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Angola v Mali: Group E - 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Photo by Visionhaus

The Vancouver Whitecaps have bolstered their backline with the signing of Angolan international right back Bruno Gaspar. Gaspar, 27, joins from Portuguese giants Sporting CP on a loan deal with the option to buy.

Career Summary:

Gaspar began his career with Benfica but moved to Vitória Guimarães before making an appearance for their first team. With Vitória Gaspar established himself as a regular starter, making 80 first team appearances. He was then signed by Fiorentina for a 4.4 million transfer fee. He played one season for Fiorentina, making 17 appearances, before moving back to Portugal to sign with Sporting. He was a rotational option for Sporting, making 30 appearances in 18/19, and was then loaned to Olympiakos of the Greek Super League the following season.

Internationally Gaspar played youth football for Portugual but switched to Angola to play in the 2019 African Cup of Nations.

Style of Play:

If I try and cut up Portuguese league video and upload it then Liga Nos will launch a tactical strike on my apartment. That being said the video and stats seem to indicate that he is a defensively sound fullback who is good at advancing the ball up the field, though he doesn’t provide a huge amount of direct offensive contribution. Here is a highlights package put together by someone who managed to get away with it:

Data:

Publicly available Data on Gaspar is a bit scattered. Whoscored.com has most of his basic counting stats from his time in Portugal, Italy, and in European competition. Fbref has detailed data only for his season in Italy, so his xG and xA come from that season. Cross referencing this with the whoscored data that season seems to be pretty typical based on the number of chances he created. So with those caveats, here’s how some of his career stats compare to MLS fullbacks last season.

Data Courtesy of Fbref, Whoscored, and American Soccer Analysis

For a bit of further context, here he is compared with Jake Nerwinski.

Data Courtesy of Whoscored, Fbref, and American Soccer Analysis

With the exception of dribbling, Gaspar is a decent upgrade on Nerwinski. Nerwinski also has slightly more interceptions but you have to consider Gaspar was playing on teams that were a lot better and spent less time defending. One also has to take into account that Gaspar was competing against tougher opposition. The tackle success rate in particular stands out, Gaspar is hard to get past 1v1.

Another area that stands out when examining the one season of detailed data on Gaspar is how good he is at progressing the ball up the field. Getting the ball forward was a problem for the Whitecaps in 2020 as they spent the most time in their defensive 3rd and had the fewest attacking 3rd entries of any team in the league. In the 2017/18 Serie A Season Gaspar played a pass into the final 3rd 3.91 per 90 minutes. This would have been 3rd best on the 2020 Whitecaps behind Fredy Montero and Michael Baldisimo. That same season he had 1.15 passes into the penalty area per 90 minutes which would have been 3rd on the Whitecaps behind Fredy Montero and In-Beom Hwang. Gaspar had 1.72 carries into the final 3rd per 90 minutes which would have been 3rd on the 2020 Whitecaps behind In-Beom Hwang and Cristian Dájome. His 122.3 yards of progressive carrying per 90 minutes would have been 4th on the 2020 Whitecaps behind Erik Gody, Andy Rose, and Jasser Khmiri. His 5.75 progressive carries would have been 1st on the 2020 Whitecaps. His 5.86 progressive passes per 90 minutes would have been second behind Fredy Montero. Once again, remember Gaspar’s stats were accrued in a top 5 league in the world.

For a bit of further context on these numbers, here is how they compare to Jake Nerwinski’s career average:

Data Courtesy of Fbref

This information shows us two things. Firstly that the Whitecaps were godawful at advancing the ball and that Gaspar is really good at it for a fullback. He won’t be life changing in the same way a DP #10 would be but he could make a genuine difference.

All signs point towards Gaspar being a solid MLS defender who can give the Whitecaps help with moving the ball forwards. If he turns out to not be that then it’s only a loan and Jake Nerwinski ending up as the starter isn’t the end of the world. I’m feeling a strong 7 to a light 8 on this signing.

Quick Word About International Slots:

Gaspar is yet another international player. With the signings of David Egbo and Javain Brown the Whitecaps are officially out of international slots. So if their DP #10 is an international then either they need to acquire a 14th international slot or move one of their internationals out. I know people are stressed about the DP #10, so am I, but every time Axel Schuster is in front of a microphone he makes it clear the DP #10 is a priority so I am reasonably confident someone is coming in. With the signings of Cavallini, Adnan and to a lesser extent Bikel and Owusu the Whitecaps are clearly beyond the stage of not paying transfer fees for players. Whether they have the ability to bring in players who can be successful on transfer fees remains to be seen. I think the most probable solution to the international problem is a loan for Brown or a loan/transfer for Jasser Khmiri. Both players are already members of the senior national team for their nation so finding a taker shouldn’t be terribly hard for either.

A word about expensive fullbacks

I’ve seen at least a few people complaining that this is another expensive fullbacks but Gaspar’s reported annual salary is around 470,000 USD per year. That’s not even over the TAM threshold. So the idea that this is them spending a crazy amount of money on another fullback isn’t really well founded.