Maxime Crepeau has been a huge success story for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Acquired for only $50,000 in TAM and a 3rd round pick after the Montreal Impact deemed him surplus to requirements, Crepeau has had a very solid season for the Whitecaps in 2019. This isn’t even the first time Marc Dos Santos has done this. He helped bring Mark Anthony Kaye, now one of the best central midfielders in MLS, to LAFC after he had been cut loose by Toronto F.C. So with this in mind I thought it would be interesting to look at some players in the second division who might be able to do what Kaye and Crepeau have done before them. Players between the ages of 20 and 25 who may have been cast off by an MLS team but are showing some signs that those teams may have made a mistake. It turned out a lot of them were from Jamaica.
Kevaughn Frater (Striker, 24 years old):
When looking for diamonds in the rough it’s hard to ignore the guy who’s got 10 goals and 3 assists in 11 matches. Frater has been dominant for expansion side New Mexico United. Now, his goal scoring does come with a bit of an asterisk. He’s scored on 42% of his shots so far this season and his previous career best is 15%. So you shouldn’t be too blown away by his goal totals because this rate of scoring probably isn’t sustainable. But since being cut loose by Real Salt Lake he has been a rising star in the USL. If you look at his combined goal and assists totals on a per 90 basis you can see that he’s been pretty steadily trending upwards.
The only exception is the 2018 season in which he played second fiddle to Didier Drogba, though even then he managed a very credible 0.61 G+A per 90. You want to see players grow year on year and Frater has certainly done that.
We generally conceptualize Jamaican strikers as pace merchants but Frater is much more Fredy Montero than he is Darren Mattocks. In addition to being something of a free kick specialist, he is very adept at finding pockets of space and evading his marker. Examples below:
So far in 2019 he’s scored 5 goals with his left, 3 with his right, and two with his head. He’s clearly a player who can hurt teams in lots of ways. Now some of the defending on these goals is pretty bad but he is at least exploiting those weaknesses. You never really know what you’re getting with strikers who come up a division. Some of them hit the ground running and some never figure it out at a higher level. You could be getting the next Christian Ramirez but you could also be getting the next Stefano Pinho. But you never know until you try. I think Frater is at least worth further consideration.
Seth Casiple (Midfielder, 25 years old):
Seth Casiple has played both for the San Jose Earthquakes U23s and Portland Timbers 2. So two MLS clubs have decided he wasn’t worth keeping around. But the way he’s playing at the moment it looks like those clubs may have made a mistake. In 11 appearances in 2019 he’s created 37 chances. He’s averaging 3.5 chances created per 90 minutes. That is bonkers. To give that some perspective, the MLS players who are creating chances at that kind of rate are guys like Carlos Vela and Diego Valeri. Now you’d imagine if Casiple made the jump to MLS his numbers would drop a bit. But if you’re the Diego Valeri of USL surely you at least have something to offer in MLS. If he can do stuff like this (the pass at 1:30 if the video doesn’t start in the right spot) then sign him up:
Casiple also imposes himself on the defensive side of the game. His defensive stats are similar to Jon Erice’s and Ali Adnan’s (though we must keep in mind it’s being done at a lower level). I think Erice is probably the current Whitecap Casiple is most similar to. Like Erice he’s always on the ball (averages 57 passes a game which is better than any Whitecap in 2019), is a pretty decent defensively (averages 1.7 interceptions a game over the last 3 years which would be 3rd on the current Whitecaps), and as I mentioned previously creates chances (averages 2.4 per 90 over the last 3 years which would be first on the current Whitecaps). My one concern is that his actual passing accuracy is a bit low but in fairness that does seem to be down to taking more risks in the opposition’s final 3rd. Casiple is a domestic and does everything you’d ever want from a midfielder at an excellent level in USL so it’s not unreasonable to think he could be a contributor in MLS.
Brian Brown (Striker, 26 years old):
I’m breaking the rules a bit with Brown because he’s a bit older than the 20-25 age range I’ve set out. But I have to include him because he’s really good (and as Spencer Richey has shown us this year, 26 or 27 isn’t too late to make the jump to MLS and be a good player). Back in 2014 Brown was loaned to the Philadelphia Union from Harbour View of the Jamaican league. In just over 200 minutes he scored 2 goals and added an assist to average 1.17G+A per 90. You’d expect that kind of production would lead to the Union or another team in MLS picking him up and giving him more of an opportunity. But for some reason that didn’t happen. To be fair, he then had two underwhelming years in the NASL and USL respectively. But since 2017 his production on a per 90 basis has been steadily climbing upwards.
Brown G+A per 90
2014 (MLS): 1.17
2015 (NASL): 0.33
2016 (USL): 0.36
2017 (USL): 0.89
2018 (USL): 0.98
2019 (USL): 1.1
Brown has more of the physicality that we think of when we think of a Jamaican striker but unlike some of those guys he is a pretty good finisher. Would that skill translate to MLS? You never really know, but remember we’ve already seen a brief glimpse of him being pretty effective in MLS.
Maalique Foster (Right Wing, 22 years old):
Again I’m breaking the rules a bit because Foster is probably a bit too highly touted to be considered a diamond in the rough. He’s already played 5 times and scored a goal for Jamaica and it’s generally expected he won’t be staying in USL for long (he’s currently on loan from Costa Rican giants Alajuelense). But I’m a fan so he’s on the list. When you’re doing your list you can stick rigidly to the rules!
The wingers that Marc Dos Santos brought in have, for the most part, been huge flops. Lass Bangoura has actually had worse underlying stats in MLS than he had in La Liga. How is that even possible? So a young talented winger seems pretty appealing. Foster is quick and has a lot of technical dribbling skill. In USL he looks like what Bangoura and Venuto are supposed to be on paper. He provides his current team (Houston Dynamo affiliate) Rio Grande Valley with a quick outlet but he is also strong enough to not get knocked off the ball too easily and offers some passing skill. He also has a knack for getting on the end of wayward passes from the opposition. He seems like he’d be an ideal fit as a winger in the MDS system.
Statistically he’s doing quite well. He’s averaging 0.78 goals+assists per 90 (3 goals and 4 assists in 807 minutes), averages 1.5 shots per game and 2 key passes per game. Now he’s not the finished article. While his passing is good it can be inconsistent. If we look at his highlights from an international match against Korea, much higher quality opposition than USL, you can see he gives the ball away a lot when trying to make a killer pass (although he does score a goal and causes some problems with his pace):
It is worth noting, however, that this game is from over a year ago and he seems to have developed his passing quite a bit, albeit we’re seeing him against a lower quality of opposition. At the very least he’s shown that he can grow that area of his game and he could be molded into a player who is more pragmatic on the ball, even if it may never be his greatest strength. It’s not like any of the current wingers are great at keeping the ball in any case. Frankly if you offered me Foster in a one for one swap for any of Venuto, Bangoura, or PC i’d probably take it.
Andrew Tinari (Centre Midfield, #10, Defensive Midfielder, even Right Back once, 23 years old):
Tinari was an un-drafted midfielder who exploded onto the scene with NYRB II. The Red Bulls are one of the few teams in MLS who have consistently managed to find quality in the college game. He was let go after the 2018 season and honestly I can’t really see why. He’s coming off a season in which he had 7 goals, 3 assists and averaged 3.4 key passes per 90. these are really good numbers. So far it doesn’t look like that year was a fluke. In 2019 he has 2 goals and 3 assists and is averaging 2.8 key passes per game. Unlike Casiple he actually has quite a good passing accuracy and a very good passing accuracy in the other team’s half. The Whitecaps have famously struggled at maintaining possession in the other team’s half so Tinari could actually be of some help. He’s #36 in the video below:
One last point I’d like to make on Tinari. If you look at his career scoring broken down by position you see that the way he is deployed has a big impact on his production. As a #10 he has 7 goals and 6 assists in 26 appearances (so involved in a goal every other game essentially) and only 2 goals and 1 assist as a more withdrawn player. He weirdly has a goal and an assist in two games as a defensive midfielder so maybe there’s a regista (playmaker) in there somewhere. So if you do get him then play him as a #10.