Following a tough but encouraging weekend on the road in Portland, the Vancouver Whitecaps returned to training Tuesday morning buoyed by the arrival of a new signing. Despite the fact that Tosaint Ricketts is not the flashy signing some Whitecaps fans may have been hoping for during this summer window, the former Toronto FC and FK Sūduva man brings a relative wealth of MLS experience and goal scoring prowess to an offensive beleaguered squad, for at least the rest of the 2019 season.
In his first appearance in front of gathered media following Tuesday’s training session, Tosaint enlightened us on the process by which he came to find himself wearing the Blue and White: “It was quick. It was quite difficult - I was in Israel when I heard the news and I just had to make my way down here in two days. So it was quite hectic, but I got it done.”
Even though the travel and timing of the move may have been hectic, Ricketts made it clear that this club, as well as a return to MLS, was something that had been on his radar since the moment he left TFC: “I was always interested in the Whitecaps since I left TFC. I decided to go to Lithuania to get some minutes, get some goals, get some playing time, but once the Whitecaps came knocking it was a no brainer and I jumped right on it.”
Ricketts also reflected on his time in Lithuania briefly, and had some good insights. While the Canadian tallied 8 goals in just 15 appearances with the defending league champions, even things like basic communication with the coaching staff proved challenging.
Tosaint Ricketts described his time in Lithuania as “difficult” his coach was Russian, so translations had to be made from Russian to Lithuanian and then to English #VWFC— Samuel Rowan (@samuel_rowboat) August 13, 2019
Ultimately, finding the back of the net abroad, in spite of the language barrier, provided Ricketts the opportunity to find his way back to MLS. And by Tosaints’ account, he’d be ready to play a full 90 minutes on Saturday if need be: “I would say yes [on being able to go a full 90], I was getting a lot of minutes in Lithuania. Obviously, due to the travel and everything it’s an adjustment with time, but I’m ready to go. I’ll give everything I can for as many minutes as I can.”
Although Ricketts commented that he had not yet discussed his role with head coach Marc Dos Santos, he did add that he’s most comfortable as a central striker/target man, but is willing to play wherever he is needed. Ricketts was also asked about whether or not he could prove himself for 2020 over such a short stretch of matches, and he appeared quite confident in his ability to make a good first impression: “I think I can show something in one match. I think that that’s enough. But I think eight matches is definitely enough to get in there, show what I can do and hopefully get some goals.”
Following Tosaints’ introduction, Marc Dos Santos commented on what it means for the team to add a player like Ricketts to the side: “He’s a great guy and he’s going to be a good teammate. He’s going to be here for the team...Tosaint is a player that knows the market very well and won an MLS Cup in Toronto playing a very important role from the bench. He is a worker and a player that is there for the team. It was an easy fit for us at the moment where we were.”
Dos Santos appears very focused on players who understand the league and demonstrate the kind of attitude and work ethic he wants to instill throughout the club. And by first impressions, Ricketts seems to check both boxes. The big question that remains over the last eight games is how exactly does Ricketts fit into this squad. Does he start as a central striker? Might he play on the wing? Could he threaten Theo Bair’s playing time just as the youngster is finding his stride? While we won’t truly know the answers to these questions until we see Ricketts in live game action, Dos Santos suggested that the new offensive additions can only serve to bolster the relative success the Whitecaps have enjoyed in the “christmas tree” formation: “I think him [Tosaint] and Chirinos are just going to add to what Yordy, Theo, Fredy, Lass could bring in the last eight games...You could even see Theo and Tosaint on the field at the same time. So I don’t think it impacts Theo in any way. It just adds options. If you look at our last two games, we didn’t have options to come off the bench and to help. So having a guy like Toss’ is another option for us. We’ll need Michaell Chirinos to come in quickly as well and be another option there.”
Not to be completely overshadowed, Michaell Chirinos is still working through visa issues and has yet to join the team.
Although his position and role within the team appears a little more clear cut than that of Ricketts, it will be interesting to see how the Whitecaps choose to line up in a few weeks time when both Ricketts and Chirinos are fully fit and integrated into the first team.
While these may not have been the blockbuster deals that Whitecaps fans were hoping for, Ricketts and Chirinos should provide Whitecaps fans with some good storylines over the last eight matches of the season. While I can’t speak for anyone else, the thing that I’m most excited to monitor over the rest of this season is whether or not Dos Santos’ new player recruitment approach looks to be working. These two most recent signings could go a long way to show the kind of success the Whitecaps can hope to have in the 2020 offseason.