A couple of months ago I took a look at how players with the Whitecaps’ reserve team were getting on using data. It’s been a while so I thought it was time to check back in. Now, most of these games happen during working hours New Zealand time and (very annoyingly) there doesn’t seem to be a way to watch back MLS Next Pro games. So we’re once again going to be leaning heavily on the use of data.
Firstly, a quick reminder on my approach to choosing who’s stock is up and who’s stock is down. Basically I judge players in their 20s or who are on first team contracts more harshly. MLSNP has very few players with previous professional experience and a lot of teenagers. So if you’re a 23 year old you should be pretty dominant in it if you have any ambitions to make it to MLS. Also, MLSNP is a brand new league. We don’t really know what good performances in it mean. So I am looking for a quite high level of dominance to feel comfortable recommending a player get promoted to the first team. Lastly, for the purposes of deciding who’s stock is up (or down) we’re only looking at performances since the last report. At the end there is a tier list which tracks players’ overall placement in the club hierarchy.
Jay “son of John” Herdman had a slightly awkward start to life as a professional but he has come alive in the last month and a half. As you can see from his chart, he has a pretty specific skill set. But there aren’t many better midfielders in the league at getting forward than him. His numbers are made all the more impressive by the fact he is only 17. It will probably be a few years before we see him in the first team but if the 3-1-4-2 shape lasts that long then he could fit in very nicely as one of the aggressive #8s. Ideally, he would have gotten a bit better at passing and defending by then though.
Antoniuk is like the pokemon that Jay Herdman evolves into. He gets forward really well and defends decently. But he is not going to be splitting open any defenses anytime soon. Still, since the Whitecaps’ first-team midfielders are bad he might be in with a legitimate shout of first-team football before the season is over. Stylistically he’s a perfect fit as an attacking #8 in the 3-5-2 shape the Whitecaps have been rolling with lately. At 19 Antoniuk still has quite a bit of room to grow.
There is a minor goalkeeping controversy brewing at WFC2. 18-year-old Ben Alexander is far outperforming first-team contracted Isaac Boehmer. Passing and parrying the ball into danger remain areas of weakness for Alexander. But for an 18-year-old taking his first steps in professional soccer, this is pretty good. Alexander recently (reportedly) turned down a first-team call-up with an eye toward maintaining his amateur status and playing in NCAA. You can see why he would want to do that. The club is pretty committed to Thomas Hasal and they seem to see Max Anchor as the next in line for the throne. With Boehmer already having a first-team contract and whatever veteran goalkeeper, the club may sign there’s not much room for Alexander. But with Hasal having mixed performances with the first team and Boehmer not delivering the goods in MLSNP it might be time to reconsider the pecking order soon.
Last time around Brienza’s stock was up after a couple of goals and some good underlying play. Since then he has been, to put it plainly, less good. This does not mean that he is terrible or that he has no chance of making the first team. But the fact of the matter is there have been a lot of MLSNP strikers who have been better than him, some of whom are younger. So if he wants to make it back to the first team he’s going to have to do a lot better than this.
Marc Dos Santos once compared Campagna (N.B this is the younger of the Campagna brothers) to Alessandro Nesta. So his stock is down from an incredibly high point. But there are no two ways about it, these numbers do not reflect the performances of someone who is going to be the next Nesta. He’s 17 so there is still a ton of room to grow, and I don’t think this form means he’ll never amount to anything. But his stock is undeniably down a little bit.
Boehmer is the first player to have his stock go down (as subjectively decided by me) twice in a row. Bad luck, Isaac! But, there’s just no nice way of saying this, for a 20-year-old with a first-team contract he really has been pretty bad.
Now let’s zoom out a bit and look at how each player fits into the bigger picture. Each tier is named after a Whitecaps academy graduate to give you an idea of how I rate their overall potential.
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
Robert Antoniuk, Jay Herdman, Ali Ahmed, Chrstian Campagna, Matteo Campagna, Ben Alexander
Bair Tier: Potential to be an MLS squad player:
Giovanni Aguilar, Elage Bah, Eric White, Vasco Fry, Emiliano Brienza, Simon Becher, Christopher Lee.
Bustos Tier: Potential to be a fringe MLS player/Very good CPL or USL player:
Filip Rakic, Luis Fernandez-Salvador, Simone Masi, Isaac Boehmer.
Everybody Else Tier
Everybody else. I only include players with at least 300 minutes in the tiers. If anybody is truly garbage I might stick them down here but for now, this tier is just players who have not played enough minutes.