After a somewhat disappointing draw on the road to Minnesota, I wanted to look into what the ‘Caps need to push themselves into the next gear for the rest of the season, taking them to the playoffs and beyond.
The first obvious big piece that’s in question is Atiba Hutchinson. Hutch, coming off another strong season in Turkey with Besiktas, is rumoured to have been sought after by the ‘Caps for a five million dollar price tag. How accurate that is and how much of that would be MLS money we aren’t sure. But is Hutch the answer?
Personally I’d welcome the Canadian legend into BC Place. His ability to spray passes and open up defences would be a massive help on the offensive side of the ball. But that said, I would be okay with not signing the 34-year-old if the ‘Caps would turn that money into one or two top signings.
But would they, and could they, do that?
That amount of money can go a long way in MLS. Does a veteran coming to the end of his career merit that, or is the money better spent on other areas of the squad? It should also be noted that the MLS part of that money wouldn’t be there for another signing, reducing the available amount.
With the injuries we’ve been plagued with, World Cup qualifying, and the upcoming Gold Cup, on top of friendlies, taking away many first team players, we are currently stretched pretty thin.
This season there is an argument, for good reason, that more depth at centre back is possibly our biggest need.
Kendall Waston’s injury is a huge blow, coming on the back of Christian Dean not yet being ready to play again after his latest fracture. Cole Seiler doesn’t seem to have won the trust of Robbo to get in there for Waston and Dean, but he is the team’s only other healthy centre back right now.
Looking even further ahead, we have possible future national team stars to think about. Tim Parker’s play sees him deserving of a call up to his national team, and who knows, guys like Jake Nerwinski could be knocking on the international door after another couple of years of development. All of which would be big losses for us and test that defensive depth.
Away from the defence, Alphonso Davies now looks to be a regular in a Maple Leaf jersey, one of four Caps away for this Gold Cup campaign, taking more healthy bodies away from the team and reducing some midfield options, especially if Andrew Jacobson is still our centre back cover.
But the Whitecaps defensively is not our biggest concern. We have a solid core who are dealing with team wide injury problems and other absences. For me, our biggest problem lies at the opposite end of the field.
I believe our greatest need is a creative midfielder, and I’m looking at this with both an eye on this season, and beyond.
A player such as Hutchinson, who can cut defences to pieces, slotting pass after pass through them. This also depends on Fredy Montero staying. He hasn’t gotten the service he needs this year and isn’t a lone striker. How well Bernie Ibini adapts to the team and the league also comes in to play.
My fear of bringing in Hutchinson is his age. At 34, five million is a large sum and doesn’t give him many years with us. Then there’s the turf, which could unfortunately eat away his knees. He’s previously admitted he’s not a fan.
So the question is do we bring in Hutch or do wait on Yordy Reyna? Do we first see what he brings and then attempt to use that ‘5 million’ on a younger guy we could have for multiple years? Our own Valeri, Higuain or Diaz quality player tearing up the opposition. Personally I lean towards the long term process.
On top of all of this we then have to drop bodies to bring anyone in. So who goes? My picks would be Marcel De Jong and Tony Tchani. Marcel has yet to truly show his importance as anything more than someone off the bench or another Canadian for the Voyageurs Cup.
He had a great game for Canada the other week, but doesn’t seem able to play that level consistently enough. Not to mention his awful knack for jumping in and taking bad fouls.
With Tchani, he just can’t seem to click offensively. I think he can improve for us, and showed that with a thumping header vs. Minnesota and a strong overall match in a defensive two with Laba. But unless he shows he can consistently contribute at both ends of the pitch, I think we need to look at moving him on. Whether within or outside the league. Freeing up a roster spot and a lot of cap space (his guaranteed salary is currently $308,333).
Overall, despite some disappointing results this year, the ‘Caps look much stronger and seem to only be missing that piece or two that will allow us to hit that next gear and truly challenge as a top MLS side.
Whether those pieces will be added in summer transfer window is what we’re all waiting to see.