Welcome back to the offseason notebook everyone!
Are You Sure, Axel?
As you’ve likely heard, the Vancouver Whitecaps are in hot pursuit of yet another player from the Portuguese League, this time a right back in 27-year old Bruno Gaspar from Sporting CP.
With the reported fee on a loan-to-buy deal being just under two million dollars, the Whitecaps are looking at yet another decent sized investment for a player that isn’t necessarily at a position of need, and frankly, that has me concerned.
While Gaspar’s profile is an encouraging one, and I have little doubt that he would be a positive contributor at the MLS level, it’s a rather worrying pursuit on the asset management front. This club has already felt the sting of having a DP level fullback in the form of Ali Adnan. In a salary cap driven league, fullback is usually a place that teams find value either through MLS veterans, or from their own academy ranks.
Equally, it feels like the Whitecaps are reverting back to what I like to call their “grab bag” philosophy in terms of player acquisition. This often sees the club revert to deals that are easier to get done based on personal connections when other more desirable targets fall through. The Whitecaps have been working the Portuguese market heavily, and although their pursuits have been unsuccessful so far, they may have an inside track on Gaspar through his representation, the same agency who represents starting goalkeeper Max Crepeau. With the preseason fast approaching, this feels like a move being made out of desperation rather than part of a greater master plan.
Now, if the Whitecaps have some sort of transfer lined up for Ali Adnan, that could change things, but as it stands currently, the club is already spending way too much money and way too many international spots on a defensive unit that was near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories last year.
To add to the confusion, the Whitecaps already have a pretty capable Portuguese right back on the roster. Remember how Janio Bikel shut down Cristian Pavón early last year? Bikel is two years younger than Gaspar, provides additional versatility, and would leave room for a youngster like Michael Baldisimo, or a new midfield acquisition to take his spot at the #6. To me, having Bikel makes the pursuit of Gaspar all the more puzzling. I would understand the move more if Gaspar was a 21-year-old with loads of potential, but at 27, he really doesn’t fit in the model that Axel Schuster and Marc Dos Santos have spoken about so much...so why the sudden change?
It goes without saying that this also won't fix the glaring hole at the #10 position, and it’s looking more and more likely that the club might be waiting until the summer window before bringing in a player in this spot. While this makes sense in terms of picking someone up from Europe off an expiring contract, that won’t be much solace for Whitecaps fans if they are already languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference standings by then.
The Hoop Lives!
On a happier note, it’s not official yet, but it does look like the Hoop will be coming back in the form of another Home Kit for the 2021-22 seasons. Alexandre G-R of Between the Sticks hinted at this when the club used Hoop-style branding to announce their super draft picks last month, and now it seems all but official, as the club dropped a pretty major hint on their social channels earlier today.
If you’ve listened to The Third Sub recently, you know that I’m a fan of the club bringing this style back. In combination with the away “Wave” kit, I think it could make for the strongest kit lineup we’ve seen in the club’s MLS history. The two things I would like to see changed from the “Hoop 1.0” is a tweak to the names and numbers (so that it is more visible on the back of the shirts), as well as a greater inclusion of the light blue accent colour, which really stood out in some of the vintage designs.
Preseason...We’re Talking About Preseason??
Details are scarce, but with March 1st rapidly closing in, the Whitecaps will be looking to hit the ground running at their UBC training facility soon enough.
While this is exciting, what I’m really curious to learn more about is whether or not the club has been able to arrange any exhibition matchups against local pro teams such as TSS Rovers, Pacific FC, or the local university teams such as SFU & UBC. If they can sort out the logistics and safety protocols, this would be a good opportunity for those local programs, as well as a good tune-up for the Whitecaps.
If and when the Whitecaps do play some exhibition matches, they’ll likely only have one new acquisition that wasn’t a super-draft pick (at least to start with). While teams like CF Montreal, FC Cincinnati and Chicago Fire have already made some major moves this offseason, the Whitecaps have been, in my opinion, very quiet for a non-playoff team with a long list of weaknesses. I don’t want to call the offseason a failure just yet, but even if the Whitecaps add Gaspar, how much improvement can you reasonably expect from a largely unchanged roster?
Only time will tell.