Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2015 season is over and with it, the hard work for next year begins in earnest.
It was a great year in so many ways. The club’s highest ever finish and points total in the MLS era, most wins, most away wins, and, of course, that first Canadian Championship, at long last.
But with that success comes the desire, need, expectation and pressure to do even better in 2016. A fact very much not lost on Carl Robinson.
The Whitecaps held their player exit interviews last Thursday. They’ll now all now whether Robbo sees them in his plans for next season.
What we can expect next is the official announcements around the release of certain players, the re-signing of others, and the trade speculation will be in full force.
We’ll of course play our part as we look to put the willies into the rumour mill. Two of them – Bruin and Johnson.
The Whitecaps will retain their solid core, but new additions are necessary to make the squad stronger and more productive in front of goal. You can make additions without subtracting in MLS, so with all that in mind, it’s time for AFTN’s annual “Keep, Trade or Release” feature.
We asked AFTN’s writers to take a look at the current Whitecaps squad and say whether they would keep them around for next season, trade them or sell them for more valuable assets or to fill positions of need, or just release them into the wild altogether.
Part One kicks things off with a look at the goalkeepers and defenders. Part Two tomorrow will look at the midfielders and forwards. And don’t forget to leave your thoughts below.
If you want to catch up on our previous “Keep, Trade or Release” picks, here are the links –
AARON – (Keep) There is no reason Carducci should not get Canadian Championship and the majority of the USL minutes next season. Make or break year in 2016 for Carducci.
JAY – (Keep) After early season injury issues, Carducci started slow but looked better as the season went on with WFC2. While his shot stopping ability has never been questioned, his ability to be aggressive in the box remains the main issue, causing hesitation should Carducci be given minutes at the MLS level. Another season with lots of minutes at USL should allow the smaller framed keeper a chance to show he can play with some more control.
MICHAEL – (Keep/Loan Deal) Tough year for Carducci. No first team minutes and having to share USL ones with Spencer Ritchie, who outperformed him at times. Would almost serve his career better to go out on loan for key developmental minutes but no guarantee of more minutes there either.
STEVE – (Keep) Didn’t feel like he got enough playing time, but he still seems to be the future at the goalkeeping position.
AARON – (Keep) Has proven to be a top class MLS goalkeeper. Let’s hope he doesn’t find a second tier English or Spanish club to move on to.
JAY – (Keep) David Ousted has shown he’s one of, if not the best keeper in the league. His distribution and control of the box are a real key to the Whitecaps ability to play the quick counter. Considering Ousted’s intention to move to Europe one day, a pay increase on his already decent wage will be required – and the Whitecaps should pay it.
MICHAEL – (Keep) If we can. Asked him last week and it was a very non-commital answer. Caps will definitely pick up option but he’s bound to attract interest from Europe. Some was already there a year ago.
STEVE – (Keep) One of the top keepers in MLS, Ousted should return unless another club comes with an offer.
AARON – (Release) Had a good run in Canadian Championship and a not so good run in Champions League. Time for Tornaghi to move on in his career to find a club that can offer more quality minutes.
JAY – (Keep) Paolo looked rusty in his earlier minutes this season, but he regained form and looked a comfortable backup overall. His wage is easy to swallow, so the only reasons to drop Tornaghi would be if he wants to make a bid for a club where he’ll get more playing time, or if the Whitecaps feel Carducci is ready to make the jump.
MICHAEL – (Release) He’s been loyal, he loves it here, but he should move on, for his own sake as well. Can ‘Caps get a capable back up for less than $80,000? For sure. The ideal scenario would be to sign Callum Irving out of Kentucky, but they may have lost his homegrown rights and he looks to be going into the draft.
STEVE – (Keep) If he is ok with being the backup next year then Tornaghi should be back.
AARON – (KEEP) Injuries prevented him from keeping his starting role he earned in training camp last season. Now that he is healthy let’s hope he can continue on that track.
JAY – (KEEP) Hard not to feel bad for Adekugbe who took his opportunity and looked MLS ready before his injury. A no brainer to keep Sam and try and find room to get him more minutes in MLS play.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) You know it’s just a matter of when, and not if, he’ll be the ‘Caps starting left back. Has the skill and hasn’t looked out of place in his starts, but just need to reign in his aggressive tackling style a little bit to really excel.
STEVE – (KEEP) Looked like he was becoming the regular at left back before injury saw him return to the bench. He really needs to get a long stretch of games to start next season.
AARON – (KEEP) Not a huge Beitashour fan but unless we bring in a quality RB he is the best option they have.
JAY – (KEEP) One of the more tough decisions for me, as I think Beitashour has done admirably, but despite his decent total of five assists this year, Steven doesn’t provide as much attacking emphasis as you’d want if the Whitecaps are to want a more narrow tactical option in a two striker set-up to help provide width. I could see one of Beitashour or Harvey departing, and if the Whitecaps want to invest in a higher paid, quality, two way fullback I could see Beitashour moving on.
MICHAEL – (TRADE) Agree that there needs to be a good option to come in, but
you can certainly find one for better value than his near $200,000 guaranteed amount and a more productive one to boot. Caps and player want to get a deal done, but it’s all coming down to the $$$. If Beitashour is prepared to sign for much less than his option amount then he’ll stay. If not, the right back search is on once more.
STEVE – (TRADE) Had solid season but on a high ticket. Caps may look to move him in order open up cap space.
AARON – (TRADE) This is probably the time to get the most return in a trade for Dean. Too many quality CB’s ahead of him on depth chart.
JAY – (TRADE) Although he made strides this season, he is still well behind Parker on the depth chart and he still holds value as a prospect. The Whitecaps should make good on this value and try and get something back for their high draft pick.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) Selfishly, from a ‘Caps point of view, he needs to stay. Still good potential and a known quantity as a back up. From Dean’s point of view though, he needs to play at this crucial time of his career and a trade or a loan deal may be the better choice.
STEVE – (RELEASE) It might be a better option for the former first round pick to move on so he can get more playing time. If he’s ok with being the third or fourth option then a return is a possibility.
AARON – (TRADE) Has been a great player for the club but it’s Adekugbe time. Don’t see Harvey settling for a backup role next season.
JAY – (KEEP) After a mediocre opening couple of matches, Harvey lost his starting spot to the youthful Adekugbe. After Adekugbe went down with an injury, Harvey showed some of his best overall form as a professional, keeping young Sam out of the starting line-up. Harvey remains one of the most steady fullbacks in the league for a reasonable salary.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) I like Harvey. I like what he brings both on and off the pitch and the ‘Caps needs some veteran presence. He ideally wants to stay, see out his career in Vancouver and battle for the starting role. Fine on $150,000, but would be even better on a slightly lower amount, but that and his MLS experience, that will interest others, is what could see him traded.
STEVE – (TRADE) Another one with a solid season but in a high ticket. Like Beitashour, Caps may want to move him on.
PA MODOU KAH
AARON – (RELEASE) Injury prone. Time to retire.
JAY – (KEEP) Another tough decision, as Kah’s value is more as a locker room asset than for his gameday value. While he played very well for the majority of his minutes, he’s clearly the number three centreback now and if he’s happy with that, the Whitecaps could keep him around.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) Kah isn’t going anywhere. Robbo wants him here and he wants to stay. You can’t really put a financial amount on what he brings to this locker room. He’s a welcome and an invaluable presence, and has formed excellent partnerships with Waston and Parker.
STEVE – (KEEP with conditions) Started more games than I thought he would but with Parker emerging, Kah will have to accept less money and playing time to return.
AARON – (KEEP) Was the biggest surprise this season. Stepped into some big games and was great this season. Has a bright future in the MLS.
JAY – (KEEP) A revelation at centreback, Parker instantly looked like a veteran MLS player. The only real issue is neither he or Waston are exactly good ball playing centrebacks, but that’s really nitpicking regarding a Rookie of the Year candidate who has solidified his spot as an extremely capable defender.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) No brainer. Next year’s starter. Nuff said.
STEVE – (KEEP) Took massive steps in his rookie season to become a starter and will surely return to that position next year.
AARON – (DECLINE TO SIGN) Wasn’t very good at all this season. Injuries and suspensions derailed his first year in North America.
JAY – (DECLINE TO SIGN) A real shame, as Diego looked like he would slot in nicely beside Waston early in the year, but after battling injury and form issues, it’s clear Rodriguez needs a change of scenery. It’s too bad, because in theory a calm, ball playing centreback would be perfect beside Waston.
MICHAEL – (DECLINE TO SIGN) Had high hopes, but he’s disappointed. Yes, injuries have played a part, and you have to feel for a guy that’s been through so much after moving to a new country. But his USL performances were poor and his confidence looks shot.
STEVE – (DECLINE TO SIGN) Many, including myself, thought he would start alongside Waston but after injury and an unfortunate suspension, Rodriguez never recovered.
AARON – (RELEASE) Time to move on.
JAY – (RELEASE) Sampson must really hear the clock ticking, as he’s been around the Whitecaps camp for a while now and has shown his limits far more than any potential. It’s time to move Sampson along.
MICHAEL – (RELEASE) Didn’t like him when he first came but he slowly won me over. Then he seemed to go backwards. Can see him being loaned out so ‘Caps can have a look for afar but keep his rights. I’d just cut bait at this stage now.
STEVE – (RELEASE) His time in Vancouver seems to be done as he saw very little action in MLS over the last two years.
AARON – (RELEASE) Not sound enough defensively for this team. He was caught out of position too many times.
JAY – (KEEP) There’s no question that Smith has some decent potential, and he certainly looks much more willing and able to join in the attack including a howitzer of a shot, but his defending has been poor and if not for his excellent make-up speed, he’d have been a disaster on the defensive side. I’d like to see Smith come back, but perhaps spending a lot of time with the USL side.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) Like Waston the year before, was lined up for January but came early. Jury is still out on him. Looks far better at training than in some games. Strong going forward but poor defending and getting back.
STEVE – (KEEP) Came in late in the summer transfer window and showed some flashes along with difficult times defending at the right side.
AARON – (KEEP) Team MVP. Should have been MLS Defender of Year.
JAY – (KEEP) The most physically dominant centreback in the league has to be retained, even if it means a raise and using some allocation or TAM to keep him under a DP salary.
MICHAEL – (KEEP) Another no brainer obviously, but if he keeps playing the way he is, it won’t be long before there’s interest from elsewhere. ‘Caps will need to pay him his worth and we could see TAM come into play here.
STEVE – (KEEP) Was the team’s MVP and will return to anchor the backline.
So there’s our thoughts on the Whitecaps goalkeepers and defenders from the season past. Do you agree or are we talking nonsense?
Part Two will be up Tuesday, where we’ll have a look at the midfielders and the forwards.