The Vancouver Whitecaps announced the anticipated loan of striker Anthony Blondell to Huachipato FC in the Chilean Primera Division. This loan probably signals the end of Blondell’s short time with the Whitecaps. Brought to Vancouver in November 2017, Blondell was expected to lead the line for the Whitecaps in 2018. However, shortly after his transfer, Carl Robinson acquired long-desired striker Kei Kamara. As a result, Blondell’s role in Vancouver disappeared before it even began.
Despite appearing to have excellent chemistry with Yordy Reyna in the preseason, Blondell was used sparingly, recording only one goal and one assist in nine starts. There was speculation that Blondell was not the best during practice, putting in minimal effort. While Robinson had his faults, he seemed to demand excellence from players during practice, and it might be partly why the always hustling Erik Hurtado quickly passed the more expensive Blondell on the depth chart.
With Marc Dos Santos coming in as manager it seemed likely that Blondell would be heading out, but MDS noted several times that Blondell was still in the plans. Recently he said that Blondell would not like him during practice, as MDS would demand hustle, but that the hard work would pay off. Maybe that was smoke and mirrors. Maybe Blondell wanted to cut his losses and return to South America. Maybe MDS saw what Robinson saw, which was someone that was unwilling to put in the effort to make himself better. Whatever it was, Blondell has returned to South America and probably won’t be back.
The departure of Blondell means that 19 players that were on the 2018 roster are no longer with the team. Put another way, only eight currently rostered players saw significant minutes for the Whitecaps last season: de Jong, Henry, Juarez, Levis, Felipe, Nerwinski, Reyna, and Teibert.
On the positive side, what the 19 departures and only eight major holdovers means is that the apparent turmoil that existed last season, and the year-end media day, are in the past and the club is moving forward. On the negative side, it means that the club is lacking bodies and probably still need several starters.
Of course, Whitecaps fans are getting nervous about the state of the roster as the club enters the preseason, however, if you have been paying attention to the league the last month, Vancouver is not the only club in a bit of turmoil. Several high-end clubs, including Atlanta, NYCFC, and Toronto are dealing with their own problems. For Atlanta, it is an embarrassment of riches, and not quite sure what to do with them all, but for NYCFC it is replacing Villa and for Toronto FC it is replacing Vasquez and possibly Giovinco. While I point to these three clubs, several other clubs are having their issues as well. LA Galaxy just recently obtained a head coach for instance. The point of this is that while things appear a bit of a mess, this is not too different than what we see around the league currently.
The other thing to keep in mind is that MDS has made several big signings in the past week or two and there are several more anticipated moves. If recently rumored centre backs Argentine Erik Godoy and Tunisian Jesser Khmiri arrive, along with Canadian/Chilean right back Juan Cordova, the defense could look a lot better very shortly. In addition, touted Korean midfielder Hwang In-boem is expected to be announced soon.
Where the club seems to be the most lacking is at striker. With Blondell’s departure, that leaves unproven Theo Blair as the only option. As part of the Blondell announcement, MDS stated that the club was looking at bringing in two new forwards. Although it was rumored that Icelandic striker Kolbeinn Sigborsson might be on his way to Vancouver, that appears to be dead; and might be for the best. While outside the norm, Vancouver has been linked to touted Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun. This move would be diverging from the norm, as Azmoun would require a very hefty investment (aka $15 million), and he is being chased by several bigger clubs, however, if the Whitecaps could get him, it would be one of, if not the biggest, signing (transfer) in Whitecaps history.
Of course, there are some who would like to see the Davies money used on multiple players rather than one big splash. While I understand that sentiment a team needs a reliable scorer and we have seen what that can do for a club. If there is a position where you might want to go all-in, this could be that position. Only time will tell if a) the move even happens, and b) if it pays off.
What are your thoughts on the Blondell move? Is it the end for him? What about the (potentially) pending moves? Any peak your interest more than others? Let us know your thoughts below.