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MLS: Playoffs- Round One-Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City

Puzzle Pieces: Breaking Down the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Current Roster Construction

The offseason is always shorter than you think, so with an eye on 2022, we take a look at the current state of the VWFC roster, by the numbers.

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps offseason is now well underway.

While there’s over a month until the Whitecaps will be hitting the pitch for the first time at the National Development Centre to start the 2022 preseason, there are still plenty of questions to answer in terms of the club’s roster construction.

This project is udoubtlebly less complicated than it’s been the last few seasons. In terms of an MLS roster, the Whitecaps are due for about as little roster turnover as you can reasonably expect. Axel Schuster and Nikos Overheul are largely to thank for this increase in roster stability, but it also indicates that the few additions which might be made will be crucial to determining if this team can take a step forward in 2022. Because the Whitecaps will have limited roster turnover, they are limited in terms of their roster flexibility as well, especially if we expect veterans Andy Rose and Tosaint Ricketts to return to the squad in some capacity.

With this in mind, I drafted up a chart which breaks down the 31 players the Whitecaps currently have under contract. The aim of this was to combine information that was available elsewhere on the internet (MLSPA Salary Figures, Length of Contract, Roster Designations) and put it all in one place.

(As noted in the comments, the Whitecaps have an additonal international spot, for a total of nine, through 2027 thanks to the Colorado Rapids)

Before diving into some of the major takeaways, there are a couple of important things to note with this chart.

First, homegrown players don’t have the length of their contracts specified in the transaction report, but because clubs (especially before the age of 25) have a good degree of control over those players’ rights within MLS, I listed each of their subsequent seasons (beyond 2022) as option years.

Second, for Generation Adidas contracts, it is my understanding that they are a maximum of three years in length, as such, I believe Ryan Raposo would have to re-sign after this season, although perhaps the Whitecaps would still possess his MLS rights in some way.

Third, the three players currently out on loan are highlighted in yellow. While Pecile and Colyn are due back in June of 2022, their current clubs’ purchase options could extend those deals, or they could always be re-negotiated. Cornelius, meanwhile, is on loan through the end of 2022, and under contract with the Caps for 2023, although his Greek club also has a purchase option. It’s worth noting that while a player is on loan, he does not count for a teams’ roster allocation, but obviously if one of these players were to be recalled, the club would have to have an open slot available for them.

So with that additional information in mind, what from this chart really stands out?

Limited Flexibility

The Whitecaps don’t have a lot of wiggle room for 2022, but they do have some, and at potentially very impactful places, if it’s done right.

The big limiting factor here is the number of international spots. The Whitecaps are already sitting at 11 internationals on the active roster, three above the standard allocation of 8, and the price of international spots has been on the rise, with the going rate in recent weeks being about 250K in general allocation money.

This isn’t a big deal if you only need one or two spots, but if you’re carrying something like 11 or 12 internationals, it could get expensive really fast, especially the longer the club leaves it before acquiring them.

The knock-on problem is that the current state of the roster doesn’t paint a full picture. If the Whitecaps intend to re-sign Bruno Gaspar, that would occupy an additional spot.

Furthermore, one would assume that a new Designated Player (or Young Designated Player) would entail a further international spot.

Finally, if the Vancouver Whitecaps do in fact look to move on from Lucas Cavallini this offseason, there’d be the additional question of if they look to replace his designated roster spot with yet another international. This is one of Cava’s benefits, despite his poor recent form.

Hypothetically, if the Whitecaps made all of these moves, they could be looking at 14 or 15 internationals they have to deal with. Now, it’s unlikely it actually comes to this, but nonetheless, the Whitecaps are certainly up against it in this regard.

The Whitecaps can start to attack this problem by abandoning the idea of re-signing Bruno Gaspar, but they’ll have to look at potential inefficiencies on their current roster as well.

Axel Schuster & Co will have an important decision to make about David Egbo, who will be a strong candidate to head out on loan again unless he can make a push for an impactful role.

Equally, Janio Bikel and Leo Owusu could be on the chopping block, either for a transfer or a trade within MLS, given their presumably limited roles as starters in the VWFC midfield moving forward. While Owusu has been in much better form as of late, he’s more expensive than Bikel salary wise, and good defensive midfielders are always in demand within MLS, so I could see both having some market value for a team less strapped for international spots.

A final consideration is Erik Godoy. Schuster will have to evaluate both the Argentinians’ health and his suitability for Vanni Sartini’s three-at-the-back system long term this offseason. It’s unclear at this point if Godoy will be able to play anywhere close to a full season again, and if that’s not the case, perhaps it’s not worth spending an international spot there.

These are admittedly really tough decisions to make, but if the Whitecaps want to bring some impactful signings in, it’s very likely they’ll have to move a few of these guys out.

2023 and Beyond

I thought there were a couple interesting notes when you look at the Whitecaps’ commitments (or lack thereof) beyond next season. One of those is that Cristian Dajome will be out of contract for 2023.

If you’re trying to pick one guy who’s been the best VWFC player over the last two seasons cumulatively, it’s definitely been Dajome. He can play almost anywhere on the pitch and has rarely had an off-night.

That being said, he’s turning 28 before the 2022 season starts, and would be 29 heading into 2023. Given that Sartini’s system doesn’t have a natural place for wingers, and the fact that the club has made a big investment in Deiber Caicedo and Pedro Vite going forward, I do wonder if Dajome will be off to another club at the end of this upcoming season.

Thomas Hasal is another player on the roster without an option for 2023, which caught me a little bit off-guard. Ever since his breakout at MLS is Back, the questions have persisted if Hasal is ready to take the reins from Max Crepeau and if the aforementioned Canadian International might be tempted by a move overseas. This will be a big year for both keepers, regardless of where they are playing, and how the Whitecaps deal with Hasal’s impending status could be revealing of where they are leaning going forwards.

Finally, the Whitecaps don’t have too many players under guaranteed contracts for 2023, but they do have a ton of options (16 by my math) to mull over as the 2022 season goes on. If things go south for the Caps in 2022, they’ll have plenty of flexibility to hit reset for 2023. The notable exception to this rule is Russell Teibert, who is the only veteran/depth piece which is guaranteed beyond next season.

Overall, if the Whitecaps want to maximise their 2022 roster, they’ll have to look at shedding some international spots and perhaps sending some more young players out on loan in order to bring in valuable depth at certain positions.

While the Whitecaps are limited in their flexibility, they do have some key roster spots to fill (at least one Designated Player Spot, or a Young Designated Player Spot) that could radically improve their prospects for 2022 and beyond.

If you see anything you think needs updating in the chart, be sure to let me know in the comments (it’s a lot of info to compile). Also let me know if you’d like to see breakdowns about the future of the roster by position group here over the next month or so.

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