In-Beom Hwang has officially moved on to Russian Premier League side Ruben Kazan. With his departure, one of the main talking points in Vancouver soccer is how the Whitecaps will use their newly freed up DP spot. Sporting Director Axel Schuster has said the process of bringing in that player will be a ten week process at minimum due to the Visa process and the need for the player to self isolate for two weeks. This means there’s plenty of time for endless speculation. So Eighty Six Forever’s staff have come together to give their picks for the Vancouver Whitecaps next designated player. We gave ourselves a theoretical budget of around $10,000,000 and set our contributors loose on the internet to find who we thought would be the best targets. We came to the 10,000,000 figure by considering how much money the ‘Caps got for In-Beom, how much money they spent on Lucas Cavallini in the winter, and the probability that some of the add ons from the Alphonso Davies transfer have kicked in. When considering these factors $10,000,000 seemed to be a reasonable number.
Methodology: The consensus amongst Whitecaps fans seems to be that the club should invest in a #10, possibly from Argentina. So naturally I have come up with two strikers and a #8, none of which are from Argentina. Perhaps it’s my natural contrarianism. That said though it’s a bit hard to tell what direction the Whitecaps are planning to go in and whether or not a #10 would be helpful to that direction. First they said they were building a squad for a 4-3-3, then they came out in a 4-4-2 in their first 2 MLS games, then played about 8 different formations at MiB, and then finally MDS said they were building around a 4-4-2. At this point I don’t really care what they do, so long as they commit to it and its effective. So, not having clear direction from above, I kept two aspects I wanted when making my selections. These being that a player be able to produce around 20 goal contributions and that they have the potential to be sold for more than they would cost to buy a few years down the line. I am looking for players who will be a dominant force in MLS and who can set the club up for long term success by returning a profit that can be invested in more players who will be a dominant force.
Umar Sadiq (Partizan Belgrade)
Sadiq currently plays for Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade. After bouncing around Europe a little bit, the 23 year old Sadiq took the Serbian League by storm, scoring 12 goals and 13 assists in just under 1700 minutes. If you look at the success a player like Alexander Katai had in MLS (before he got fired because of his racist girlfriend) then there’s every reason to think those numbers could be replicated in MLS. Sadiq is essentially a really good version of Yordy Reyna. He plays as a striker but drops deep to receive the ball and run at the opposition defence. In a 4-4-2 setup this would allow Lucas Cavallini to focus on getting into the box and being a goal threat and pressuring the opposition backline, which is what he’s best at.
Sebastian Ferreira (Libertad on loan from Moreila):
The player I was thinking of when I was doing my research was Miguel Almiron. A player who came to MLS when he was 22, tore it up for two years, won a championship, and then was sold for double what he was bought for (if the Whitecaps owners happen to be reading, this is a great example of how spending money on players can also be profitable). So when trying to emulate that success why not go for a Paraguayan who’s the same age Almiron was when he came to MLS? Sebastian Ferreira has 8 goals and an assist in the Paraguayan first division so far this season. He is on loan from Moriela in Liga MX where he struggled to nail down a starting spot but his goal per minute ratio was excellent, 11 goals and 3 assists in 1763 minutes (0.71 G+A/90). Ferriera players provider less frequently than Sadiq but he does drop deep to link up and is perhaps a more realistic target, as his profile is a bit lower and there are fewer teams reported to be after him.
Pavel Bucha (Viktoria Plzen)
22 year old Bucha is the only midfielder to make my list. He is deployed primarily as a #8 but can also play on the right side. This season he split time in the Czech first division between a loan to FK Mlada Boleslav and with his parent club Viktoria Plzen. He managed 10 goals and 8 assists in just over 2200 minutes. If he managed to do that in Vancouver he would only be behind Camilo in 2013 in goal contributions per 90 minutes (amongst players who played significant minutes. That is really excellent for a guy who mostly plays a deeper midfield role. The question then becomes if he can repeat that in MLS. I think he can. The Czech league is currently ranked 15th in UEFA and I can think of players who played significant minutes in Denmark (13) Scotland (14), Switzerland (17), and Serbia (19) who went on to be hits in MLS.
Methodology: The Caps seem pretty clear that they want to slot in a pure number 10 as the In-Beom replacement so I tried to let that serve as a guiding force. I also looked at leagues in countries that are struggling financially due to COVID-19, which led me to a lot of South American leagues. Not to kick any of them while they’re down, but there are deals to be had. Everton Soares just joined Benfica for a deal that’s 10 million Euros less than what they were looking for last transfer window, in part due to the cratering Brazilian real. Not that the Caps are going to be in for a player of his quality but I tried to use that as a way to find younger players from bigger clubs who might go a bit cheaper now. Both of the guys I selected could be on their way to Europe before long and reap a good financial reward for the Caps.
Jorge Carrascal, River Plate
A well regarded youngster with the Colombian youth national teams, Carrascal has had an odd career trajectory. After bouncing around Europe, from Sevilla’s reserve team to the Ukrainian top flight, he settled at River Plate in 2019 and hasn’t seen a ton of the pitch since then. His reputation has preceded him thanks to strong performances at CONMEBOL events, including three goals/assists at their pre-Olympic tournament last year that put him on the radar of Ajax and Fiorentina. Nonetheless, those links haven’t really panned out and it could be that he wants more game time.
Despite a fairly small sample size, Carrascal has a half-decent 85 percent pass completion rates but has improved significantly in key passes and smart passes, underscoring his intelligence and vision on the pitch. He can toggle between second striker and attacking mid fairly easily and can even play on the wing if need be. His strong dribbling abilities are the cherry on top for a player who needs more match time if he is going to fulfill a European move, making him a good fit for MLS and one River Plate might be interested in selling on given his relative lack of match time (8 appearances last season).
Angelo Araos, Corinthians
Araos is a bit more of an unknown quantity but he is starting to work his way more into action, first on loan at Ponta Preta and then back at Corinthians, where he tallied a goal and an assist in the first match of the club’s Seria A campaign. Araos has a bit more pace than many number 10s and combines it with a lanky frame that means he can play well with his back to goal, meaning he too could alternate between second striker and CAM. He also likes taking on defenders and has pretty good 1v1 numbers. Araos seems like the kind of guy who could blow up in the right system and earn a European move—but media reports suggest he isn’t a great fit in Corinthians’ team environment and is a bit shy. Could be a guy looking for a move and with Brazil’s aforementioned economic issues, Corinthians could be looking to cash in.
Methodology: There are basically three routes the Whitecaps could take with the In Beom replacement. Number one, they could buy a box to box midfielder to play alongside Leonard Owusu. Number two, they could buy an attacking midfielder/creator to add fluidity between phases (probably the most popular option). Or number three, they could buy another striker to sit alongside or possibly underneath (false nine) Lucas Cavallini.
All of these options have their merits, and could potentially add value to the squad. To be honest, In Beom isn't really that big of a loss given the way he was performing, and with Janio Bikel coming back from injury sooner or later, I don’t think the club has a lot of urgency to bring in a new face. How well (and whether or not) Bikel actually plays in the midfield during this restart could have a significant effect on who Axel Schuster targets to bolster the squad - only time will tell in that regard.
I’m continuing along a similar vein to an article I posted back in April about possible transfer targets. Specifically, I’m targeting player agencies and relationships which Axel Schuster has already formed. In an incredibly volatile market, it’s going to be important to know who you’re doing business with. I also think Caleb’s budget is very ambitious, I doubt the club will spend more than they did on Cavallini for this signing, and that feels like the top end of the budget.
Kyosuke Tagawa, FC Tokyo
I’m going back to the well here to bring up a player I presented five months ago. The reason for that is because it still makes so much sense. In my view, Tagawa has the ability to fill the roll In Beom couldn’t with the Whitecaps: a dynamic playmaker, as well as a finisher.
A couple years ago, Tagawa was on the radar of many top clubs in Europe. In particular, Tagawa’s performances at the 2017 and 2019 Under-20 tournaments impressed many international scouts - and Tagawa was tagged as a promising prospect on the verge of a breakout move. Since then though, Tagawa’s market has diminished significantly. In early 2019, Tagawa made the move from his youth club Sagan Tosu to J-League giants Tokyo FC, and following the transfer, he played just 12 total matches in league play, with one goal to his credit in 327 minutes of play. This season, Tagawa has played slightly more (although still not a lot), appearing in 4 of Tokyo FC’s 10 matches with 171 total minutes and one assist.
From the player’s perspective, an MLS move for Tagawa might be just the kick-start he needs to set his sights on Europe for a second time. Tagawa is represented by Base Soccer Agency, who helped broker the loan and eventual signing of Whitecaps left back Ali Adnan, so perhaps there’s the possibility of putting a similar deal in motion for the young Japanese attacker. To get a sense of what Tagawa is capable of on the pitch, below is his one goal, one assist, perfomance for his country in the 2019 U-20 World Cup (Tagawa is #11).
Tagawa is still just 21, and would come to Vancouver with a more established resume on the club footballing side than In Beom did (having played in the top division for multiple years and with a decent scoring record per minutes played, especially back in 2017 with Sagan Tosu). The main issue for Tagawa recently has been getting minutes on a loaded Tokyo FC team - and the prospect of Lucas Cavallini creating space for Tagawa to roam is incredibly exciting. I could see him playing as a CAM in a 4-4-2 diamond, or as a second stiker in a flatter 4-4-2 for the Whitecaps. Financially, I’m guessing the Whitecaps would have to shell out a similar fee to the one they just brought in from Russia.
Mohammed Dauda, RSC Anderlecht
Without knowing this for a fact, I would not be shocked if Dauda is a player who has already come across Schuster and Dos Santos’ desk. Dauda is represented by SPOCS Global Sports, who brought in Leonard Owusu and Ranko Veselinovic to VWFC, and after two prolonged loan spells, it’s been reported in Ghanaian News that he is not in head coach Vincent Kompany’s plans long term and should be on the move this offseason.
Dauda is a true second striker. While he’s started most of his matches up top, Dauda is constantly dropping off into spaces to collect the ball, and is also not afraid to get out on the flanks and play passes into the box from wide areas. His dribbling, pace and passing vision are very impressive, with the only potential knock being that he seems to excel more in distribution than he does in finishing - at least at his most recent stops.
Mohammed joined Anderlecht in 2017, following an outstanding season with Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko where he scored eight goals in 20 appearances. But after struggling to get into the team in Belgium, Dauda was sent out on loan to Vitesse in the Netherlands, and although he scored three goals in ten matches, Vitesse chose not to secure him on a permanent deal.
After returning to Anderlecht, he was sent out on loan again, this time to Danish side Esbjerg fB prior to the start of the 2019/20 season. At Esbjerg fB, Dauda played 26 matches in all competitions, scoring five goals and registering two assists in the process.
Now back from loan a second time, and with one year left on his contract, Dauda looks set to leave Belgium this year, with Swedish and Danish clubs reportedly already in the mix for his signature. This could mean the Whitecaps might have to enter a bidding war to aquire his services, but perhaps Schuster’s connections and relationship with the agency could pay off. Fellow Ghanaian Leonard Owusu putting in the good word for Vancouver might also help - never say never!