It still feels that Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2014 MLS season finished too soon. But over it is.
A busy offseason for Carl Robinson will mean changes to the squad to make it stronger for next season. After the somewhat wholesale changes of the past season, the Whitecaps at least have a stronger and larger solid core to move forward with, but of course, with this being an expansion draft year, there are other things to be taken into consideration too.
With all that in mind, we continue AFTN’s annual “Keep, Trade or Release” feature.
We got all of AFTN’s writers for this season to take a look at the current Whitecaps squad and say whether they would keep them around for next season, trade them for more valuable assets or to fill positions of need, or just release them into the wild altogether. This year, we’ve also added in some report card grades.
The first part looked at the Caps’ Goalkeepers and Defenders, and Part Two takes a look at the Midfielders and Forwards, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts below….
AARON (KEEP – Incomplete) – Bad year for injuries.
JAY (TRADE/SELL – D) – A rough year for Alderson as he was buried down the depth chart in the Whitecaps strongest position. Even when he did play, he didn’t stand out (for good or bad.) To me, it seems like Alderson should find somewhere new to get a fresh start.
MICHAEL (RELEASE – D) – The way I look at it with Alderson is would you keep him around if he wasn’t Canadian? And the answer has to be no. For the good of the player, it’s time to set him free to go and get meaningful minutes somewhere before his development is stunted further. Too far down the pecking order here.
STEVE (KEEP – D+) – While there wasn’t much opportunity for playing time, there is a little disappointment that he wasn’t able to push his way into the eleven.
AARON (RELEASE – D) – Great to see him back on the pitch after all the injuries. Had some pretty brutal outings though.
JAY (RELEASE – D) – Ballouchy never really did anything wrong, but never really impressed either. A useful MLS role player, but way down the depth chart, especially with Residency players pushing.
MICHAEL (RELEASE – D) – It’s good to see him fight back from his injury horrors, but he is another player too far down the depth chart and will struggle to get minutes next season, so he needs to move on and get them elsewhere. Showed some positives when he played, but not enough.
STEVE (RELEASE – C) – It took a little time for him to get on the pitch after coming off surgery and he looked average when he made it there. Only reason to keep him is if the Caps aren’t able to find another MLS vet that is an upgrade.
AARON (KEEP – C+) – Had some diving and embellishing moments he would like to have back. All together a good first season.
JAY (KEEP – B-) – While the statistics didn’t show it, he was an important part of the Whitecaps attack. He obviously has the abilities, but needs to make better decisions at times. Hopefully another loan deal can be worked out to avoid a big salary increase due to a transfer fee.
MICHAEL (KEEP – C) – I’m saying keep but wouldn’t be too upset if his loan wasn’t extended. He has the potential but was a frustrating player to watch at times this year, maybe because he was playing out wide. Seemed frightened to shoot inside the box at times but was spectacular outside of it. We could have done with a bit more and I would have liked to have seen what he could have brought as an out and out striker a bit more.
STEVE (TRADE – B-) – He provided some memorable goals during the season but there were long runs where he was invisible on the pitch.
AARON (KEEP – Incomplete) – Has a bright future in a Whitecaps jersey.
JAY (KEEP – B.) – Good year in Residency and in the Voyageurs Cup was capped off with a bit of a shock appearance in a Seattle away match where he acclimatized well. Appears to be slightly more “MLS ready” than his other residency counterparts.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B.) – Hard to grade obviously, but basing it on his performances for U18s and PDL, as well as MLS. As Jay say, looks MLS ready and he will get a lot of minutes next year in both the first team and USL Pro. Looking forward to seeing his future development and how him and Bustos feature.
STEVE (KEEP – B-) – Impressed in the Voyageurs Cup semi-final and after he signed a MLS contract made an remarkable debut in Seattle. Will play a big part next year at each level of the club.
AARON (TRADE – B-) – Was a tough season for Koffie. Will have to step up next season. Might be a make or break season for him.
JAY (KEEP – B.) – After a topsy-turvy 2013, Koffie was able to find his feet beside Matias Laba as a box to box destroyer. He will be pencilled in as a starter once again and will be expected to make another step forward.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B-) – I’ve been on Koffie’s back before for not showing what he can do on a consistent basis. Seemed to find his role in the team in the DM role with ease. Could do with a little more offensive presence from him, but on the whole a good season, which could have been even better but for injury.
STEVE (KEEP – B.) – Was really coming into his own and forming a nice partnership with Laba before an unfortunate injury knocked him out of the stretch run.
AARON (KEEP – A) – Thank you TFC for trying to buy a playoff position. Was a master all season long controlling the midfield.
JAY (KEEP – A+) – My player of the year for his ever-present tenacity and intelligence in midfield. A huge reason the club was so good defensively this year, and also why they were so good in transition.
MICHAEL (KEEP – A) – Was my Player of the Year for the sheer consistency he provided. A couple of off performances and of course a silly red card that will long be remembered, but thankfully that didn’t prove costly in the end. He may find himself in a lone DM role next season but will hopefully be in Vancouver for many years to come as he and Kendall Waston would be some players to build the defence around.
STEVE (KEEP – A-) – What Pedro Morales meant for the attack, Laba contributed that much to the defence. Was the league leader in a number of defensive categories and Robinson has made it clear that he will be returning to Vancouver next season.
AARON (KEEP – C-) – Didn’t get any really meaningful minutes. Would have liked to see what he can offer.
JAY (KEEP – D) – Mezquida was one of the bright spots of the preseason, but after being usurped by Morales, couldn’t find much success in limited minutes. Plenty of ability there, so hopefully one more season with some more minutes will allow Mezquida to blossom.
MICHAEL (RELEASE – D) – Was impressed with him more than Fernandez in the preseason but then Morales signing hit his minutes. He looked great in training then didn’t quite do it for me when he got his chances in the first team. He could find himself behind homegrowns now in depth chart, but what might save his spot is that he is super low value at $65,000.
STEVE (KEEP – C+) – Looked promising in the preseason but then Morales arrived and Mezquida saw little of the pitch. Showed flashes when he did make it there.
AARON (KEEP – A-) Great first season for Pedro. Injury concerns made a lot of headlines. 15 straight months on play was wearing on his body.
JAY (KEEP – A-) – When he was on his game, he looked like the best player in the league. Unfortunately, there were quite a few times that he wasn’t. A good break should ensure consistency returns to Morales’ game.
MICHAEL (KEEP- A-) – Was unstoppable when in full flow but tired and looked jaded as the season went on, which was understandable. How he looks after some rest is now what everyone is awaiting. Caps needs even more next year.
STEVE (KEEP – A-) – Morales was a difference maker in the attack for the Caps as he contributed to more than 50% of the team’s goals. However by the end of the season Morales had played for way more than a year straight and it showed.
AARON (KEEP – B.) – Really hope he stays next season. Has been a leader on the pitch and has fitted in nicely.
JAY (KEEP – B+) – An absolute professional who was the exact tonic the Whitecaps needed. Fits Robinson’s vision, provides leadership, and still has the ability. Hopefully both parties can find a salary number that works.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B+) – My admiration of Mauro is well documented already! Class act both on and off the pitch. He looked great as a number 10 in Dallas. Caps need to get him finding the back of the net though. Hopefully a deal can be worked out.
STEVE (KEEP – B+) – He gave the Caps a different option in the attack once he was acquired midway through the season. At a reduced price he would definitely be a keep for next season.
AARON (KEEP – C+) – It’s been an odd year for Teibert who seems to find different ways to reinvent himself (both on the pitch and in the salon.) If nothing else, Teibert is a useful utility player and at times looked like the best pair for Laba in midfield.
JAY (KEEP – C+) – It’s been an odd year for Teibert who seems to find different ways to reinvent himself (both on the pitch and in the salon.) If nothing else, Teibert is a useful utility player and at times looked like the best pair for Laba in midfield.
MICHAEL (KEEP – C) – Four years into MLS and we still don’t know what Teibert’s best position actually is. He had an okay season. Nothing more. Seemed to lose all offensive danger as he settled into a DM role. For me, Koffie and Laba are the starters in a two man defensive shield, but it’s likely Robbo will go with a 4-4-2 next season, so hard to see where Teibert fits in as a regular starter.
STEVE (KEEP – B-) – Teibert replaced Koffie in the lineup for the final 12 games of the season and the team didn’t miss a beat. Will be hard to keep him out of the eleven if he continues to play at that level.
AARON (KEEP – Incomplete) – Another tough year with injuries.
JAY (RELEASE – C) – Injured this summer, and never in the Whitecaps team picture anyway. It’s time for Caleb Clarke to part ways with the Whitecaps formally.
MICHAEL (KEEP but likely SELL – Incomplete) – It’s not so much whether the Caps want to keep Clarke here, as to whether the player wants to play in Vancouver. I believe his contract is up at the end of this year, so he’ll move on. Shame, because a fit Clarke down the stretch would have served the Caps well.
STEVE (KEEP – Incomplete) – He returned from loan in July but was fighting an injury that made him unavailable for selection. While he would be a perfect fit as a number three striker, his future most likely is returning to Europe.
AARON (TRADE – C+) – Struggled most of season with control and his touch. Played a bit better as an up front back to defender striker.
JAY (KEEP – C) – Except for a string of five games where everything he touched turn into gold, Hurtado had another tough season. While he found a roll towards the end of the year and drastically improved his hold up play, he still leaves a lot to be desired. The only way Hurtado should stay is if his salary remains low and he ends up as your third or fourth choice striker.
MICHAEL (TRADE – C+) – I think the Caps will keep him and he would serve some use coming off the bench. His hold up play towards the end of the season impressed, but that’s not what you want your main striker constantly doing. Showed he can score and using him so much down the stretch may attract interest from others in MLS.
STEVE (TRADE – C+) – Other than one stretch of games, Hurtado didn’t provide much in the scoring department. The Caps might keep him as a depth player but there could be better options as well.
AARON (TRADE – C) – He has to be moved. Too often he gave up on himself and his teammates.
JAY (TRADE/SELL – D-) – Mattocks looked good early on, working hard and both creating and receiving chances. It seemed as soon as some adversity crept in that he gave up and went back to old Darren. Poor finishing, poor soccer intelligence, poor work rate, and doesn’t seem to want to improve any of them.
MICHAEL (TRADE – C) – It looked like we had a new Darren but in the end it was the same one that came out. So many missed opportunities. His trademark arched back with his head in his hands pose will be seen in pastures new next season. Way too expensive to keep, even if he had scored a few more anyway.
STEVE (TRADE – C-) – With Camilo moving on, Mattocks had a chance to make the striker position his own but he disappointed with his lack of scoring touch. The Caps will surely look to move the striker in order to make space for a better fit.
AARON (KEEP – B.) – Will need more minutes to become a quality starter. Showed he is a big game player.
JAY (KEEP – C+) – The sophomore slump strikes for Manneh as he struggled early, but he steadily and ended up with decent numbers at the end of the year. Manneh is obviously a game changer, and has all the ability you could ever want. I expect a big season from him next year.
MICHAEL (KEEP – C) – Another player that can frustrate the hell out of me at times. We all know what he can do. Seattle definitely know. He’s rated highly by those elsewhere in the league who perhaps don’t see the poor games and performances he’s turned in. Definitely much better off the bench and I don’t see that scenario changing too much next season, although he needs to show improvement or it will be worth looking at a future trade.
STEVE (KEEP – C) – Manneh struggled to get minutes at the beginning of the year because of an offseason injury and then went cold during the summer. Still a lot promise but needs to translate it onto the pitch next year.
AARON (TRADE – D-) – Brings too much trouble off the pitch. Might be time for a change of scenery.
JAY (TRADE/SELL – F) – I found it odd that Salgado was such a head case on the squad, because in person he seemed like a friendly and calm guy. Either way, it was a massive disappointment in a year where Omar could have had a chance to be given a starting spot.
MICHAEL (TRADE – F) – Ok, maybe an F is a bit harsh, but for me it stands for more than just ‘Fail’. Salgado impressed me preseason and I really thought he had a shot this year, but then that old attitude problem came out and there was a stream of disruptive incidents at training and in games. He needs to go for the sake and sanity of everyone and he will. Whether it’s within MLS or to Tigres in Mexico, who have made an offer, remains to be seen.
STEVE (TRADE – E) – So much potential shown in the preseason but attitude problems have killed his career in Vancouver. Despite having so much talent the club can’t afford to keep him and risk it causing a rift in the locker room.
So there’s our thoughts on the Whitecaps midfielders and forwards from the season past. Share your thoughts below. The announcements should start coming this week on which players are moving on. Interesting times.