It’s the best time of the year to be a Vancouver Whitecaps blogger. The time of year when I pre-write articles for players they are rumoured to sign so that I can put it out the second the signing is made official. I am fairly confident you will end up seeing this one since Marc Dos Santos was asked about Déiber Caicedo and gave a non-committal answer. Whenever Dos Santos is asked about a player he isn’t interested in signing he always flat out denies it but when he is interested he always turns into Johnny Tight Lips from the Simpsons.
Caicedo is a 20 year old Colombian winger in his third year as a professional. All three of those seasons have been played with Deportivo Cali in Colombia’s first division. He managed only a goal and an assist in his first season (0.34 G+A/90). Caicedo had a bit of a breakout season in 2019, scoring 3 goals and adding 10 assists (0.56 G+A/90). In a 2020 season that was heavily shortened by Covid-19, Caicedo has had 3 goals and 5 assists between the Colombian first division of the Copa Sudamericana (0.57 G+A/90 in total and 0.69 G+A/90 in domestic competition). In total he has 7 goals and 16 assists in 3877 career minutes, for 0.53 goal contributions per 90 minutes.
Internationally Caicedo has played 5 times for Colombia at youth level, scoring a single goal at both U17 and U20 level (granted the goal at u20 level was against Tahiti and questions really have to be asked of the goalkeeper).
Style of Play:
When Caicedo’s name first made its way on to Whitecaps twitter I asked some experts on South American football if they could give me some more information about him. He was described to me thusly:
Very technically gifted & sharp but a bit lightweight. Can play as a second striker or as an inverted winger. Strikes the ball well, good dribbler, smart player. Quick but not explosively so. Confident & talented but slight & may struggle a little physically. Interesting player.— Simon Edwards (@SimonEdwardsSAF) December 5, 2020
With this description in mind I imagine that Caicedo fits in on the left hand side of the 4-4-2 the Whitecaps used rather effectively towards the end of the 2020 season. Caicedo, who is right footed, has played more on the right side in his career but recently has begun to play more on the left. His goal contributions per game have been a little higher on the left side so perhaps this is a sign he’s more suited to playing on his off wing, though this could just be a sample size thing.
When looking at Caicedo’s game footage (he is #30) there are some encouraging signs that he is well suited to play this role on the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Firstly Caicedo has shown to be dangerous in transition situations. When he or his team recovers the ball and they are breaking forward in numbers he uses space very intelligently. He often positions himself in a way that forces defenders to chose between marking him and stopping the person with the ball. Or if he is the one with the ball he’ll drive at the middle of the defence, which causes them to pinch in and open up space for his teammates.
When the Whitecaps switched to a 4-4-2 a lot of their goals came from these sorts of transition situations.
The ‘Caps have two very attacking left backs in Ali Adnan and Cristian Gutiérrez. Because of this the person who plays on the left has to be comfortable linking up with players who are making overlapping or underlapping runs. In the first of the two clips below you can see Caicedo finding an overlapping fullback who scores. If he could do that sort of thing consistently with Ali Adnan then the Whitecaps could be quite dangerous down the left side. In the other clip you see him showing patience and linking up with a player to create a better chance for himself rather than trying a more difficult shot.
If you look up Caicedo on twitter you will see a lot of Deportivo Cali fans complaining that his decision making is inconsistent. So we must keep in mind these are just highlights, but it is at least clear the ability to do these things is within him.
When we look at data a little later on you will see that goal scoring is one of the areas in which Caicedo needs to improve. However he does have one tendency which could lead to more goal scoring in the future as he develops. Caicedo has a tendency to evade the fullback who is supposed to be marking him and getting on the end of crosses to the back post or scrambles in the box. Basically if he played the Whitecaps every week he would score 20 goals a year.
The player who will play on the right side will most likely be Cristian Dájome, a player who attempts a lot of crosses. As you can see from the game maps below, a lot of those crosses are into areas where Caicedo has a knack for finding himself unmarked in.
One of Caicedo’s attacking tendencies which stood out to me right away is that he will sometimes cut inside and loft a teasing cross into the area. Immediately I thought of how these crosses could be very effective with Lucas Cavallini up front.
As you can see from the action map below, these crosses are going exactly into the area in which Cavallini gets the majority of his shots.
By far Caicedo’s best attribute, as confirmed by both data and video, is his proficiency at 1v1 situations.
Thanks to Peter Galindo on twitter, we have data on Caicedo’s play in Colombia.
To give you a sense of scale for these stats, here is how some of them would match up with MLS wingers.
And for further context here he is compared to both MLS wingers and 2020 Whitecaps wingers David Milinkovic and Cristian Dájome.
Based on this it seems Caicedo is mostly on par with the wingers the Whitecaps had last season but is a significantly better dribbler and more accurate passer. Like Dájome and Milinkovic, Caicedo has about the same amount of xG and xA but ranks much higher in xA because there are a lot more goals that happen in soccer than there are assists. Caicedo is, of course 6 years younger than Dájome and Milinkovic so the fact that he’s already about as good as them, and better in some ways, speaks to his long term potential. However it also underscores that Caicedo is a project. He is not going to be the top winger in MLS in year one.
The strength of the Colombian league compared to MLS is difficult to establish with certainty because teams from the two leagues rarely play each other. But what we can do is look at how wingers who played in Colombia for a significant period of time faired in MLS.
Colombian Wingers Who Moved to MLS
|Player||Colombia G+A/90||MLS G+A/90|
|Player||Colombia G+A/90||MLS G+A/90|
Some of these players, Like Yimmi Chara and Cristian Dájome, saw almost no drop when moving to MLS while others, Like Michael Barrios and Dairon Asprillas saw significant drops. Universally though, these players saw a drop in their production. On average these players had 0.46 goals and assists per 90 minutes and 0.346 in MLS. In other words, these players saw an average drop in their production of around 25%.
If Caicedo does follows the averages of these wingers then he’d average about 0.4 G+A per 90 minutes. This would have put him in Vancouver’s top 5 goal contributors last season, Behind Cavallini and Fredy Montero, Ahead of Dájome and Milinkovic, and about on par with what Yordy Reyna was doing before his trade to D.C United. Caicedo is significantly younger than all of these players so you would hope to see his production grow over the next couple of years.
Caicedo’s production will depend on his role and the overall quality of the team around him but overall I would say reasonable expectations for 2021 are between 4 and 7 in both goals and assists.
Big Picture Stuff:
As I mentioned above, I assume Caicedo fits in on the left hand side of Vancouver’s 4-4-2. He is not predominantly left footed, though he appears to be pretty comfortable with both feet. Did the Whitecaps decide to just get the best winger they could get their hands on or is there another left footed winger coming in? I assume it’s the former but who can really say.
Caicedo will fill a youth DP slot, being signed for a reported $2,500,000 figure. That’s quite the investment for the Whitecaps. That is the second highest transfer fee the club has payed in their history. I am pretty confident that Caicedo will be a good MLS player but he’s going to have to be excellent to live up to that price tag and/or for the Whitecaps to eventually turn a profit on him. Something to watch.
At the time of writing it takes an estimated 14 weeks to get a work visa from Colombia. We don’t know how long the Whitecaps have been working on getting him one but if they started from this moment that would get Caicedo in Vancouver quite close to the start of the MLS season. The Canadian government website warns: “Due to the impacts of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) we can’t process applications normally [or] provide accurate processing times... We’re prioritizing applications from, Canadians trying to return to Canada, vulnerable people, and people who perform or support essential services”
With this signing the ‘Caps only real glaring holes, in my opinion, are in the #10 role, and at right back. I imagine the Whitecaps best 11 looks something like this:
Speaking of the youth DP rule, that rule is still being hashed out. It may be the case that if the Whitecaps sign a senior DP to be their #10 that Caicedo is the only youth DP they get. If that is the case then they may have to sell one of their senior DPs, probably Ali Adnan in this case, to take full advantage of the youth DP rule. Whatever the league decides could have big implications for how the ‘Caps build their roster in 2021.