At the end of every Football Manager season, the game generates a message to the player titled “The Team of 2020: Where are they now?”. Inspired by this, I decided to take a deep dive into four former Whitecaps and find out what they have been up since they booked a one-way ticket out of town.
It was an interesting journey, and one we may revisit with others, but for now…
The powerful central midfielder is still one of my favourite Whitecaps in the MLS era. When the Young Designated Player was traded to Vancouver from Toronto just before the 2014 season, because TFC forgot they could only have three DPs it seemed, he became a staple in the midfield.
129 appearances later, Matias left Vancouver to return to his native Argentina to play for Estudiantes in the Superliga. Injuries limited him to only 60 minutes in his one season with the Argentine club, after which Laba crossed the border into Chile to play for Primera Liga team Unión La Calera.
Laba’s spell in Chile was moderately successful, recording 26 appearances for Unión La Calera, including four full games in the Copa Sudamericana. Unión La Calera finished 4th in the Primera Liga, and Matias Laba just earned a Super Liga return in 2020, joining 18/19 season runners up Defensa y Justicia in the Argentine top tier.
2011 MLS SuperDraft top choice Omar Salgado did not work out in Vancouver.
There are several reasons for why that was the case, some on the pitch, some off it, but after four seasons, 34 appearances, and one goal, the striker joined NYCFC in their inaugural season.
Without making an appearance for Man City Leftovers FC, Salgado had spells at Tigres II in Mexico, the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL, and Jaguares FC in Colombia, before bouncing around the USL between El Paso and Las Vegas for the last two years.
In total, Salgado averages a goal every 10 games, most of which at the USL level. A horrible output for a player once rated so highly as to be a number one draft pick.
The now 26-year-old is under contract at El Paso until the end of 2020.
The much hyped Japanese forward was well received in Vancouver, and his work rate and desire were evident in what was to prove to be a difficult first, and only, season in MLS.
Three goals in 19 games during a 2016 campaign curtailed after a horrific facial injury did not convince management, and the forward joined Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J1 League for an undisclosed fee. 44 appearances over two years for Hiroshima saw Kudo’s side finish second in the J1 in the 17/18 season. Kudo hit double digits for scoring over that span, totalling 12 goals.
Kudo is currently on loan at J2 side Renofa Yamaguchi. The spell in the second division has been largely disappointing, with the former Japanese international only finding the net five times in 29 appearances. Interestingly, in two of the three years since he has been a Whitecap, Kudo has scored more in cup competitions than in the league, despite being a regular starter.
Remember him? Possibly the only player in MLS history to have more MLS Playoffs starts then regular season starts?
After a nomadic trek across various countries top divisions, including Spain, Israel, and Turkey – Nosa Igiebor joined the Vancouver Whitecaps on a free transfer in 2017. He came with Champions League and Europa League experience, so it was disappointing (although not surprising) when he left on a free transfer after failing to reach an agreement with the Whitecaps at the end of the 2017 season.
A few weeks later, Igiebor joined Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta, who he stayed with until the end of 2019. Currently without a club, the 29 year old will without a doubt pop up again somewhere that we don’t expect. I’m sure his agent is looking for the 7th team he can play with in the Champions League/Europa League.