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Deep (ish) Dive: Whitecaps 2023 Draft Selections

NCAA Soccer: College Cup Semifinals Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps have selected some players! In past years I have given my vague impressions of the players they picked based on what limited information was available online. But now, Wyscout’s coverage of NCAA football has improved significantly so I can actually go into some detail on what the Whitecaps have here. It’s still not as in-depth as I would like, because the lack of information from previous years means I don’t really have a good benchmark for what is good. But I hope to give you all a broad idea of what the Whitecaps have here:

JC Ngando | 23 | Attacking Midfeilder

Folks, let me lay a proposition on you. If you are trading up in the draft to pick a player who takes up an international slot and is already 23, you aren’t doing it because you’re planning to stash him on WFC2 and see how he develops. No, I think you’re doing that because you think that player can make an impact right now.

Data via Wyscout

As we can see from the radar above, Ngando has very distinct strengths. He is really good at setting up teammates, he wins the ball back a lot, and he dribbles frequently with a high success rate. The radar builder I use sets the upper limit for dribbles/90 at 2.5. But Wyscout is crediting him with over 7. Now, Wyscout is notoriously a bit generous with handing out dribbles but even taking that into account Ngando is clearly a really good dribbler.

Ngando played as a #10 in college. It was widely speculated on the broadcast of the draft that Vancouver might move him deeper. Certainly, he isn’t going to displace Ryan Gauld, no matter how good he is out of the box. On twitter, I speculated Vanni Sartini might be keen to return to the dual 8/10s that he started last season with. This was quickly scrapped after the team was carved by Columbus on opening day but it might be more viable with Andres Cubas (instead of a very uncomfortable Michael Baldisimo) playing as the #6. This sort of role would be a more natural fit for Alessandro Schopf, Pedro Vite has played as an aggressive #8 in the past, and Ryan Gauld does enough defending that he could be good there as well. The addition of Ngando basically gives you two lines for that position.

But there is another possibility. If you look at his heatmap (see below) you can see that Ngando played a lot more on the left side of the pitch than the right. Perhaps his dribbling ability could see him effectively converted to a winger. That would make that position awfully crowded with Deiber Caicedo returning from injury, Ryan Gauld playing there down the stretch, and Cristian Dájome still hanging around but Schuster did say they were after a wide player. Maybe this is that and the tenuous links to a DP winger were wrong.

Regardless, the fact that Ngando would take up an international slot is interesting. Assuming Caio Alexandre is not coming back, the Whitecaps currently have four open international slots and four senior roster spots. But Ngando is a Generation Adidas player. This means that for a time he does not occupy a senior roster spot and his salary does not count against the cap. So either the Whitecaps are going to have to go out and get yet another international spot or they will have space to bring in one more senior domestic player. So get to speculating!

Lastly, there are hardly any highlights of Ngando online so I put together some clips of shots and shot assists from Wyscout. Don’t say I never do anything for you! One thing that really stands out about the video, that the data doesn’t quite capture, is what a little ball of muscle he is. He has a really low centre of gravity and is hard to knock off the ball (at least for college players he is).

Levonte Johnson | 23 | Striker/Winger

Johnson is probably destined for WFC2. He’s also 23, so the path to earning a regular spot on the first team is narrow. But his stats are not bad at all (at least I think they aren’t, I have no idea what’s good for NCAA).

Data via Wyscout

Like Ngando, Johnson is also a big dribbler, though he is more of a goal scorer. He has played as a centre-forward in college but there is some suggestion he could be more of a winger at the pro level. His 0.6 xG+xA/90 is more or less on par with other top draft picks, as far as I can tell, but Johnson is a bit older and therefore has less room to grow. If everything goes right, I would guess, you’re probably looking at a depth scorer in MLS. That’s not the most exciting thing of all time but it’s really not bad for the last pick of the first round.

Daniel Nimick | ??? | Centre-back

Though he was raised in England, Daniel Nimick is a Canadian through his parents. He therefore only counts as domestic for the Canadian teams, and I suspect that caused him to slip a bit. That said though, second-round picks rarely pan out and I don’t see a ton of reasons to be optimistic Nimick will be different.

Data via Wyscout

He wins a lot of defensive duels and plays a lot of long balls. But i’m not sure doing that at the college level is enough to reach MLS. I’m sure he’ll get his shot with WFC2 but with Matteo Campagna, Finn Linder, and Lucas Dasovic, all of whom have looked various levels of interesting, competition will be fierce.

Buster Sjoberg | 23 | Centre Back

He has a cool name and he’s really tall.

Data via Wyscout

He’s basically the same as Nimick but without the long balls. Third-round picks almost never pan out anyway so you might as well pick an enormous man and see if you can mould him into something. Unfortunately for Sjoberg, his international status make the odds even longer that he ever makes it to MLS. He would probably have to be the best centre-back in MLSNP or close to it to get a look in.