The Vancouver Whitecaps are developing quite the loan army so these reports are getting a lot more exciting. Additionally the ‘Caps U-23 team has started playing games against local competition. So let’s get into it.
U-23s Play (At Least) 2 Games:
The Whitecaps U-23 team played two games (that we know of) in the month of August. A 1-1 draw with F.C Tigers and a 4-0 win over the UBC Thunderbirds. The Tigers game was streamed and can be viewed on YouTube.
A word on how i’m going to approach these games going forward; If I’m able to watch the games then I will focus on players who are signed to first team contracts. Although the team is nominally U-23 the vast majority of players are U-18. I don’t think there’s any point in dumping on some teenager who’s probably only played a handful of games against adults before. If an un-signed teenager gives me something good to say then I will say it but other than that I will mainly focus on the first team players.
The players that stood out to me in this game were winger Ali Ahmed, wing back Elage Bah and attacking midfielder Jay Herdman. First teamer Matteo Campagna looked solid in defence. Kam Habibullah was a bit quiet and goalkeeper Isaac Boehmer had a bit of a shaky outing. Another interesting player to take the field was Cristian Campagna, the older brother of Matteo. The elder Campagna is an academy graduate currently playing in the NCAA where he has won plaudits and even gotten the call to train with the Canadian national team. It’s good to see that he’s still potentially got a future with the Whitecaps.
The Game against UBC was not streamed and Ben Steiner, who made me aware of the game, did not recognize any of the players who scored. Though he did assure me that Ali Ahmed had another very good game. Shout out to Ben! (@BenSteiner00 on twitter).
The Whitecaps now have 8 players on loan. Let’s run through them in alphabetical order.
Bair has joined Hamarkameratene (commonly referred to as “Hamkam”) in the Norwegian second division. He made an instant impact, scoring in his debut and helping Hamkam to a 2-0 win over Jerv. He wasn’t able to score in either of his subsequent games but observers of Norwegian football praised his overall performance.
He’s definitely adding something with his movement though. Won’t get on the scoresheet (at least up till now) but he’s made himself useful creating space— s o u n d e r n a v i a (@SNDRNVIA) August 23, 2021
In #VWFC loanee news, Theo Bair’s HamKam continued to roll today, picking up a 3-2 win that puts them 4 pts atop the Norweigan 2nd division— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) August 29, 2021
Bair was very involved, showing nice hold-up play, some good runs, and picked up an MLS assist#CanMNTpic.twitter.com/eoBpCgMrTl
Now, if Bair is going to make a case for regular first team minutes he’s going to have to score a lot more goals in the Norwegian second division than 1 in every 3 games. We will see how he progresses. There’s an interesting crop of young Canadian attackers likely to be available for very little money at the end of this season (I hope to get more into them at a later date) so if Bair has a good season this wouldn’t be the worst time to cash in on him. Obviously the optimal time to cash in on him would be after he tears the Norwegian second division apart and then goes on a Ryan Gauld fuelled bender at MLS level. But if that isn’t possible then the end of this season could be a good time as well.
Hamkam are currently top of the league and favoured to gain promotion to the Eliteserien next season.
At only 17, Campagna was a bit of surprise signing after he trialed with the first team in pre-season. He has now been loaned to York United in the Canadian Premier League. He made his professional debut, coming off the bench for the last 9 minutes of a game against Forge F.C.
Colyn has been loaned to PSV after SPAL chose not to pick up his purchase option. Colyn is only 19 so he still has lots of time to develop but if he wants to player first team minutes in MLS he’s going to have to do a lot better than 1 goal and 2 assists in a U-19 league. PSV’s reserves play in the dutch second division, a league mostly populated by adults who are playing for their livelihoods. It’s probably going to be a bit more of an intense challenge than Italian youth football. We will see if Colyn is up to it.
Cornelius has joined Greek side Panetolikos on a year and a half loan because he wasn’t in Marc Dos Santos’ plans (whoops!). Cornelius seems to have been playing fairly regularly in pre-season games for them so he should play pretty regularly. Panetolikos narrowly avoided relegation last season so Cornelius will have no shortage of challenges. Panetolikos’ first league game is September 11th.
After I gassed him up as an MLS option Egbo promptly went five games without scoring a goal. He still profiles as an MLS level striker but he might be closer to Diego Rubio than Raul Ruidiaz. I see Egbo’s slump as having two causes. Firstly, Phoenix’s attack is kind of predictable. They are one of the most talented teams in the league so almost every team they face comes out in an ultra low block. Their solution to this is to smash in crosses and long range shots until something eventually works. That works well enough to grind out results but it isn’t exactly conducive to consistent scoring for their centre forward.
But arguably a bigger problem is Egbo is not that great at timing his runs. Any time the ball is out wide he makes a beeline for the front of the net. But sometimes the winger will hesitate, leaving Egbo basically on top of the goalkeeper and totally eliminating him as an option to pass too. A player who does a good job of delaying his runs to get himself space is Ryan Gauld. @forkicks_stats on twitter demonstrates that in the analysis video below:
We almost never see this kind of patience from Egbo. I suspect, Because Egbo is a former NCAA player who has gone pro, he was probably the best player on his college team by a mile. Probably everybody got him the ball the second it was feasible. But at the pro level that isn’t always the case. I still think if he can tidy his runs up, as well as a couple of other things, he could be a very useful piece for the ‘Caps going forward. Egbo currently averages 0.67 xG+xA per game. If we assume he sees a 31% reduction in his output when making the jump to MLS (i’ve found that seems to be about the average) then he would average 0.46 per game in MLS. That would put him about 25th amongst MLS strikers with at least 450 minutes played. Other players in that range include Deigo Rubio, Ricardo Pepi, and Brian White.
Facchineri has gone on loan to San Diego Loyal in USL. He made his debut against Sacramento, coming on as a last minute sub to defend a set piece. It took him a weirdly long time to join San Diego but now that he’s there i’m interested to see if he can force his way into the team on a regular basis and if he can perform. I have been quite high on him for a while now so i’m excited to see what he does.
Every month I say to myself “oh, right, Khmiri!” He has once again struggled with injuries but he has played in San Antonio’s last 3 games, picking up an assist and a yellow card (naturally). American Soccer Analysis’ data still isn’t wild about him but he is at least profiling as a fairly average USL centre back now instead of as a train wreck in human form. I highly doubt we ever see him in a Vancouver shirt again but maybe he can put together enough health and form that a small fee could be extracted from one of the bigger Tunisian clubs.
He still hasn’t played any games but at least his team has a schedule now! Venezia Primavera kick off their season on September 10th.