Last week we ran our 2016 Keep, Trade, or Release player analysis feature, looking at all of Vancouver Whitecaps’ MLS squad.
We did it a little bit differently this season, from an editorial point of view as opposed to a consensus of our writers like in years past., and senior AFTN writers Steve Pandher and Aaron Campbell were keep to pen pieces with their own takes.
We don’t just want to run a slew of these end of season analysis articles, but there’s some different opinions amongst the team, so we’ll be running these this week under our new “In, Out, On The Bubble” banner. Steve gave his thoughts yesterday and is the turn of Aaron.
IN: David Ousted, Paolo Tornaghi
OUT: Marco Carducci
It wasn’t the best of season for the so-so Dane but Ousted is still the number one player on the team roster week in and week out. Yes there are keepers behind him, but they aren’t at a consistent MLS quality level quite yet. He needs to bounce back next season and earn his MLS contract and put this season behind him. Tornaghi comes on a small price tag, knows his role, and is always ready when he gets the call.
I don’t see Marco Carducci and Spencer Richey stepping up to be a backup MLS keeper in the next one or two seasons. In fact, with the stepping up of Richey this season in USL and Champions League play it’s time to move on from Carducci. He needs minutes and I don’t see him getting those while he is with the Whitecaps. Sure they could loan him out, but that doesn’t guarantee him quality minutes and he could just sit on a bench in Norway somewhere and have next season be a waste.
IN: Sam Adekugbe (Loan), Marcel de Jong, Brett Levis
BUBBLE: Jordan Harvey
OUT: Fraser Aird, Jordan Smith
Starting with the right backs, I will start a Go Fund Me page to pay for the return to sender shipping costs to get Aird back to Rangers. You can tell he doesn’t want to be here most days and I think he will learn how good he has it in Rangers and maybe he can improve his game so he actually makes their roster. I give Robbo credit for bringing him into Vancouver but it hasn’t paid off at all.
As the great band Nsync would say: bye, bye, bye….. Ship Smith and Aird out (the Costa Rican has already been confirmed as heading back to Saprissa) and find a new RB for next season. They have Tim Parker and Cole Seiler to back up whoever they bring in this offseason. Smith wasn’t been able to figure out how to not be beat over the top and his discipline needs a lot of work. Never a good thing when you’re playing in MLS.
Moving to the left backs, it wasn’t a great year for Adekugbe who was unable to win back the starting spot from Jordan Harvey preseason and has gone out on loan to Brighton. When he was healthy Harvey was best player on the pitch most games (you know it is a bad season when…). He won’t return from his loan deal till the summer but I expect him and Brett Levis to push each for the starter spot by the end of the year. It has been fun as a supporter to see Levis mature from watching him in PDL games at Thunderbird, to see him do well in the USL and earn that MLS contract. He has a bright future ahead of him.
I have Harvey ‘On The Bubble’. I like him, love the passion he brings to the team but we have young players in Adekugbe and Levis that need to be thrown into the MLS games and having Harvey here they won’t be able to do that. I would leave Harvey unprotected in the expansion draft and see if the United teams take a shot on him. If they don’t pick him I would keep him and loan on Adekugbe for another season and have Levis back him up.
As for de Jong, he has been a nice fit for this team and his versatility reminds me of an upgraded version of Russell Teibert. He can fill in next season at left back or left wing and can be a productive defender on this team.
IN: Christian Dean, David Edgar, Tim Parker
BUBBLE: Kendall Waston
OUT: Cole Seiler
This season was a bit of a step back from Parker’s rookie season but he still was a good CB defender. You can count on him game in and game out but he still needs to clean up those few mistakes he makes per match that sometimes snake bite him during the game.
Edgar is on a cheap salary, at least for now, and is a good third or fourth option defender. He didn’t really live up to expectations in my opinion but was okay at times. A full training camp will be him really well. Injuries for Dean this season didn’t really allow us to see what he can bring to the team. He deserves a chance next season to prove that he can make it in the MLS.
I have Waston ‘On The Bubble’. I don’t believe he is worth keeping based on his reckless red and yellow cards, and he’d already be starting the 2017 season suspended. Time and time again he makes stupid plays and when he is called on them he acts like he did nothing wrong. That act is an embarrassment to the Whitecaps, MLS and soccer in general. Jay DeMerit retired because the game was too soft for his style of play. Waston should leave MLS because his game is too reckless for the league. He has upsides, but in my opinion he is more of a headache then anything.
Seiler is at best an USL defender in my eyes. He showed some great things in the minutes he did get but he isn’t there quite yet. They could loan him to WFC2 next season and give him the year playing every match and see what jumps he can make in his game. I wouldn’t even bother with that though because WFC2 already have great CB`s that deserve to play next season.
CENTRAL AND DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS
IN: Marco Bustos, Kianz Froese, Andrew Jacobson, Nicolas Mezquida
BUBBLE: Matias Laba, Ben McKendry
OUT: Deybi Flores, Pedro Morales, Russell Teibert
Next season is a make or break season in my opinion for Bustos. He has had great Residency career, was very good in USL play, but he needs to show he can play in MLS. He needs quality minutes next season and to stay injury free. If that means he gets most of year playing every USL game or goes on loan and gets quality minutes in another league, then that’s fine. If he struggles with his play or injuries, he starts to get into that Bryce Alderson and Ben Fisk area where he isn’t good enough for MLS and they have to move on from him. Froese is in same boat as Bustos. He needs to stay healthy and he needs quality minutes in the USL or out on loan. Has a huge upside and I hope he can make it, so the Whitecaps can trade or sell Laba and he can step up in that role.
Jacobson has been a very nice option off the bench for the Whitecaps this season. He is on a decent salary for the team and gives them options they need late in games. Don’t see him as a starter if Laba is here, but he knows his role and does his job. Mezquida needs a chance to step into the CAM Pedro Morales role next season. Robbo glued his ass to the bench way too many times this season. Needs to show he can be a starter in this league.
If the right price comes along to sell Laba I wouldn’t think twice about it. They need strikers and the money from a fee for Laba could help them with that for an immediate fix. If Laba is moved on it gives Jacobson and Froese a better opportunity to step up into that starter role. McKendry finds himself in the same boat as Froese and Bustos, in that he needs to show he is a MLS calibre player. He is 23-years-old and needs to get quality minutes. If that is a full season, game in and game out in USL, or out on loan in Europe, he needs to step up his play next season.
Have to admit I completely forgot about Flores until I saw his name on the Whitecaps MLS roster. The Whitecaps should sell him or keep him out on loan for the next four years. Was probably the most disappointing season I have seen from a player brought in by Robbo.
Talking of disappointments bring us to Morales. If felt that he gave up on himself, his team, and the supporters this season, and after Ousted called him out on his bullshit and he refused to talk about it with the media, that stamped him leaving for me. He is the captain and needs to speak even when he doesn’t want to, that’s what leaders of the team do.
Teibert has been hailed as a future leader of the team but can’t even get on the pitch.
He has been in Vancouver since 2009 and he hasn’t improved enough to keep earning a MLS contract in my opinion, I know he is a fan favourite but you can gift him a MLS roster spot because he is a Canadian and fans like him. Might have a decent career in the NASL, USL or the Canadian Premier League, but he is not a MLS quality player.
IN: Christian Bolaños, Alphonso Davies, Kekuta Manneh
BUBBLE: Cristian Techera
Bolaños was the best signing in the off season by Robbo. Has been a leader on and off the pitch and has gotten results from his play and hard work. Might need to continue to be limited with his minutes next season because of all the travel. Could step into that Morales role that will be empty next season.
Injuries ruined Manneh’s season but he was showing great pace and play before going down. Will love to see Manneh on one wing and Davies on the other wing in games next season. I don’t see the Whitecaps selling him or Davies on just quite yet. Unless the offer is so high that they would be stupid not too. Davies has shown he has the speed and skills to be a MLS player but next season he needs starts and good chunks of minutes to prove what he could do over the course of a full MLS season.
As for Techera, so this is what you get in MLS play for three times last season’s salary? Unless it was a Champions League game, Techera was useless this season. Wasn’t able to use his speed and size with the way the MLS game is played. Real doubts as to whether he’s worth bringing back.
BUBBLE: Erik Hurtado, Masato Kudo, Blas Perez
OUT: Giles Barnes
None of the four are clear cut keepers.
Hurtado is probably the Whitecaps’ training session MVP, but once it is game time he freezes up. I hear coaches say he is hitting the net with all his shots in practice, but game in and game out he misses some of the easiest shots a scorer can get. I would give him one more shot (no pun intended) next season and if he can’t start scoring I would move him on.
I would also give Kudo one more season in Vancouver. I was hesitant if he was strong enough to play in a physical MLS league and he struggled out of the gate this past season. After his scary injury and broken jaw he has come back a little hesitant but he has some good parts in his game. Give him one more year and see what he can do.
Perez’s contract is up at the end of the season and his salary of $237K is pretty high. I would bring him back on a salary of $125-$150K next season. He is a good quality striker off the bench and could back up a high priced DP striker next year.
Apart from those two goals on Sunday, Barnes hasn’t shown anything this season in Vancouver to justify his ridiculous salary. Needs to move on from Vancouver so his salary does not hamper them from bringing in a high priced DP.