This is the one everyone’s talking about. Who will the Vancouver Whitecaps sign to bang in the goals for them? This question is asked with good reason. The average MLS cup champion since 2011 has scored 58 goals in a season. This is an 18-goal increase on their 2022 total. To a certain extent this will be a team effort but one way or another the Whitecaps need someone to score a truly obscene number of goals. The problem is that if you score a truly obscene number of goals at any respectable level you probably aren’t available to MLS teams. So, I reckon, the thing the Whitecaps should be doing is looking for a striker who scores a pretty good number of goals, but who would be a perfect fit for the way the ‘Caps play.
But the first step is to build a list of guys who are scoring a decent number of goals. So I did a search on Wyscout for strikers aged 26 and younger, who scored at least 0.4 non-penalty goals per game, played at least 1000 minutes, played in the top 4 tiers as identified in this article, and had a Transfermarkt value of 3 million or less. The Whitecaps have stated in the past they don’t want to pay significant transfer fees for players over 27, which is a very sensible policy. Ideally, in my view, the DP striker would be somebody slightly younger than Gauld and Cubas so that all of the DPs don’t get old at the same time. Wyscout doesn’t separate total xG from non-penalty xG so I have opted to go for non-penalty goals rather than xG as the basis for this list. You Don’t want someone whose numbers are artificially boosted by the fact that their team won 10 penalties last season. I have chosen 3 million as the budget because that is the average of the 5 highest transfer fees Vancouver has ever paid. Transfermarkt values take some stick sometimes but I can’t exactly phone up clubs and ask them how much it would take to buy their players so this is the best I can do. I didn’t bother adding players that had already moved in the past year, whose xG made it obvious their goal totals were a mirage, or who mostly played other positions but still got turned up in the striker search. All of that generated the following long list of strikers:
DP Striker Long List
|Player Name||Current Club||Age||League||NPG/90||xG/90||xA/90||NPG+xA/90||xG+xA/90|
|Player Name||Current Club||Age||League||NPG/90||xG/90||xA/90||NPG+xA/90||xG+xA/90|
|Matias Tissera||Ludogorets||26||Bulgaria 1||0.79||0.59||0.07||0.86||0.66|
|Bruce Anderson||Livingston||24||Scotland 1||0.72||0.47||0.07||0.79||0.54|
|Ladislav Almasi||Banik Ostrava||23||Czech 1||0.72||0.62||0.02||0.74||0.64|
|Ola Brynhildsen||Molde||23||Norway 1||0.65||0.63||0.1||0.75||0.73|
|Haji Wright||Antalyaspor||24||Turkey 1||0.65||0.46||0.07||0.72||0.53|
|Detro Fofana||Molde||19||Norway 1||0.64||0.81||0.17||0.81||0.98|
|Aliou Badji||Bordeaux (loan)||25||France 2||0.6||0.49||0.13||0.73||0.62|
|Tomas Cvencara||Sparta Praha||22||Czech 1||0.55||0.49||0.09||0.64||0.58|
|Bernhard Zimmerman||Rapid Wien||20||Austria 1||0.55||0.46||0.03||0.58||0.49|
|Ryan Mmaee||Ferencvaros||25||Hungary 1||0.53||0.63||0.16||0.69||0.79|
|Jader Valencia||Millonarios||22||Colobia 1||0.53||0.44||0.12||0.65||0.56|
|Ivan Azon||Real Zaragoza||19||Spain 2||0.53||0.56||0.06||0.59||0.62|
|Pedro Raul||Goias (loan)||26||Brazil 1||0.48||0.45||0.04||0.52||0.49|
|Kevin Denkey||Cercel Brugge||21||Belgium 1||0.47||0.57||0.08||0.55||0.65|
|Jan Mlaker||Hajduk Split||24||Croatia 1||0.44||0.44||0.08||0.52||0.52|
|Tai Baribo||Wolfsberger||24||Austria 1||0.44||0.44||0.06||0.5||0.5|
|Marvin Pieringer||Paderborn (loan)||23||Germany 2||0.42||0.47||0.17||0.59||0.64|
|Jay-Roy Grot||Viborg||24||Denmark 1||0.42||0.43||0.07||0.49||0.5|
|Jorge Obregon||Rijeka||25||Croatia 1||0.42||0.41||0.02||0.44||0.43|
|Lucas Di Yorio||Leon (loan)||25||Mexico 1||0.42||0.46||0.01||0.43||0.47|
|Thiago Vecino||Liverpool||23||Uruguay 1||0.4||0.59||0.15||0.55||0.74|
|Alerrandro||RB Bragantino||22||Brazil 1||0.4||0.54||0.03||0.43||0.57|
I am reasonably confident the Whitecaps will sign someone on that list. I could be wrong about the parameters they are working under, or maybe someone is available much more cheaply than their Transfermarkt value implies but if you want a DP striker in the Whitecap’s typical price range these are pretty much the guys you have to pick from.
Now we can start to get a bit selective about what style of striker we would like to have. One thing that lots of people, myself included, have pointed out is the Whitecaps’ attack lacked speed last season. There were tons of situations where Ryan Gauld found himself in the awkward position of being both the best guy to play a ball in behind on the break and the best option to receive said pass. The Whitecaps did not hold a lot of possession last year, and after all these years I have pretty much given up on the idea that will ever not be the case. So it makes sense to have someone who can more reliably turn those quick breaks into shots. At the same time though, we don’t want to sell out everything for speed. There are still other phases of the game. It would be nice if the new striker also provided some of the good things that Lucas Cavallini did. Things like physicality and the ability to win aerial battles. Lastly, I think it would be good if the new DP striker could do a little bit of playmaking as well. Obviously, Ryan Gauld and Pedro Vite will do most of the playmaking, but if one of them went down with an injury or you wanted to play the new striker in a partnership with Brian White sometimes then it would be good for them to have some ability to combine with others.
It would be too time-consuming for me to go in-depth on every single one of these players but I have picked out three that I think would fit the bill.
Club: Bordeaux (on loan from Amiens)
The first time I saw Aliou Badji’s highlights I was basically in love. He’s pretty much exactly the guy I picture when I imagine a striker who would be particularly effective for the Whitecaps. He’s quick, he’s big and he sets up his teammates at a pretty decent clip for a guy who spends so much time running in behind. Badji is a bit of a journeyman but that has allowed him to prove himself as a goal scorer in Sweden, Egypt, Austria, Turkey, and France.
But there is a small problem. He would probably be a huge pain in the ass to get. Badji is currently on loan to Bordeaux from Amiens and Bordeaux has an option to buy. This would make it quite challenging to get him in time for the start of the MLS season. There would just be so many parties to negotiate with. Due to Bordeaux’s financial state, and his seemingly not being in Amiens’ plans, you could probably get him in the summer window. But I think there are other options that are good enough to make that more trouble than it’s worth.
Mmaee is the guy who would be my top target. Mmaee is quicker than average, scores a ton of goals, and seems to have good skills as a facilitator. Also, despite not being a man mountain, he has a pretty good aerial win%, suggesting he could still get on the end of quite a few Julian Gressel crosses. Mmaee began his career in Belgium but didn’t really break through there. He moved to Cyprus and later Hungary and scored a ton of goals in both leagues. He opted to represent Morocco internationally and has four goals in 12 caps for them. He has also played on the wing a bit so he could probably fit into the same lineup as Brian White if that’s something you wanted to do. The only thing that might give me pause is that Ferencvaros is a really dominant team and the Whitecaps are not that (at least not yet). But he has played in the Europa League. I imagine playing against the likes of Monaco and Bayern Leverkusen is probably more representative of what being the striker for the Vancouver Whitecaps would be like than dominating the Hungarian league. But, as you can see below, Mmaee’s underlying numbers remained strong despite some terrible finishing luck.
For me he checks all the boxes.
Fofana is a name that will be familiar to avid football manager players. The Cote D’Ivoire-born striker has been tearing up Norwegian soccer in 2022. Now, there are some obvious drawbacks. Firstly, he’s only 19. As we saw in 2022 with players like Jhon Duran, and even Vancouver’s own Pedro Vite, young foreign players can take some time to hit their stride in MLS. Secondly, MLS is a fairly significant jump from Norway. But there are a few things to suggest those drawbacks might not be so serious for Fofana. Firstly, he’s already moved away from home once in his life (I can’t imagine going from West African weather to Norwegian weather is easy, for a start) and thrived. Secondly, he is absolutely annihilating that league. Fofana is averaging a direct contribution to a goal every 83 minutes.
Now, like Mmaee, Fofana plays for a dominant team. But Fofana has also played a fair amount in European competition. He has only played in the conference league but Molde was still usually up against clubs who would be fancied to beat them.
As you can see, his underlying data remained pretty strong, even if he wasn’t able to put away all of the chances he got on the end of. He would also be a young DP, and as such he would count for less against the cap. This might free the team up to offer a bigger contract to a free agent or make some other acquisition to boost the team elsewhere. I still think I would prefer Ryan Mmaee, just because there’s more security in an older player, but I would not be mad at all with Fofana.