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Rayo Vallecano winger Lass Bangoura (26) has announced on his social media that he will be joining the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2019. But who is Bangoura? What can we expect from him? Let’s find out.

Career Summary:

In 2010, at the age of 18, Bangoura was spotted in his native Guinea by La Liga side Rayo Vallecano. He joined their youth side and scored 23 goals in 25 games. He was so impressive that Vallecano promoted him straight to the first team, bypassing their B team, where he made 4 appearances. Real Madrid made an approach to buy him but Vallecano rejected the offer. In the 2011/12 season Bangoura played 28 times, scoring 3 goals and adding 4 assists. The next season he improved to 3 goals and 5 assists but at this point the wheels started to come off. He didn’t score at all in the 13/14 season and in 14/15 was loaned to Granada, also in La Liga. He scored on his debut for Granada in the Copa del Rey, but only had two assists in league play as he was mostly used as a sub. In 2015/16 he returned to Rayo Vallecano, scoring twice in the cup but only registering two assists in league play, mostly from the bench. His career continued in much this fashion until the current season in which he has only made one appearance in the Copa del Rey.

Internationally Bangoura has played 33 times for Guinea, scoring 4 times.

Style of Play:

Bangoura is an old school winger. He plays primarily on the right but has also occasionally been deployed on the left, or as a withdrawn striker. He has the pace to get up and down the wing, is a good dribbler, and puts in a decent cross. He is also fairly responsible defensively, making about 1 tackle and 1 interception per game on average over his career. He has a decent long range shot in his locker as well. Here is a highlights video:

MLS Projections:

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Bangoura’s career production is not exactly awe inspiring. But there are a few things worth considering. First of all, and I know this may be a bit of a hot take, scoring in La Liga is a lot harder than scoring in MLS. There are tons of players in MLS who had average careers in the big European leagues who found their level in MLS. The most obvious example of this is Atlanta’s Josef Martinez who had 7 goals in 50 appearances in Italy but has scored at almost a goal a game pace in MLS. Secondly, Vallecano are always towards the bottom of the table in La Liga and thus would have spent a lot of time hemmed in their own end. If you watch that highlight video you’ll also see that their strikers miss an awful lot of sitters, so Bangoura is maybe a little unlucky to have not picked up more assists.

Bangoura has averaged about 1 key pass per game over his career. This is about on par with what Pedro Morales did in La Liga. In his first season in Vancouver, Morales averaged 2.5 key passes per game, scoring 10 goals and 10 assists. I would say this is the best case scenario for Bangoura. But of course Morales didn’t sustain that level of production and over the course of his time in MLS he averaged 1.9 key passes per game, or about a .7 increase in his La liga production. If Bangoura follows this then he’d average about 1.7 key passes per game. Most players in MLS who created at this rate got somewhere between 5 and 10 assists. Morales also averaged 8 goals per season in Vancouver, while he averaged two in La Liga. If Bangoura improves on his La Liga production by 4x at his best that would give him 12 goals. But if we go off his average then he’d only hit 4. So Bangoura has a fairly wide range of possibility, ranging anywhere from 4 goals and 5 assists to 12 goals and 10 assists. Or maybe he fails to settle in Vancouver, or whatever is keeping him from reaching that early potential he showed persists and he scores nothing. You never know. But if you look at those highlights you can see he was giving Real Madrid troubles. If he’s doing that to them, i’m sure he can do it to the Portland Timbers.

Thanks to Manuel Veth’s excellent article for Pro Soccer USA we can also see that there is some underlying data to suggest that Bangoura compares very favourably to Alphonso Davies. So while this signing will almost certainly be derided at first due to his poor production, I suspect people will come to like Bangoura quite a bit. At time of writing the signing has not been officially confirmed by the club but it is expected it will be a loan with the option to buy. This means that the Whitecaps basically get to try him out before deciding if they want to buy him or not. So if things don’t work out then it’s not that big of a deal, but if they do work out like they could then this will be an excellent signing.

UPDATE:

Lass Bangoura is on a one-year loan with the Vancouver Whitecaps, with an option to purchase at the conclusion. He was acquired using Targeted Allocation Money, and will occupy an international roster spot.