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Capital | Thoughts on the Vancouver Whitecaps and Their Money

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We spend a lot of time talking about money as fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps. It gets very tiresome honestly. So let’s do it some more! Here are some thoughts that didn’t have enough meat on them to be individual articles that are loosely tied together in that they all involve money in some way.

Aqua Aerobics

So this is a thing again:

Most of the suggestions and analysis I do on here is premised on the idea that the Whitecaps won’t be spending much money. As such I’ve never given much thought to what a world where the Whitecaps were owned by someone else would look like. Just for fun, let’s imagine a world in which Francesco Aquilini were to buy them

Pro: A lot more spending.

Under Aquilini the Canucks have consistently spent to the salary cap. Despite their many troubles, lack of money has never been a problem the Canucks have faced. For Whitecaps fans that’s a very enticing proposition. Since the end of the 2015 season, supporting the Vancouver Whitecaps has been an exercise in saying to yourself “man if they just added one more really good player this team could be something special.” That player has never shown up but with an owner who is willing to throw money at the team all kinds of possibilities could open up. If you stuck two superstar DPs into the current Whitecaps, the type we’ve been practically begging for, you’d have a pretty decent team on your hands. Think of the possibilities. Then come crashing back to earth when you realize...

Con: Francesco Aquilini is an inept doofus who only has his money through inheritance, exploits his workers, and doesn’t pay his child support.

While it is true that the Canucks are never short of money, they don’t exactly spend that money intelligently. To help illustrate this point here is a video from 2016 by YouTuber UrinatingTree:

Almost three years on things haven’t changed much. The ineptitude of the Canucks when it comes to signing free agents is legendary.

Now this post is specifically a dig at Canucks GM Jim Benning but you have to consider who’s overseeing this mess. Since 2012 the Canucks have chased short term gain with no clear plan on building a proper contender, or sophisticated understanding of what works in the modern NHL. It’s possible an influx of Aquilini money will lead to the Whitecaps own version of Almiron, Giovinco, or Vela. But it could just as easily lead to their own version of Tim Howard. You could absolutely see Aquilini putting some dinosaur who won something impressive in like 1978, a Benito Floro type, who puts together a high priced but ineffectual team based on footballing principles from the stone age. There is a correlation in MLS between money and success, but that money also has to come with brain power.

There’s also the aforementioned issues of not paying his employees or his child support. Look folks, most billionaires have some pretty shady stuff in their past. One could even argue that by hoarding such an excess of wealth when there is much suffering in the world that could be solved with that money that it’s highly immoral to be a billionaire full stop. But consider this: When the ball goes in the goal my brain lets out the happy juice. C’est la vie.

Not Enough Scoring:

Sometimes (or so I’m told) after people have been married or in a relationship for a long time some of the magic goes out of the relationship. People may start to wonder what life could be like with someone else. They start to consider separating from their partner to pursue pastures new. For some people this is absolutely the right decision. But some people just need to change positions!

I can see why both the Whitecaps and their fans would want a shiny new striker. The team has struggled to score goals and nothing says ambition like dropping a fat stack of cash on someone who scores goals. Fredy Montero only has 3 goals in 12 MLS appearances. When that’s all you’re getting from your striker it’s easy to look at someone like Carlos Vela who has 14 goals in 14 appearances and think “damn it, we should be getting more.” Here’s the thing though; They’re shooting percentages are actually really close to each other. Vela has scored on 17.7% of his shots while Montero has scored on 15.8% of his. That’s a difference to be sure but it’s not insurmountable. Vela has taken 79 shots while Montero has only taken 19. The problem is volume, not quality. So you could drop a ton of money on a striker but unless it’s someone who’s going to dribble through teams by himself then that striker is still going to have to struggle from the Whitecap’s inability to create chances or even penetrate the other team’s eighteen yard box. They might be amazing but if they never get the ball there’s only so much you can do. So what do you do to fix that problem? Change positions! Let’s look at the players setting up Montero and Vela respectively and see if we can spot why one has 60 more shots than the other.

LAFC:

Eduard Atuesta: Skilled young player with 7 U20 caps for Colombia. Would lead the Whitecaps in key passes and assists.

Diego Rossi: Skilled DP, over 30 youth caps for Uruguay, would lead the Whitecaps in goals, assists and key passes.

Mark-Anthony Kay: Creates a ton of chances for a more of a defensive midfielder, would lead the Whitecaps in key passes and assists

Adama Diomonde: Played in the Premier League, is under 30 and was still contributing in England when he was signed. Combines strength and skill to be a deadly MLS player

Latif Blessing: quietly really good for a few years now, would lead the Whitecaps in key passes,

Whitecaps:

Lucas Venuto:

PC: Decent MLS depth player but you probably don’t want to rely on him to be a starter

Lass Bangoura: Is fast but not appreciably better than PC

Andy Rose: Is tall

Felipe: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In Beom Hwang: Pretty good player but has been marked out of games and asked to bear more of the offensive burden than he can reasonably be expected too.

Do you see what I’m getting at? So rather than spending a ton of money (relatively speaking) on a striker, spend it on some players who can get Montero more scoring chances. This will help the Whitecaps break teams down more and keep more possession, two of their biggest problems at the moment. If they can do those things then they’ve got a team that might do something.

Save Millions and Still be Competitive With This One Simple Trick:

The 2018 Whitecaps were hounded by bad player decisions. Too many bad players were brought in on wages that were too high and too many youngsters who might have contributed something were left out in the cold. When asked about the process by which the Whitecaps acquire players Bob Lenarduzzi said that the team employed a full time scout in the UK (John Park) and relied on recommendations from agents and their connections. Park isn’t listed on their soccer operations page anymore so I assume he’s been let go. I’m not sure if he ever really did anything other than recommend Efraín Juarez (which...yikes). So all we’ve got is players who are recommended to them. Now recommendations can work out great. Kendall Waston is a prime example for the Whitecaps. He had a mediocre career in Costa Rica but was plucked cheaply by the Whitecaps on a recommendation and went on to be, if used correctly, a top centre back in MLS. But recommendations from agents aren’t really something you should rely on because they will, of course, tell you their players are great. It’s their job. They have a vested financial interest in you signing their players, not in what’s best for the club. You need someone, or several someones, who have your best interests at heart. A change in manager hasn’t changed the fact that the Whitecaps transfers are pretty hit and miss. I’ll cut them a bit of slack because they had to assemble the squad basically from scratch so quickly but it’s still really disappointing that players like Bangoura, Venuto and Ardaiz haven’t done much. A proper scouting staff could cut down on bad decisions like this. MDS and the crew did at least take most of those players on loan though so they get props for trying before buying.

Here is what I propose to the Whitecaps (who no doubt are reading this and will take this suggestion under serious consideration). What if, instead of hiring one full time scout, you hire, like, 10+. Make them a mix of people with different skills (connections, analytics, video scouting, etc.) and use them to find some decent players. “Ah, but Caleb” you say “we’re on a budget because of reasons and couldn’t justify that kind of expenditure.” Well I’m glad you brought that up because this scheme will pay for itself. “but how?” you ask. Well I will tell you. Having a lot of scouts and using analytics means you can find undervalued players who can later be sold at a profit. A fantastic recent example which I’ve mentioned before is Portland’s Brian Fernandez. When he was signed by Portland for 10 million a lot of people said it was another example of you falling further behind. But he was bought a year before that by Necaxa for a fee comparable to what you paid for Lucas Venuto. If you had a big scouting department it could be you making that huge profit. But you’ve got to have people looking for that undervalued player who you can turn into a star. If you rely on recommendations there will be hits, I won’t deny that. But there will also be a lot of waste. There will be Anthony Blondell’s and Lucas Venuto’s. Players who you waste the little money you spend on. For the money you payed for Blondell, Venuto, and buying out Juarez, you could have built yourself a tidy little scouting staff. If you want to be an efficient club that relies on the academy and finding hidden gems that’s honestly fine by me. That’s a legitimate strategy that has worked in this league before. But if there isn’t a proper apparatus to identify those hidden gems then you will never, and I mean never, build a true contender using that strategy. That’s the tea, Sis.