The Vancouver Whitecaps recently sent out a mailer to fans in which they promise that things will be better going forward. The document states “We have a new coach, a new vision, and money to spend.” These things have been promised in the past but things seem more serious this time. Firstly because the promise is being made in writing and secondly because the document goes on to say “If you don’t like our direction by January 30th get 100% of your money back, guaranteed.” Quite the bold statement. This means there is a lot riding on this upcoming offseason. The Whitecaps will have to do something awfully impressive and awfully quickly in order to keep season ticket holders who are on the fence. Which leads me to the question that’s been bouncing around my brain for a few months at this point; “What the hell are they going to do?”
Option 1: They Just do Nothing
This would basically be suicide for the club. The club is already bleeding support and three years in a row of being outside the playoffs and in the bottom five of spending would be a disaster. It is true that from a dollars and cents perspective that it doesn’t matter too much to the owners if attendances are high or not. Between SUM and the value of an MLS franchise growing they will come out on top regardless of what actually goes on inside B.C Place. But two things became apparent during the fan walkouts earlier in the season. Firstly that we fans may have a great deal more power than we actually believe. Secondly that the Whitecaps owners are image conscious. I doubt that they like the increasingly empty stadium and probably want to do something to change that. I will not rule out that the 2020 team is the same thing but with slightly different players but I genuinely think it’s unlikely. So the question then becomes; “what do they think will be good enough to win people back?”
Option 2: They Increase Their Spending a bit, Bring in Some Intriguing players, but the Team Still Lacks Star Power
Before the mailer I would say this is by far the most probable option. I still think it seems plausible. But here’s the thing; for this gambit to work the Whitecaps need to not only improve but obviously have substantially improved by January 30th. If the Whitecaps pluck some decent guys out of the lesser leagues of Latin America, Asia, and the colder European nations then that will probably be reasonably impressive to a nerd like me (depending on which players they get). But i’ve been supporting this team since I was a small boy and I am obligated to write something about them every week. They dominate huge parts of my life and my headspace. I am always ready to get hurt again. I’m not the person who needs to be convinced. The person who needs to be convinced is the person who wants a Whitecaps version of Giovinco, a recognizable star. Perhaps the Whitecaps decision makers are wildly out of touch but surely they must know this. A quick glance around social media will show you that most people have responded to this deal with extreme cynicism. If the Whitecaps genuinely want to win fans back then they are going to have to do something that completely blows our minds and do it before the 2020 edition of the team has kicked a ball. I consider option 2 much more likely than option 1 but I think putting this deal out there may only leave them with...
Option 3: At Long Last the Whitecaps Drop a Fat Stack of Cash on an MLS Super Star:
This brings hope. 2019 has been a brutal season to be a supporter. But if a Whitecaps version of Almiron, Giovinco, or Vela is on the table then suddenly anything seems possible. You add a star player, a couple of good TAM players and a top 5 draft pick (who are usually still pretty good despite the declining importance of the super draft) and suddenly this team is in business! Maybe after four years of waiting for the Whitecaps to be good again (if, indeed, they ever were good) they might actually be moving towards something special. But what’s the uneasy feeling at the back of your mind? Why does it feel that it couldn’t possibly be that easy?
Here’s the thing. Even if you are willing to spend a huge whack of money on a player it’s still very possible to balls the whole thing up. The most obvious example is the Colorado Rapids who handed Tim Howard a huge contract that made him the top paid keeper in the league and always at least in the top 15 highest payed players overall. Colorado has had 3 years of futility and Howard has more commonly been the cause of rather than the solution to their problems. The Portland Timbers also had a miss on a big signing when they paid 5 million for Lucas “Brazilian Hurtado” Melano and his six goals in 70+ games. the L.A Galaxy almost weren’t able to sign Ibrahimovic to a DP contract because they were paying 6.5 million to the corpse of Giovanni Dos Santos. Then there are teams who made successful big ticket signings but still failed to make it work. The aforementioned Galaxy may miss the playoffs three seasons in a row despite Zlatan and consistently one of the highest payrolls in the league because all the non DP bits of the Galaxy are terrible. Toronto F.C looked to be riding off into the sunset as an uncatchable team in MLS after 2017 only to come crashing back to earth and miss the playoffs with an enormous budget because the supporting cast collapsed.
In previous articles i’ve discussed how the Whitecaps lack the infrastructure to compete on a small budget. There have been some changes with three new scouts (allegedly) and a director of football expected to be hired in mid October. But will that be enough for the Whitecaps to avoid doing what the teams above did? How crushing would it be if the Whitecaps finally make a big splash only for that player to be a dud? Where would they even go from there? What the hell are they going to do?
Recently the ‘Caps were trying to sign Lucas Cavallini. Would he be enough to satiate fans on the fence? Probably not. Is that still as high as the Caps’ ambitions go? Did they think about this deal as hard as i’m thinking about it before rolling it out? What the hell are they going to do?
It’s driving me insane. Usually my articles serve as a sort of meditation. I become interested in some sort of Whitecaps related issue, do a bit of thinking and some research, come to a conclusion and then write that process up as an article. But I have no conclusion. Are they going to upend the strategy they were totally committed to only a year ago? Is this yet another smokescreen? If so, are they really crazy enough to think another smokescreen will work? What the hell are they going to do!?