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Ali Adnan is Gone And That Kind of Sucks

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MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps have agreed to mutually part ways with Ali Adnan after the player spent months in Visa limbo. Adnan was the only Whitecaps player to not have a visa granted when the club had to relocate to Utah for the start of the 2021 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. No reason was given for this.

I don’t really know what to say other than “that sucks.” Adnan’s status as a DP fullback always seemed to put a target on his back, I have even argued the team would be better off cashing in on him and using the DP spot elsewhere, but he was a good player and seemed like a cool guy.

There was a lot of outrage at the team’s management over losing a player the club invested significant money in for nothing. Honestly though, based on the facts I have available to me, i’m not really sure what they could have done. Greg Anderson and crew have given ‘Caps fans plenty of reasons to be angry over the years but they can’t really control if the U.S government refuses to grant a player a visa for no particular reason. You can’t ask a player, who has a limited window to cash in on their athletic talents, to stay in limbo forever. It’s also hard to get other clubs to pay a transfer fee when they could just wait a few months and get him for free when his contract expires.

Adnan took a lot of flack for various things during his time in Vancouver. Mostly for his perceived lack of defensive ability and because, shock and horror, he was a DP and a fullback. But his data showed pretty consistently that he was a big net positive for Vancouver and while I defiantly remember some times he could have run back a little harder I also remember lots of times when he put his body on the line to defend the Whitecaps goal (if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like this kind of vibes based analysis, he was also in the 93rd percentile for “blocks”).

The insistence that it’s never a good idea to use a DP slot on a fullback seems odd to me. Are fullbacks not an important part of the way the team plays? I don’t think it’s unthinkable that a team that a team that focused heavily on fullbacks for ball progression could make a DP fullback work. Obviously the Whitecaps didn’t do this because they are a hot mess but surely the fact that Adnan was consistently putting up good numbers on such a bad team is some evidence that it could work.

I think it’s very possible that the team will be better off with Gutiérrez as the first choice left back and another DP somewhere else in the squad. But I have seen people suggest that he was a total waste of money and even that the league should have vetoed his DP signing. This just seems disrespectful to me.

In addition to his performances on the pitch, Adnan had a lot of admirable personal qualities. To be born and raised in Iraq and eventually play in Serie A is a tremendous accomplishment that shows a huge level of fortitude. But Adnan did not ignore his homeland after becoming a successful and wealthy athlete. He participated in the 2019-2021 Iraq protests, where 10s of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to protest poor public services, unemployment, and continued U.S influence in the country. Adnan was living abroad and earning a good salary, he didn’t have to attend those protests. Yet there he was in the middle of things, ladling out food for his fellow protesters.

Adnan’s good actions in the community were not limited to his homeland. In British Colombia Adnan joined teammates In-Beom Hwang and Russel Teibert to bring supplies to the Penelakut first nation at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And, of course, he had a lot of swag on and off the field. Obviously the biggest problem for the ‘Caps over the past half decade has been a lack of good players and coaching staff. But it’s also often felt like they were missing people whose personalities popped.

That was Ali Adnan. Maybe not quite worth what the ‘Caps payed for him but a cool guy who did the often thankless job of being a good player on a team that was constantly in a state of chaos. It’s a real shame it had to end this way.

It feels a bit crude to go back to roster talk after all that but it is worth saying this could be a big turning point for the club. The Whitecaps have brought in some not insignificant people to join Axel Schuster and make up their recruitment department. The ‘Caps sit last place in the Western conference but now with a lot of roster flexibility to make some big moves. This is those people’s moment to shine. It feels like the Whitecaps or 2 or 3 good moves in a row away from actually being pretty decent. But i’ve been feeling that way for about four years now and they’re yet to pull it off so we’ll see.