The 2019 MLS Expansion Draft has come and gone. It was one of the least exciting ones of recent seasons, and that’s saying something.
Vancouver Whitecaps were exempt from having a player selected this year after Kei Kamara was selected by FC Cincinnati, only to be quickly traded to Colorado Rapids, so the only real interest in this year’s draft for ‘Caps fans was whether a deal may have been struck with either Nashville or Miami to select a player to then be traded to Vancouver. Barring a late announcement, that does not appear to have been the case.
For Whitecaps fans clamouring for news of any new signing or addition to the squad, and after no movement in last week’s MLS trade window, the wait continues. A wait that should hopefully be over sooner rather than later.
Marc Dos Santos and his management team have already travelled extensively this offseason in their search for new talent, with transfer targets identified in South America, Europe, and Asia. He also had a scout at the recent Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Egypt and last week’s announcement of new sporting director Axel Schuster should hopefully open up new contacts and targets.
But it’s not just overseas that Dos Santos is looking to strengthen his squad. The ‘Caps coach places a lot of value on players with MLS experience. Players that know the rigors of a long season and everything that goes with it from the travel to the different playing conditions, values Dos Santos places a lot of stock in.
“I value it maybe even a little bit too much,” Dos Santos told AFTN. “It’s very important, because a player that comes from outside needs time to adapt. But now you have Max [Crepeau] with MLS experience, if we’re able to keep Erik [Godoy], MLS experience. Derek [Cornelius], Inbeom [Hwang], All [Adnan], all MLS experience.
“It’s not guys that are going to be surprised by the league in any way. They know the players now, they watch games in MLS, so a lot of them that had zero MLS experience, next year they will have it.”
For me, Dos Santos brought in too many players, from too many countries this past season. For most of them, it was their first time playing in the league and many of them simply weren’t the quality that the ‘Caps were needing. Those are mistakes that you shouldn’t find repeated this time around.
The next MLS trade window is now open, with a long offseason still ahead. Could we see some familiar faces from within the league wearing the blue and white next season? Perhaps, but wanting them and then being able to make it happen is harder than Dos Santos feels it should be in MLS.
“Are we looking to sign players inside the league? Yes we are,” Dos Santos confirmed. “The problem is, it’s very hard. The league has it in a way that if the market was more like South America or Europe, we would have players here that want to play here, but they can’t leave their club. It creates kind of a prison. It’s a prison made of gold.
“It’s easy to say why don’t we get that guy from Sporting, or that guy from Dallas, or that guy from Atlanta. We want. There’s guys we want but how do we go get them? Sometimes those guys are even more expensive than guys that play in the first division of Argentina. How the league is set up makes it very, very difficult for you to sign players inside the league.”
Dos Santos is looking at all his options to make some moves within the league happen, evaluating just what the Whitecaps can offer clubs in return to tempt some pieces away.
“Some of our pieces that are high value in the eyes of other clubs that maybe we think we can move, we are evaluating all of that,” Dos Santos told us. “You don’t rebuild a club [without doing that]. If there were European or South American rules here, and you now have the ability to rebuild a club from zero, and owners say ‘we want to spend’, it’s much easier, much easier.
“In MLS, your owners say we want to spend more, we can’t spend the money of our owners everywhere that we want because we have a cap. There’s some places that our owners want to spend, but we can’t.”
But Dos Santos is still confident he can deliver a competitive team next season and beyond.
“It’s not going to be done [right away], but the improvement we’re going to have in three transfer windows are going to be significant in my opinion,” Dos Santos believes. “After this one, if we’re able to do what I imagine we can do, it’s going to be very, but it’s not easy to go from where we went one year ago with the rules of MLS, it’s hard. It’s hard.”