Maybe it’s too early to be looking ahead to next season. After all, the playoffs are still technically a possibility for this season. But there is a sense in the air that next year is “the year.” The year the Vancouver Whitecaps finally take the big step out of the league’s basement into being an actually good team. But doing that is going to require careful planning. They are going to have to surround the decent core of players they have assembled with players that compliment them.
The current Whitecaps squad has 11 internationals on it with 2 more out on loan. We are at the point where adding any new players who aren’t Canadian or American is probably going to mean moving somebody out. true you can buy international slots but those things cost money (allocation money in any case) and you don’t want to be too reliant on other teams being willing to make a deal. So I think it might be worthwhile to consider which of the current international players are most valuable and which the ‘Caps could probably manage without.
#1: Ryan Gauld:
This seems pretty self-explanatory. Gauld’s arrival is one of the main reasons the Whitecaps can look to a future that might not be as hard to sit through as the preceding five years.
#2: Caio Alexandre:
In the darkest days of the Whitecaps season, Alexandre was one of the few bright spots. Despite the team’s lack of firepower and poor off-the-ball movement, Alexandre was always able to get it forwards. I think it’s a real shame we haven’t gotten to see him with Ryan Gauld yet and I hope he makes a full recovery from his injury.
#3 Erik Godoy:
If he were able to stay fit he would be at #2 on the list. For the 15 or so games he is fully fit every season Erik Godoy is one of the league’s best center backs, despite the generally poor quality of players he has played with.
#4 Deiber Caicedo:
Caicedo did not necessarily blow the league away in the first half of the season. But he has always shown a lot of potential and over the past two months, there have been signs of a larger breakout. He is also a very good compliment to Gauld, whose only real notable weakness is that he isn’t that amazing at progressing the ball through carrying. But Caicedo is great at that. In my opinion, Caicedo represents the type of player the Whitecaps should pursue. Lots of long-term potential, good enough to help in the short term, but not so proven that you have to break the bank for them.
#5 Cristian Dájome:
Dájome will never be Carlos Vela. But he is an extremely hard-working player with tremendous versatility and enough skill to contribute if he is played in a squad with other good players. The main reason I have him below Caicedo is this is as good as he is ever going to get whereas Caicedo still has a lot of room to grow
#6 Javain Brown
If the Whitecaps had signed Javain Brown through the league’s young money initiative I would be pretty satisfied with how he has got on. So the fact that they got him as a fairly late first-round super draft pick really is pretty impressive. True, he has some problems with consistency and he sends every 3rd cross into row z but, well, just look.
#7 Ranko Veselinovic
In two years Veselinovic has taken some huge strides. He has gone from one of the league’s worst center-backs to one of its most average. He is still only 22 so it’s not inconceivable to think he could take another step and become good. Not bad for a player that was bought for less than 500k
#8 Janio Bikel
The idea of Janio Bikel is very appealing. Friend of the blog Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic even named his substack after it. A midfielder who is a brick wall defensively who can also get the ball forwards to more attacking players. It sounds fabulous. But then there is the Janio Bikel that exists in the material world.
In 2020 Bikel did at least manage to do the brick wall part well but in the 2021 season, he has only been average in this regard. When I think about the type of player the Whitecaps could really use to take another step, the player Bikel is supposed to be is what I picture. This makes his lack of consistency all the more frustrating.
#9 Leonard Owusu:
Another player where the disparity between what they are supposed to be and what they actually are most of the time is very frustrating. Owusu has played one gloriously perfect game for the Whitecaps. It was the 1-0 victory against F.C Dallas this season. In that game, he did a fabulous job of getting the ball forwards, through both dribbling and passing, and contributed well defensively. If he played every game like that then he would be way higher on the list. But he just doesn’t. The factoid that best sums up Owusu is this; He is in the 73rd percentile dribbles completed and in the 10th for progressive carrying distance. In other words, he dribbles past a lot of players but he doesn’t actually move the ball closer to the other team’s goal. He has some obvious skill but he hasn’t been able to turn that into a very functional game in Vancouver.
#10 Bruno Gaspar:
Look, it was worth a shot. Gaspar had some solid seasons in leagues much better than MLS and was available on a loan. But he has struggled to stay fit and was almost immediately made redundant by Javain Brown. He is the only obvious player to take out of the
Yet to play a game due to visa issues but, based on his stats and video, snatching him up while he’s still relatively cheap seems like a good idea.
Though he has been in and out on loan with Phoenix Rising, Egbo’s USL numbers suggest he would be a really good backup or a low-end starter in MLS. The question is: Is he worth an international slot to play that role when you have Brian White who does basically the same thing and is domestic? I’m not sure I have a firm answer to that right now. I suppose it depends on what kind of market there might be out there for Egbo right now.
Again, it was worth a shot. Khmiri was a hot prospect who was playing regularly in a strong league and was available for a tiny fee. But injuries have totally derailed his career.