With reports this week from the Vancouver Province’s Marc Weber suggesting that Vancouver Whitecaps defensive midfielder Gershon Koffie could be sold this offseason to a team in Europe, it’s left a lot of people asking who would replace Koffie in the ‘Caps starting XI.
With players like Russell Teibert, Deybi Flores and young Canadian, and recently named USL WFC2 Player of the Year, Ben McKendry under MLS contracts next season there are certainly plenty of options.
Most supporters are coming up with what they believe is the easy answer on who should replace him…. five-year MLS player Teibert. But is he really the clear cut favourite to replace Koffie?
Before you say of course he is, let’s take a look at what he can offer.
In five years of being a member of the Whitecaps MLS squad, he has never been able to settle in one position on the pitch. We’ve seen him all over the midfield and even at full back.
Sure that isn’t all his fault, as the coaches the team have had before Carl Robinson used him all over the pitch, but he has never stepped up and solidified himself as a quality MLS player at any of the positions.
Other than the nice run he had playing up front with Kenny Miller and Camilo in 2013, he has never shown that he deserves to be a MLS starter on this current Whitecaps team.
That is part of the frustration with the 22-year-old. That 2013 season showed everyone just what Teibert can be capable of. In 24 games, 19 of those starts, he scored two goals and went on an amazing tear to record nine assists, which included seven in a six game spell in late spring.
It was a career year. It might also have been the best one he’ll have. Since then there’s been three assists and no goals from 52 games these past two seasons.
Let’s be frank here. Putting aside Canadian allegiances, Teibert has so far shown that in general, he is an okay to below average MLS player at best.
Last season, even if he was in the gameday eighteen, Teibert wasn’t deemed to be strong enough off the bench to be a player that Robinson could call on game in and game out to make a difference for the team.
An argument that some supporters would put forward is that he has a handful of games a season where he is a quality player. True, but that in itself isn’t a great argument. At this level, consistency is the key. The ability to turn it on, on a weekly basis is what is needed. Not just flashes of what could be.
Let’s say Teibert has four to eight games a season where he is a quality starter or a quality substitute off the bench. That leaves 30-32 games a season (over all competitions) where he is average at best and below that at worst.
Of course no one is going to be on their top form every game, but at some point there comes a time where it’s time for the player and team to move on.
The ‘Caps are pretty heavily stacked with Defensive Midfielders right now to partner Matias Laba.
Opinion is certainly mixed on the young Honduran Deybi Flores. Flores certainly struggled a lot last season, but those detractors have to realize that he is an 18-year-old player, with a lot of upside and development ahead of him, who was in his first season in a new league and a new country.
Part of that upside is that he is four years younger than Teibert and has a higher potential ceiling than Teibert. The Whitecaps have given Teibert five years to show what he has to offer and Flores should be given the same opportunity. Carl Robinson is certainly very high on the kid and feels that if he develops to his full potential, he could be an even better player than Laba down the road. Still obviously a big ‘if’ there.
Then we have local lad Ben McKendry. The BC native is probably the youth player in the DM system that has the highest upside. We all know the jump from USL to MLS is a big one, but McKendry is the player who has the best chance to do it. Ask anyone who saw WFC2 play and they will have nothing but praise for McKendry.
As does Robinson. With all the talk of Will Johnson possibly heading to Vancouver (we now know he isn’t), the feeling within the ‘Caps is that within two years McKendry could be as good a box to box player in this league as Johnson. He certainly knows the way to goal, which seems to elude Koffie and Teibert more often than not.
Whether to keep Teibert around, five years down the road, wouldn’t even be a discussion point if he wasn’t a Canadian player on a Canadian team. Why should the team and supporters settle for an okay player just because he is Canadian?
We have to remember that the team’s first goal is to win trophies, then to make a profit. Developing Canadian talent is most certainly part of the plan but shouldn’t (and isn’t?) the top priority.
If Koffie is to move on sooner rather than later, and with Robinson being really high on Flores and McKendry it might be time for Teibert to be given a chance to become a full-time quality player for a NASL or USL team.
He’s at such a critical stage of his own personal development right now, this is what he should be considering himself. However things play out with the other DM’s on the squad, 2016 could be the most critical year of Teibert’s young pro career to date.