Thursday afternoon, in advance of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Sunday match-up at BC Place, the club held a media round-table for Whitecaps media members with Sporting Director and CEO Axel Schuster.
It was a detailed chat, and over the course of almost an hour, the German executive touched on many pertinent topics, as well as dropping a few important pieces of news we hadn’t heard before.
With that in mind, I’ve chosen a few of the key takeaways from this conversation, and I’m going to do my best to give you my rapid fire reaction to them as well.
Impending Schedule Announcement
Axel Schuster says a schedule announcement will come tomorrow. #VWFC— Samuel Rowan (@samuel_rowboat) September 10, 2020
There’s still a lot of question marks around this one, but Schuster did reveal that the first three matches of the next stage of play would be announced tomorrow, and that those three matches would span just nine days. Schuster said that conversations with government health authorities are ongoing, but I sincerely doubt the Whitecaps will be hosting US MLS teams any time soon.
The Montero Saga Drags On
Axel Schuster echoed Marc Dos Santos’ comments on this topic, citing the Colombian’s absence from recent matches as nothing more than a coaching decision. Still though, it feels like there must be other factors at play.
Schuster doubled down in his club’s commitment to the attacker though, stating that he was not considering the possibility of moving Montero before the end of the season.
Axel Schuster says he's not currently considering moving Fredy Montero. #VWFC— Samuel Rowan (@samuel_rowboat) September 10, 2020
Recently, there have been many feel good academy stories for the Whitecaps, with the likes of Baldisimo and Hasal proving themselves at the MLS level. This draws an even bigger focus on fixing the Whitecaps’ developmental teams, or lack thereof currently.
Schuster shared that he was still looking for a playing solution for the U-23’s, and added that the U-19 team had made a commitment to a league for the rest of 2020.
Axel Schuster has revealed that #VWFC U19s will be involved in a "local men's league" this season due to border issues. @vmslsoccer?— AFTN (@aftncanada) September 10, 2020
Schuster also seemed acutely aware of the fact that the pandemic has had an even bigger impact on his development squad and academy than the first team. What this means in terms of changes or improvements remains to be seen, but at least some of the youngsters at the MLS ranks are setting a positive example.
As for the U-19 team, we’re still awaiting confirmation of what league they would be joining, although it sounds like it’s not the VMSL.
In a recent interview conducted in Korean by Steve Han, In-Beom revealed that the turf, difficult travel, and defensive responsibilities with the Whitecaps had limited his ability to play to his full potential. I asked Axel Schuster what he thought of these comments, and his answer was interesting, especially in reference to the final point.
“That’s something I’ve heard as long as I’ve been in football. I would like to ask Salah, Mane and Firmino what their club asks of them defensively...none of these reasons is a real reason to convince a player not to sign in Vancouver.”
I liked the pride in Schuster’s response, and it’s obvious that both the club and player are a bit bitter about the way things ended. Obviously this wasn’t helped by the fact that In-Beom came to Vancouver under less than perfect circumstances, but it’s obvious that the Whitecaps don’t think the young Korean was ever fully committed to the project here in Vancouver.
A Harrowing Journey
Wow, Schuster just told a story about Cristian Dajome, saying that his family (wife, 3 kids) was stuck in Bogota due to the pandemic and visa issues, and twice they even tried to charter them out, but the charter plane was cancelled.— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) September 10, 2020
Happy ending, the family arrived 2 days ago
This was quite the story to hear from Schuster’s perspective. Dajome’s family was due to move back in March, and obviously the timing couldn’t have been any worse. Credit to the club though for doing everything in their power to help a player’s family, and what a relief it must be for Dajome to be reunited with his wife and kids.
Schuster added that it’s tough to evaluate a player when he’s been going through something like this, and in fairness to Dajome, I’ve thought he’s been pretty good so far this year, especially considering the circumstances.
As a final point, Schuster dropped some interesting hints on MLS roster changes for 2021, and it was a great piece of reporting from JJ Adams to follow up and get clarification on this topic.
Here's the comments from #VWFC CEO and SD @TheAxelSchuster in full on the proposed changes to the #MLS designated player positions. https://t.co/27kkrZnm1m pic.twitter.com/PgWgMXi2z1— J.J. Adams (@TheRealJJAdams) September 10, 2020
If this does end up being the case, it’s a huge boost for the club. The Whitecaps are looking to be a club that moves players through their team to bigger clubs, and the ability to add rising stars outside the cap system is vital to that model in the long run.
Whitecaps fans are likely wary of the “young DP” right now, especially with In-Beom and Joaquin Ardaiz being such big misses recently. Axel Schuster has yet to make his mark on the club in this department though, and it sounds as though he’s got some players in mind for these slots in 2021, so long as they can get transfers across the finish line (a big if).
If the additions of Veselinovic, Owusu and Bikel are any indication, I’m encouraged for what might be in store.