Tuesday morning, the Vancouver Whitecaps made a somewhat out-of-the-blue announcement, signing Spanish LaLiga2 midfielder Jon Erice. The thirty-two year old midfielder arrives in Vancouver having spent most of his fourteen years as a professional in his native Spain at the second tier, while also playing stints in Greece (at Kerkya) and in Cyprus (for Apollon Limassol). Erice’s longest stint took place at Real Oviedo from 2013 to 2017 in which he appeared in 132 matches, scoring four goals and spending two seasons serving as captain.
Most recently, Erice was part of Albacete Balompié in the Spanish second division where he appeared in 55 matches. This season, Erice has appeared in 18 matches for Albacete, all of which were in a starting role. Albacete currently sits fourth in the second division and is on track to compete for promotion. Given Albacete’s position in the league table, the transfer has come as a surprise to some in Spain.
By many conventional metrics, Erice appears to have been one of the most proficient defensive midfielders in the league prior to his departure. Often playing from a deep-lying position, he ranked third in the second division with 241 progressive passes played, while completing 82.7% of his passes overall. Despite his defensive position, Erice appears to differ from past Whitecaps defensive midfielders (such as Laba and Ghazal) in the sense that he likes playing aggressive balls into the final third, sending 9.26 passes into the attacking third per 90 minutes played.
All of this seems incredibly positive, and it’s not hard to imagine how a player like this might fit well in a MDS system. I’ve included below an interesting graphic from the LaLiga website which compares Erice’s statistical performances with other midfielders around LaLiga2.
While on the surface this seems like a great value signing, some concern has been raised about Erice’s somewhat scandalous departure from Real Oviedo in 2017. During the season, Erice was involved in a “heated confrontation” with a prominent member of an Oviedo supporters group “Symmachiarii” in the town centre. Following this incident, Erice drew the ire of many local supporters for what they perceived to be poor leadership for a captain and Erice terminated his contract with the club only a month later. An article on the incident (in Spanish), including a video of the incident, can be found here.
While some Oviedo fans reached out through twitter to voice distain for their former captain, the reviews from Albacete supporters appear to be positive:
Great player looking for the last (and probably the best) contract of his career. He's really good at his position on the field. He knows it perfectly and he has been always the captain of his teams. Strong personality. A loss for us. Good luck, Jon.— Jorge Bernabé (@JorMaBerRu) January 22, 2019
All things considered, this acquisition has the potential to be a quality value signing for the Whitecaps. Being a top player in the Spanish second division is hardly something to scoff at and while Erice might not move the needle in-so-far as fan interest right off the bat, his extensive european experience and technical ability could prove vital for the Whitecaps as the season goes on.
As always, let us know your thoughts on the move in the comments, as well as who you would like to see the Whitecaps bring in moving forwards.
(relevant statistics per Pro Soccer USA & LaLiga.es)