After an eight game “show me” contract to end the 2019 regular season, the Vancouver Whitecaps have picked up Tosaint Ricketts’ option for the 2020 season. In eight games played, the Edmonton native started six times and recorded 1 goal and 2 assists in 482 minutes played.
Earlier this week at the National Development Centre, Ricketts spoke with gathered media regarding his new contract:
“I’m so excited. This is a place that I felt I wanted to be and my goal was to end up here. I’m happy that I came in and did what I could down the stretch to show that I deserve another year with the Whitecaps.”
Ricketts made it very clear from the moment he arrived in Vancouver that his intention was to earn a permanent spot for himself in Vancouver, and evidently, the 32 year old forward did enough to show Marc Dos Santos and his staff that he deserves a spot on the squad in 2020.
At the same time, it’s clear that Ricketts understands his (likely limited) role within the squad, and that at the end of the day, his leadership contributions could be just as significant as his on field play:
“I value the camaraderie within the team. I value the whole team dynamic and it helps if you have a strong, connected group. When you get on the field, you want to fight for the guy next to you - and I want to do what I can to help instill that in the dressing room.”
Ricketts also spoke to the uncertainty that comes with off-season roster decisions, something Tosaint has certainly experienced as a veteran of 10 different clubs in 7 different countries:
“Obviously there are a lot of decisions at the end of the year. He [Marc] just told me to be patient and that he’d get the word out to me as soon as things started to clear up. They were fairly quick with their response - and a lot of good things were said, so I was happy about that...I’ve been in this position before, I know how it goes, I understand the other side of things in terms of decisions they have to make and that it’s not easy for the coaches to comb through their rosters and see what they’re going to do next year, so it wasn’t about being anxious, it’s just about wanting to know what the future holds.”
Tosaint received the news personally from Dos Santos over the Thanksgiving break, and added that getting the news over the weekend certainly made for a joyous holiday experience.
“He gave me the news over the Thanksgiving weekend so I was able to eat haha...and be thankful.”
While Ricketts obviously was looking for his option to be picked up, the question remains, was it the right move from the Club’s standpoint?
In order to assess Tosaint Ricketts’ value as a depth striker, let’s compare him against the last notable player to act in a similar role for the Whitecaps, current Sporting Kansas City forward Erik Hurtado.
After a six year career in Vancouver, Hurtado played in 13 games for a total of 815 minutes and recorded 2 goals and no assists in 2019. While his season was marred by early injuries, this is a nice sample size to compare against Ricketts with the Whitecaps this past season.
Hurtado and Ricketts have some different attributes as strikers, but both played as determined, wear-out-the-opponent type frontmen on bad Western Conference teams, so I think the comparison is a fair one. Per American Soccer Analysis, we can take a look at some of their metrics head to head from 2019.
xG+xAp96: Expected Goals + Expected Assists (per 96 minutes played)
xGChain: Total team-adjusted Expected Goals earned by the team on possessions in which the player participated.
These two stats appear to nicely encompass what I’ve seen from these players on the field - Hurtado is definitely better than Ricketts at creating quality scoring chances for his team as Hutado’s athletic attributes create mismatches and breakdowns in defensive structure which can lead to quality opportunities. If we compare that with Ricketts, while Tosaint does do a lot of running off the ball, he’s generally not that involved in his team’s impactful build up play.
Yet in that same vein, Hurtado is much less effective than Ricketts at filling up the stat sheet. While Ricketts is less of a creator, he does have a knack for putting himself at the right place at the right time, and gets himself in high quality scoring areas more often than Hurtado. Which in turn, leads to a higher rate of goals and assists.
As a depth striker, I think that someone fitting Ricketts’ profile actually makes more sense for the Whitecaps than Hurtado’s. The Whitecaps have long experienced a lack of clinical finishing, and while Ricketts is definitely not the solution to that problem on his own, having Ricketts as an option off the bench will be a nice luxury for the 2020 season - especially if he comes in at the “team friendly” price tag we’d expect.