While the first team flounders, Whitecaps 2 are off to a very respectable start to their WFC2 campaign with a 2W-2D-1L record. So I thought it might be interesting to take a look at which players on the reserves might be able to make the jump to the first team in an appropriately incendiary format.
Now, I won’t lie to you, I have not watched each WFC2 game in great detail. I have seen portions of each of the games but there are only so many hours in a day. Fortunately, American Soccer Analysis is providing data for MLSNP so I can supplement my half-baked observations with some numbers. We’re only five games in so you can’t take the performances we have seen so far as a full indication of a player’s ability. That’s why I’ve adopted the stock up/stock down format. It’s just a snapshot of who has done well in the last 5 games.
Also, I feel these performances need to be graded on a curve. MLSNP is a brand new league so it’s not totally clear how it fits into the North American landscape in terms of level. The league is, unsurprisingly, full of teenagers and first-year pros. So I’m going to be judging more experienced professionals and players on first team contracts more harshly because, in theory, this is a level they should be dominant in. With that out of the way let’s get into it.
Brienza missed the first couple of games of the season, presumably with an injury, but he has been on fire since coming back with two goals in two games. Brienza has absolutely bombarded opposition goals with shots. He has fired off 13 in just a little under 200 minutes of play. It remains to be seen if he can keep that up but that’s kind of an insane number. Brienza is 19 and has already made his MLS debut so we would expect him to be a dominant player at this level. So far he has been just that. If he can keep this up for another few games it might not be long until he gets a longer look with the first team. Below is how he compares to his fellow strikers with at least 150 minutes played:
Another player who has delivered on high expectations. Campagna returned to the Whitecaps fold after a year in college and spent time training with the Canadian national team. As you can see from his G+ chart he is not exactly the most well rounded centre back of all time but he is hard to get past. With Jake Nerwinski under fire, Florian Jungwirth seemingly out of favour, and Erik Godoy struggling to stay healthy, there is a path to first-team football for the 20-year-old Campagna.
He made a well-deserved first-team debut against Austin F.C after looking very good in a wingback role. Ahmed has demonstrated a strong ability to get forward and defends well enough that he is not a liability. The wingbacks have been one of the most criticized positions in the first team so I would not be shocked if we see more of Ahmed going forward.
As Vancouver’s first-round draft pick, Becher came in with relatively high expectations. Becher is 22 and already has significant experience playing against men at the NCAA level. So MLSNP is a league he should be a force in. And yet...
Becher hasn’t been a disaster by any means and it’s only been five games but if he wants to crack the first team he is going to significantly raise his level.
White carried a certain amount of hype as a player who often trained with the first team and was a Canadian youth international. But so far he has not taken to his wingback position the most comfortably. From what I have seen in the games he never looks all that dangerous when trying to get around a player and he often gets caught out defensively. This assessment is pretty much backed up by the numbers. White is only 19 so there’s still lots of time for him to turn things around but he is going to have to kick things up a notch if he wants to get into the first team.
As a 20-year-old on a first-team contract you would hope to see big things from Boehmer at the MLSNP level. He has not been bad so far but at the same time, he has been nothing to write home about.
Boehmer has shared the goal with Ben Alexander. Another young Whitecaps goalkeeper, Max Anchor, was recently called up to the Canadian U20s. With Thomas Hasal having a mediocre start to life as the #1 and Cody Cropper being really bad, there is a big chance for any of the three young keepers to make some noise and maybe get into some MLS games. But so far nobody has seized that opportunity. It will be interesting to watch how the goalkeeping situation develops throughout the season.
I plan to do a few of these updates throughout the season. Players’ stocks will be judged to have risen or fallen based on the games since the last report. But I think it is also good to keep some kind of running tally going. Hence the tier list. The tier list takes the whole season into account (and the player’s past performances if those are available for me to view). Players who do really well can move up to a higher tier and players who do badly can fall down the rankings. As I mentioned earlier, a player’s performance relative to their age heavily impacts how I judge them.
Davies Tier: Potential to be a star MLS Player
Nobody. You have to do something really special to get into this tier.
Adekugbe Tier: Potential to be a strong MLS player
Emiliano Brienza, Ali Ahmed, Chrstian Campagna, Matteo Campagna
Bair Tier: Potential to be an MLS squad player:
Giovanni Aguilar, Robert Antoniuk, Jay Herdman, Elage Bah, Eric White, Isaac Boehmer, Ben Alexander, Vasco Fry
Bustos Tier: Potential to be a fringe MLS player/Very good CPL or USL player:
Simon Becher, Filip Rakic, Luis Fernandez-Salvador, Simone Masi.
Everybody Else Tier
Everybody else. Players who either have not played enough minutes to get a proper feel for how good they are or who have played very poorly in the minutes they have. As we are early in the season it’s only players who have not played enough minutes so far.