up their end of the bargain.
“This article is laughable. Did the writer watch the game? Fresno had control of most of the game. The Vegas defense (sic) was solid and proved too strong for most of the game and they countered well and scored on set pieces. As for the bad signings section, Christian Chaney and Milton Blanco are from Fresno and Auggie Rey was a fan favorite for the Fuego. They are the familiar faces we as Fresno fans want to root for. I understand wanting young Caps players to get time, but you can’t just force an eleven of 19-22 year olds for Vancouver’s sake.”
‘The Vegas defense (sic) was solid.’ LOL
In all seriousness though, fan favourites are nice but it’s a results based business. Chaney is still a striker whose never scored a goal at the pro level. Meanwhile Gloire Amanda is four years younger and has, literally, infinitely more goals at USL level. The point of this section is to give a point of comparison for the level of player Fresno is somehow able to find a place for while good prospects are cast by the wayside.
(this same person later continues)
“also, chaney’s (sic) header set up renato’s (sic) goal. not (sic) bad for two guys the author thinks of as unworthy rejects. and (sic) jemal johnson (sic) scored the first goal on a cracker of a shot. it’s like homeboy didn’t even watch the game, or read the stat line.”
So Chaney now has an assist to go with his zero goals. Good for him. A single goal, no matter how impressive, does not a good player make (and frankly both goals were the result of poor defending from Las Vegas). If that were the case then Erik Hurtado would be up for the Ballon D’or. A guy in VISL scored a cracker past me a few weeks ago, perhaps this person thinks Fresno aught to sign him as well? If you look at the careers of these players, who aren’t getting any younger, then I think you’ll find my analysis holds. I realize that USL can’t always attract the best players out there, but I know they can do better than Chaney, Johnson and Bustamente. When the Whitecaps were in USL the types of signings that got me excited were players like Marlon James, Charles Gbeke, and Terry Dunfield. These were players who hadn’t necessarily played in the top leagues but who had at least been top players at the level they played at. A 23 year old striker who has never scored a professional goal is pathetic.
“This doesn’t do justice to Las Vegas. Just because they do funky things and are always in the news doesn’t mean the team is awful.”
If Vegas finishes the year with a winning record I will release a video to my twitter account ( @wilkins_caleb24 ) declaring Reddit user jcc309 a genius and superior to me in all ways. Vegas are not a good team, with or without funky things. Just to give you an idea what this person considers solid defending here’s Fresno’s first goal:
“Fuck this kid...”
Truly I have been destroyed.
“...Also, he should look into the Rhinos/Revs partnership if he thinks this is bad.”
Well it’s funny you should say that because I think if they can’t put out a reserve side then emulating New England’s model might be wise for the ‘Caps. Having loose affiliations with a number of teams would allow them to put players in situations that suited them with teams that want and need them. This system has already yielded Matt Turner, who looks to be an excellent keeper. Vancouver has invested a lot more in player development than New England have so they could probably implement this system more effectively.
I think perhaps my perspective is a little more understandable if you look at the way the Fresno affiliation was sold to Whitecaps fans. Basically we were told that it would be an independent club but that 9-10 players would be provided by the Whitecaps and they would play a key role, similar to the deal Chelsea has with Vittese. My article is primarily a frustrated response to the fact that only half as many players as first indicated have been loaned and that they are mostly playing bit parts. Now I don’t expect fans of Fresno, or the USL in general, to be aware of the minutia of the reporting on a middling team in a league they aren’t necessarily a fan of. I can see why the article perhaps came off as me wanting USL to be a reserve league. I can assure you I don’t. I think the commenter who said USL should aim to be a destination for fringe MLS players rather than a development league is correct. That being said, if teams are going to enter into affiliate deals, then they can be criticized for not playing the players they are given, especially if those being played ahead of them are not significantly better. If every Fresno player playing ahead of the Whitecaps players was of the quality and pedigree of Juan Pablo Caffa then I think I’d have much less of a problem with it. Certainly the Whitecaps must take some of the blame for the situation. None of their loanees seem to be starting at the moment. Spencer Richey didn’t start for Cincinnati in week one, Marco Bustos plays only occasionally for Zacatepec, and Deybi Flores is basically just chilling in Tegucigalpa after being completely ostracized due to refusing to turn up for Motagua’s reserve team. The situation is not entirely Fresno’s fault and the Whitecaps should be criticized for not finding better destinations for their young players. But if Fresno enters into a developmental agreement and tweet about their GM’s history of giving opportunities to youngsters who went on to be legends, then I think it’s perfectly fair for them to be criticized for not playing the young players they get on loan. If they want to be a team that plays marginally better (if that) veterans over younger players then that’s fine, they’re perfectly within their rights to do that, so long as they aren’t part of an affiliate deal. It’s possible that they’ll go on to play the Whitecaps’ players and I’ll be forced to issue a retraction, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make inferences about Fresno’s plans going forward.