Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2015 season is over and with it, the hard work for next year begins in earnest.
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 kicked off Part One with a look at this year’s goalkeepers and defenders. Today, we analyse the midfielders and forwards.
Who should be kept around for next season? Who should be traded or sold to free up space for more valuable assets or to fill positions of need? And who should just be released into the wild altogether? And remember, when we talk about trades, it’s not necessarily for a player coming back, but could be for allocation money or a draft pick.
If you want to catch up on our previous “Keep, Trade or Release” picks, here are the links –
AARON – (Keep) Back up to Morales next season would be the best for him and his development. Let’s hope he is injury free next season.
JAY – (Keep) Marco Bustos didn’t get much time due to an unfortunate injury, but still provided plenty of prowess at the USL level and even contributed when he played with the senior team. A rare talent in Canadian soccer, Bustos has the creativity and skill that the MLS team could have used in the tail end of the year.
MICHAEL – (Keep) Damn that training pitch injury. Derailed Bustos’ development slightly but what he showed in USL was exciting for the future. Looked good in preseason. Doesn’t look like he’ll be out of place in MLS. Onwards and upwards!
Needs to work on being less selfish on the ball and get out of the arm waving he sometimes falls in to
STEVE – (Keep) Started the season with injury issues but when he came back he had some bright moments with WFC2 and should see some playing time next year.
AARON – (Decline to sign) Way too inconsistent for MLS. The game is too technical and physical for him.
JAY – (Decline to sign) Other than his first appearance for the Whitecaps, Flores has failed to really show that he’s close enough to keep around, while Kianz Froese, a Canadian Residency player, has shown he’s closer to being the completed player.
MICHAEL – (Decline to sign) I personally wouldn’t bring him back. He looked good in his first appearance, then felt he got worse with every MLS game. Didn’t impress but Robbo seems to feel he has potential to grow and is still young. I expect him to be back, as the ‘Caps pick up his signing option.
STEVE – (Decline to sign) As a loanee he didn’t overly impress and would take up an international spot if he returned.
AARON – (Keep) Had a good season but would love to see him get more first team minutes. Needs to make most of the minutes he does get.
JAY – (Keep) Froese has never looked out of place when he played in the first eleven. The only hope is that Kianz can find more minutes with the big club to show his ability at any of the many positions he’s capable of contributing in.
MICHAEL – (Keep) A further strong season of development. Now has his first pro goal. Nowhere near his ceiling yet and we should see a lot more of him, and even more production from him, next season.
STEVE – (Keep) Had a number of bright moments and should see even more playing time next season.
AARON – (Trade) Is worth less this season than he was last season. Get maximum return now before he lowers he stock again.
JAY – (Trade/Sell) I’ve always been one of Koffie’s biggest fans, but despite being given plenty of opportunity to make the next step, he remains just a decent MLS level midfielder in an already congested position. May want to take a shot at one of the lesser European leagues, and the Whitecaps can afford to trade or sell Koffie to get some value back.
MICHAEL – (Trade) He still frustrates me as a player. Still hasn’t taken the leap of advancement he’s been needing to take the last two seasons. His stock is high with some around the league and there have been enquiries before as to his availability. Maybe last chance to get decent return for him. Other DM options out there interesting Carl Robinson.
STEVE (Keep but open to Trade) – Another player who had a solid season but is on a high ticket. The ‘Caps may look to move him on in order open up cap space.
MATIAS LABA (ALREADY RE-SIGNED)
AARON – (Keep) Thank you TFC.
JAY – (Keep) An obvious choice to re-sign Laba. The only other defensive midfielder I’d consider a straight swap for in MLS is Dax McCarty. His value may be even greater if the Whitecaps move to a single DM setup.
MICHAEL – (Keep) A fantastic season for Laba personally and rewarded with a new multi-year contract. So key for the ‘Caps snuffing out attacks in that DM role but has to work on cutting out the reckless and occasionally lax tackles that have proved costly.
STEVE – (Keep) Just signed to an extension and will definitely return unless a team comes with an offer that the Whitecaps can’t refuse.
AARON – (Keep) Great season and the sky is the limit for Manneh.
JAY – (Keep) While he can be frustrating when he goes missing for long periods, he’s clearly the most explosive player on the Whitecaps, and after he went down in the second leg of the playoff versus Portland, the Whitecaps had almost no creative output.
MICHAEL – (Keep) Manneh made big strides this season. A lot more maturity both on and off the pitch. Great defensive awareness added. Has to keep it going now, and I have no doubts that he will. Still a lot of work to do with his finishing and decision making.
STEVE – (Keep) Really came on as the season went on and was a dangerous weapon going forward while improving defensively.
AARON – (Keep) USL Player of the Year for ThunderCaps. I am very high on this player and would love to see him get minutes if the team gets rid of Teibert, Koffie and Flores. Could be a back up to Laba on the first team.
JAY – (Keep) Another player with first team potential in the midfield, Ben showed enough in USL to earn himself a shot with the senior team.
MICHAEL – (Keep) Robbo rates him very highly and had plans for him in the summer before injury thwarted those. He started a little tentatively in USL but soon burst out and was playing really well. He’ll make his MLS debut next year, then he needs to grab the brass ring when he does, as he has a lot of competition at his position and he’s not getting any younger.
STEVE – (Keep) Was voted as WFC2 player of the year and was improving before an injury ended his season.
AARON – (Keep) Injuries ruined his season. Was the best player on this team for a good 5 to 6 week run when Morales was injured.
JAY – (Keep) Another revelation was the play of Mezquida who really was the key cog when the Whitecaps were at their best. While he’s not quite at a Mauro Diaz level of creativity as an attacker, his overall attacking emphasis was really missed after his injuries late in the year.
MICHAEL – (Keep) Felt that this was a make or break one for Mezquida in Vancouver. He certainly made it! Shame that an injury ended his season early as he seems the key to unlocking Rivero. The link up between those pair and Techera is a joy to watch. Hopefully more to come.
STEVE – (Keep) Had a tough time dealing with injuries late into the season but when he played as a number 10 for Morales, the Caps didn’t lose too much.
PEDRO MORALES (ALREADY RE-SIGNED)
AARON – (Keep) Let’s hope he keeps healthy.
JAY – (Release) I know it’s already a forgone conclusion, but I’d be okay with Morales being cut loose and a more dynamic midfielder brought in. The hope is that Robinson can find a tactical approach which allows for Morales’ fantastic distribution ability to be included while allowing for his defensive shortcomings and his lack of emphasis inside the 18.
MICHAEL – (Keep) He says he’s not worried about his injuries. Robbo says that as well. Wish I felt the same way. Felt a disappointing season for Pedro after his spectacular first year in MLS. Can still spray a ball better than nearly everyone in the league. Need to see that back to the max in 2016.
STEVE – (Keep) After signing an extension there is no way Morales is not coming back, but as their most talented player he needs to avoid getting run down as the season went on.
AARON – (Trade) Not enough offensive return for his high salary. Yes, experience and leadership is good to have, but this is a salary cap league, like it or not.
JAY – (Release) Rosales is a true professional whose heart is never questioned, but some injury issues and questions around how much gas is left in the tank mean he’s a high risk at his value.
MICHAEL – (Release but want to Keep!) Tough one for me, as listeners to the podcast know how highly I rate Rosales for what he brings both on and off the pitch. As he told us in our latest podcast (Ep 134), he wants to stay. Took a paycut from $400,000 to $265,000 guaranteed for this season. Would need to take about $100,000 off that for me to keep him around. I’d like them to come to a deal as he definitely has value to the team. Just sense they won’t be able to.
STEVE – (Release) The elder statesman is on a very high salary and unless he takes a big paycut, I can’t see him returning next season.
AARON – (Keep) Had a great season and will only be better getting a preseason camp in with this team.
JAY – (Keep) Without Techera, the Whitecaps very likely would have missed out on the playoffs. The only question is if the inventive winger can continue his rather significant contributions and if the Whitecaps can execute the option to buy without breaking the bank.
MICHAEL – (Keep) One of, if not the, player of the second half of the season. Hopefully ‘Caps have a set transfer fee for him as I think he’s going to be even better in MLS next year.
STEVE – (Keep) Unless there is a large transfer fee needed to bring him back there is doubt Techera should return next season.
AARON – (Trade) If he isn’t good enough to be a consistent MLS starter and earn quality MLS minutes, might be time to move on from Teibert.
JAY – (Keep) Jack of all trades, master of none. Teibert again showed value for the Whitecaps this year as he contributed well in a defensive midfielder roll, but he still has failed to either show he’s a tough enough tackler as a true DM or get forward enough to contribute as an attacking midfielder. I’d keep Teibert as he’s such an excellent squad player.
MICHAEL – (Trade) I’d release him but ‘Caps would want to get something for him is he was to move on. For me, he’s not MLS starting quality right now and he won’t get there if he doesn’t play. He needs to move on, best outside of North America, to be a starter somewhere for his own development. Far better options in ‘Caps squad for the positions he can play. He’s reached a fork in the road.
STEVE – (Keep) I was surprised he didn’t get as much playing time down the stretch but the Caps still hope his long term future is with Vancouver.
AARON – (Trade/Sell) I would say Keep but he would at best be a USL only player. Don’t think he will settle for that.
JAY – (Release) It was kind of a shocker that Clarke even came back after a falling out with the Whitecaps in seasons past. Either way, Clarke didn’t show enough to earn a spot with the big team, so it’s time to let Caleb go find somewhere he has a chance.
MICHAEL – (Release) This was the make or break season for Clarke. He looked okay at USL level but not MLS quality right now. We don’t know for sure as he never saw a single minute there. I feel he’s gone as far as he can with the ‘Caps right now.
STEVE – (Release) He played this season with WFC2, had moments, and may be looking to return to Germany next year.
AARON – (Keep) Was way under used this season. Would be that experience factor if they let Rosales go.
JAY – (Keep) The only question for me is why Earnshaw wasn’t played more this season. If the Whitecaps do move to a two striker set-up, there would be more minutes to go around for the forwards and Earnshaw still has value if he was played for more than 5 minutes every few games. Not to mention his desire to get into coaching, and it makes sense to keep Earnshaw around if he was used properly.
MICHAEL – (Release but happy to keep around) You wonder just how he, and the ‘Caps, would have done if he’d played more. Was strange how Robbo used him this year, but to be fair, when he did play (in Champions League), he looked a step off. But give him a chance and he’s the Whitecap striker I’d back most to score. Cheap value at $100,000 so I wouldn’t be too averse to him hanging around for his experience if he performs, but likely to head back to lower league club in UK and to work on his coaching qualifications.
STEVE – (Release) As with Mattocks below, the striker position needs to improve and Earnshaw is on his last legs.
AARON – (Keep) Give him a training camp to see what he learned when he got sent to Norway on loan. If he struggles, release him.
JAY – (Release) Hurtado has been given plenty of chances to show he has more than just physical ability and he’s failed to do so. Even if Hurtado were to return, he’d only be taking away opportunities from players like Froese, so it’s time to finally move Erik along.
MICHAEL – (Trade) Dreadful season for Hurtado, who seems to have gone backwards. Loaned to Norway but ended up riding the pine as his team got relegated. The plan is for him to come back to preseason camp but his time in Vancouver must surely be running out. I genuinely believe that his performances, and goals, in that hot streak he was on in 2014 will see interest from others in MLS for some kind of trade, even if just for allocation or a draft pick.
STEVE – (Release) Another player who needs to move on in order clear both a roster spot and some, limited, cap space.
AARON – (Release) Too injury prone. Not strong enough for the MLS.
JAY – (Release) Another player who just hasn’t shown he’s good enough for the MLS level, and he’s taking up development minutes from Residency players.
MICHAEL – (Release) He has speed, he has skills, but he’s not going to be a MLS player for the ‘Caps so no point continuing with him.
STEVE – (Release) See Hurtado. Plus he takes up an international spot.
AARON – (Trade) Maybe he could just play for Jamaica year round. Seems to only score for his national team.
JAY – (Trade/Release) He’s being paid to contribute way more than he does, and his personality just doesn’t seem to suit the club. Mattocks has still failed to find any form with club despite successes with his country. It’s time for the club to move on with Darren, and that would be best for both parties.
MICHAEL – (Trade) I’ve had him leaving for three years now I think! His highest trade value was going to be in the summer after the Gold Cup. Stock has fallen again but many teams still rate him highly. He’ll probably now excel elsewhere.
Caleb Porter still loves him, so let’s keep those Mattocks for Will Johnson trade rumours rumbling, or to Houston for Bruin.
STEVE – (Trade) The Whitecaps need to find a way to move Mattocks on to improve the back-up striker position, even if the return isn’t at full value.
AARON – (Keep) Hit a wall and struggled for a long part of the season. Will be more comfortable next season and hopefully he has help up top.
JAY – (Keep) Despite misplacing his shooting boots at the end of the season, Rivero still showed he has a real deep skill set. Octavio looked much better when he had a strike partner, and it seems like Robinson will be considering bringing in either a partner or competition for Octavio up top. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Rivero have a real breakout year if he has better support around him.
MICHAEL – (Keep) Rivero’s not going anywhere. He was very self critical after season and promises better production. Highest workrate on the team and left on an island up front at times, but he needs to be pushed. Robbo’s going to bring in at least one more striker. I expect two or three. If the formation doesn’t change it could be to replace Rivero as the starter. Then does he want to hang around and fight?
STEVE – (Keep) Rivero needs another season to see if he can become a consistent scorer especially with a potential payoff down the road. Needs competition at the spot.
So there’s our thoughts on the Whitecaps midfielders and forwards from the season past. Do you agree or are we talking nonsense? Let us know below!