When the news broke on Wednesday evening that Vancouver Whitecaps were set to trade goalkeeper, and Player of the Year, Maxime Crepeau to Western Conference rivals LAFC, it was met with shock and bewilderment by the long suffering ‘Caps fanbase.
So much of this trade didn’t make sense then and now that the deal has been officially announced less than 24 hours later, there are still many questions left unanswered. Some of them we may never get the answer to or don’t necessarily have a right to get an answer to.
But in one fell swoop, the Whitecaps have strengthened a conference rival that didn’t make the playoffs last season and weakened their own team in the process. Nothing about this trade can make you feel anything but that the club has regressed as an on-pitch entity.
Crepeau is heading to the City of Angels in exchange for $1 million in General Allocation Money (GAM) plus a natural first round pick in the 2025 MLS SuperDraft and conditional GAM if certain performance metrics are met. The ‘Caps will receive $250,000 in 2022 GAM, $250,000 in 2023 GAM, and $500,000 in GAM between 2023, 2024 and/or 2025. Vancouver also will retain a percentage of the transfer fee if Crepeau is moved to an international club.
It’s a bumper deal in general MLS terms, but considering the lack of value goalkeepers seems to command in the league, it’s a blockbuster amount of Garber bucks being given up by LAFC, showing just how much they covet and respect Crepeau and what he can bring to the team. This is the biggest every trade for a goalkeeper in MLS history.
There’s so much to break down here and we already looked at a few angles in the latest AFTN Soccer Show podcast..
When the news first broke on Twitter last night, it quickly developed, with MLS’ Tom Bogert tweeting that Crepeau asked for the trade for “family reasons”. With his family being Montreal based, none of this really made sense, but Whitecaps CEO and Sporting Director shed a little more light on the situation in a media call on Thursday afternoon.
“While we were approaching Max and his agent [about a new deal], they made us aware of a very special personal situation he is dealing with,” Schuster explained. “They were telling us that to get that solved he doesn’t see any chance to prolong his contract, he doesn’t even know how to get his problem solved if he stays in Vancouver. This was nothing we had planned. We had no idea of trading him or selling him to somewhere.”
Crepeau is coming off a career year for both club and country. Unquestionably, the Whitecaps would not have been a playoff team without his saves, especially in some of the most crucial matches. He was named Player of the Year by ourselves and many others and was riding a high.
His remuneration for that was a guaranteed salary of $277,500. That made one of the top five goalkeepers in the league the 23rd best paid keeper overall, although the club had reached out to Crepeau and his agent to begin negotiations on a new contract.
And Schuster was keen to stress that this was not about money and indicated that nothing the club could have offered him would have been able too keep him in Vancouver.
“His agent confirmed to me that this has nothing to do with money, this whole deal,” Schuster said. “This has nothing to do about a contract. This has only to do with his very special personal situation.
“From that moment on we were discussing how we can help. We want to be an organization that is taking care of our players beyond only the pitch. We don’t want to part of a problem, we want always to be part of a solution. While we were continuing to discuss all of that we found out that Max would have a hard time to return and that he would not feel good being here.
“That was something that was also important for us. He was our MVP. He was the best goalkeeper in the Western Conference, but not the best in the league. But would he be able to be the same or to come back and to repeat what he did last year with all of that in mind? So we said that we are open to look for solutions but only if someone acknowledges what Max means for us. Not only as a player on the pitch but as a leader in the locker room.”
That someone was LAFC.
This all naturally raises more questions than provides answers, but ultimately, unless Crepeau wants to share more details himself about what is clearly a very personal situation, none of us have any right to know any more details and I hope other members of the media and supporters recognise that. I would hope the vast majority will.
The deal is now done and Max Crepeau heads to LAFC in what in purely financial terms is a wonder piece of business for Vancouver, even if I like to still (foolishly?) think of football as more than just numbers on a balance sheet. The profit they have made on Crepeau in three years in astounding.
Crepeau was acquired for $50k of GAM and a 3rd round draft pick that Montreal ended up passing with in the Super Draft. The return on investment if this goes ahead will be astounding. https://t.co/MG4afS4huB
— Joe Deasy (@JoeDeasyVAN) January 20, 2022
What isn’t ideal is where Crepeau has ended up. Strengthening a conference rival is never ideal. The problem Vancouver seem to have had is that there weren’t many viable options out there if they wanted to get the return they demanded. Not a lot of teams will pay that kind of money for a goalkeeper.
“LAFC were the only club in the league that was able to give us what we wanted to acknowledge what Max means for us,” Schuster said. “No other MLS destinations were really possible because no other club would be able to afford Max. At least those who were looking for a goalkeeper or were at least interested.”
Vancouver rightly value the Canadian international high. That ruling out some possible suitors is very understandable. But why the rush to get this done now?
Crepeau is about to head into the national team set-up for the next two weeks. Would putting it out there that he was available not have brought other potential teams to table? Maybe one that could have given some GAM and/or a player or two in return? Maybe an Eastern team like New England Revolution, who are set to lose their own highly rated keeper Matt Turner to Europe by all accounts in a few weeks time.
“First of all, we wanted to also get it solved because we wanted to make decisions,” Schuster explained. “There was no guarantee that LAFC would wait forever. What was also a little bit challenging is that Max is a foreigner for every single US club, so he is occupying a foreign spot in every US team. So with that offer that LAFC was making to us, they could go to every single market in the world and try and get a goalkeeper because it doesn’t make a difference if they sign someone from Europe, from Asia, from Africa, from South America, or if they sign Max Crepeau.
“There was also some form of a deadline from LAFC because if we would not commit to something, they would have to solve their problem because they need a goalkeeper. So it isn’t that we haven’t checked in with other clubs, and we have checked in about other possibilities, but the offers haven’t been even close for the possibilities that those clubs had because you also need a club that has this amount of GAM.”
Financially, Crepeau immediately becomes one of the top ten trades in league history and the top traded goalkeeper. Scant consolation for Whitecaps fans, but that should give the team some money to play with for a blockbuster trade of their own.
Except Schuster confirmed that the club weren’t needing any more GAM at this point in time. They have plenty sitting in the Bank of Garber. And it’s for that reason that the $1 million they are receiving from LAFC will be spread out over three payments and not coming in one lump sum.
“We have a huge amount already of GAM in our MLS bank account before that deal,” Schuster said. “And GAM can also expire. You can also pull forward GAM. So we have the full flexibility to use all of that money if we would need to, but we were more running into an issue that at some point our GAM would expire because we are not using all of that at once.
“We have no DP spot to backfill so we would not even use GAM to fill that spot. So long story short, I feel this deal keeps us even more flexible because if we are in need of GAM, you can pull forward future GAM into your actual account. So if we need to, we can do that. If we don’t need, then we have no issue with expiring game.”
There is no doubting that this trade has made the Whitecaps weaker on the pitch. Schuster named Thomas Hasal as the club’s new number one keeper, and as good a player as he is and the ceiling he has, it is an immediate downgrade on Crepeau as of right now (we’ll discuss this and the goalkeeping situation in a future article).
The club now has GAM coming out of their ears. They need to use it to strengthen the team in a few areas. Deals need to get done. Others in the Western Conference have strengthened this offseason. The ball is now in Vancouver’s court to do the same otherwise a season of regression may loom large.