As the Major League Soccer Conference semi-finals get played to a conclusion this weekend, it still feels that Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2014 MLS season finished too soon.
But over it is.
The Whitecaps held their final player testing of the season on Monday, with exit interviews for each player taking place over the last few days. What we can expect next is the announced release of certain players and the trade speculation will be in full force.
To make the squad stronger there needs to be changes and there will be. 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, it’s time for 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.
Part One will kick things off with a look at the goalkeepers and defenders, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts below….
AARON (KEEP – A) – Stepped up in big time games in the Amway Championship. Played his heart out and has a bright future in a Whitecaps kit.
JAY (KEEP – B) – Played well when called upon. Next season should be a big year with plenty of action in USL Pro, Voyageur’s Cup, and CCL.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B-) – He was shaky at times against Toronto, but which keeper isn’t at some point and he’s still just 18. Solid season with U18s too. Whilst he will undoubtedly get the minutes in Vancouver’s new USL Pro side, the big question for the Caps now is whether they make him the first choice back up to Ousted.
STEVE (KEEP – B-) – He almost led the Caps to the Voyageurs Cup final if it wasn’t for a bad call in the second leg. Could challenge for the backup spot next year and will see plenty of minutes in USL Pro.
AARON (KEEP – B) – Played well this season. Was amazing for runs at some great times.
JAY (KEEP – B+) – Quietly postured himself into the category of one of the best keepers in the league. While he’s on a high salary, his consistency, leadership, and command of the box mean he should be back next year.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B+) – Agree that he is up there with the best in MLS, but I still feel he needs to work on some aspects of his game to take him to the top echelons. Love his vocal presence but his positioning can definitely improve.
STEVE (KEEP – B+) – Some people still questioned his abilities during the first part of the season but by the end he had made some huge saves and led the league in cleansheets.
AARON (KEEP – Incomplete) – I was a big advocate for Tornaghi to get some MLS minutes and people went after me for it on the AFTN podcast.
JAY (TRADE – Incomplete) – I don’t understand why Paulo would want to stay around. Unless Ousted gets injured, I don’t see him getting much more time next season either. May be best for both parties if Paulo finds somewhere he can challenge for a starting job.
MICHAEL (RELEASE – Incomplete) – He seems too good a keeper to just sit on the bench. He may be happy being here and playing second fiddle to Ousted with no minutes, but that would surprise me. At $72,000 he’s cheap but not cheapest out there. I think you have to let him go so he can fight for the number one somewhere, then bring in someone cheaper, move Carducci up or look at someone like Residency alumni Callum Irving, who has been lighting it up for Kentucky this season.
STEVE (KEEP – C+) – While he didn’t get any minutes in MLS, Tornaghi didn’t complain and should be back as long as he doesn’t mind the backup role.
AARON (KEEP – C+) – Injuries hurt him a bit this season but he filled in nicely when he had to. Could benefit from USL Pro the most of any young players.
JAY (KEEP – B+) – Once again looked right at home in an MLS squad. Adekugbe is another player with a huge year ahead of him.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B) – We just didn’t see as much of him as I would have liked, but understandable. What we did see was impressive. His composure at the top level is fantastic and he has to get those MLS minutes next year for his development.
STEVE (KEEP – B-) – Never looked out of place when he was on the pitch and would have had more playing time if it wasn’t for badly timed injury. Will most likely split his time next year in MLS and USL Pro.
AARON (KEEP – B-) – Filled in really well for the hole left by YP Lee. Health was a concern after he returned from the World Cup.
JAY (KEEP – C) – Steady defensively all year, but failed to really step up in the final third as advertised. Considering his fairly sizable salary, and the injuries towards the end of the year, Beitashour has plenty of room for improvement.
MICHAEL (TRADE – C) – I was disappointed with what we got out of Beitashour. I expected more and for his value ($177,166) we need to get it. He had no real offensive impact tearing up the wings and team wasn’t all that worse without him. I’d be fine with him moving on and getting someone new in if we got a good return. Maybe leave him unprotected in the expansion draft?
STEVE (KEEP – C) – Didn’t fulfill what was promised in the preseason but how much of the lack of attack was due to tactics? Hopefully a full season without extended international duty will mean a return to better form.
AARON (TRADE – C) – Should of been loaned during season to get quality minutes. Might have been a waste of a season for young Dean.
JAY (KEEP – D) – Quite frankly I wasn’t impressed with Dean during his first team minutes. Granted, they were limited and out of position. However, he’s an off-cap player, and with all the extra playing time available, it could be a good development year for him, hopefully showing off in USL Pro.
MICHAEL (KEEP – C) – I like Dean. Or rather I like the idea of what Dean can offer as we haven’t really got to see it. I think he could form a monster partnership in the middle of the defence with Kendall Waston in time. But will he be prepared to wait? Lack of minutes did frustrate him this year and he may push to be traded. He certainly could be sought after by some clubs.
STEVE (KEEP – C) – Looked a little shaky in his limited time. Still a lot of promise and should move a spot on depth chart will give him more opportunity with CCL and USL Pro.
AARON (KEEP – B) – Might be the best season he has had in MLS. Had some moments he probably wishes he could have back but overall a successful season.
JAY (KEEP – B+) – While I think his replacement is MLS ready, Harvey had a fantastic year. Consistent, solid defensively, joined the attack well, and does all the stuff off the field.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B) – I’m a fan of Harvey, as much as for what he brings off the field as on it. He’s a good veteran presence in the dressing room and Caps badly need some of those with the young squad. Had a great defensive season but didn’t attack as much as I would have like. As Steve said for Beitashour, this might have been Robbo’s tactics more than anything else.
STEVE (KEEP – B) – He might have not have been able to duplicate his scoring from the year before but Harvey improved immensely on the defensive side.
AARON (KEEP – C+) – Looked like he was going to fill Jay Demerit’s spot before Kendall Waston arrived on scene. Is a quality centreback to back up Andy O’Brien and Waston.
JAY (KEEP – C+) – Had a hard time getting up to speed after DeMerit went down with injury, but found his feet and became very consistent. Will be a good partner for Waston long term.
MICHAEL (KEEP but would consider TRADE – C) – I think it was a backward year for Leveron and he didn’t look great at times when he was played. I think he has value for a trade if they look to develop Dean. BUT, him and Andy play well together. I just can’t see him being happy staying here and not being a starter. Will hit his international aspirations. Is an interesting decision for Robbo, as he was his guy.
STEVE (KEEP – B-) – Started 12 straight matches during the summer before leaving for international duty. He wasn’t able to get his regular spot back but should be the number one choice to start along Waston.
AARON (RELEASE – D+) – Had some bad moments this season. The hand ball out of nowhere was a huge mistake.
JAY (TRADE – C) – I’ve always liked Mitchell, but I think it’s clear his ceiling is not as high as the rest, and he can be prone to defensive mistakes. I do think he has value, though, so hopefully the Whitecaps can get a couple Garber bucks for him.
MICHAEL (RELEASE – C) – A disappointing season for Mitchell and looks like being his last in Vancouver. Heard murmurs that he may head to Korea to link up with old boss Martin Rennie. Was too inconsistent in the minutes that he did get, and you just wait for the bookings to come.
STEVE (TRADE – C) – Had a stretch of eight starts where he had ups and downs. Will most likely move on which will help him get more minutes.
AARON (KEEP – B-) – Don’t sell O’Brien isn’t just a chant, it should be a Whitecaps lifestyle. Hope he stays in a Caps kit for a few more seasons and helps coach the young USL kids.
JAY (KEEP – B) – It’s hard to criticize a 35 year old centre back for being injured, but it’s really the only thing that went wrong this season for O’Brien. He oozes class and leadership, and is the perfect partner for Kendall Waston.
MICHAEL (KEEP – B) – He was a rock most of the time and formed a great partnership with Kendall Waston down the stretch. There were games in the second half of the season though in which I thought he looked tired. Big fan of his, love talking to the guy and the young players can (and have) learn so much from him. Keep him Robbo!
STEVE (KEEP – B) – The veteran provided steady performances throughout the entire season no matter who his partner was. There is no doubt he should return to the Caps whether as a regular starter or the first option off the bench.
AARON (KEEP – C+) – Best game of the season against Dallas in the playoffs. Wasn’t big on him at beginning of season, didn’t think he was adequate as a back up. Surprised me!
JAY (KEEP – B) – Lots of crow eating around the AFTN offices as Sampson impressed any time he was on the pitch. Given his performances versus a talented and athletic Dallas, Robinson shouldn’t hesitate next season to put Sampson in when Beitashour needs a rest.
MICHAEL (KEEP – C+) – As regular readers and listeners will know, I’ve not been sold on Sampson, but he impressed me with his performance against Dallas and looked good at training. Would like to see another season from him as back up at the right back spot.
STEVE (KEEP – C+) – Had low to no expectations for the converted central defender. However the right back put in some solid performances. He deserves an opportunity to return but should be provided with competition.
AARON (KEEP – A-) – Biggest middle of the season move in Whitecaps MLS history. Needs to work on reducing the yellow cards he picks up for next season.
JAY (KEEP – A) – A key reason the Whitecaps were able to turn it around and make the playoffs. My only worry is if he can maintain the exceptional form over a long season.
MICHAEL (KEEP – A) – Beast in both boxes. I don’t mind his yellow card accumulation as he plays the kind of game I love. Will be interesting to see how other teams try and play against him next season.
STEVE (KEEP – B+) – The big bad man is exactly the center back the Whitecaps needed and deserved. His ability to dominate in the air on both sides of pitch will be so valuable to the club next year.
So there’s our thoughts on the Whitecaps goalkeepers and defenders from the season past. Share your thoughts below.
Part Two will be up soon and we’ll have a look at the midfielders.