Whitecaps Crash Into The 2021 Training Camp With Impressive Signings
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The Whitecaps crash into the 2021 training camp in Vancouver with a handful of impressive signings to bolster their roster. The more impressive thing about all the signings? They have been both on and off the pitch.
After a 2020 season that saw Vancouver show flashes in the Orlando bubble, the regular season would fall short of expectations. Another year without playoffs, a surprising departure from the CEO Mark Pannes and 2020 was once again a year to forget.
Bring on an offseason with optimism. Moves in both the front office to restructure the organization. Moves on the field to improve the roster and provide depth. Maybe 2021 would be the turnaround year for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Offseason Moves In The Front Office
Despite parting ways with Mark Pannes. Vancouver was able to get back in the right direction with some key front office signings. Moving the scouting department into the 21st century, more structure in the front office, and some key additions to the on-field staff.
First, the club announced Nikos Overheul as the new Director of Recruitment. This was an important move into a more analytics-driven scouting department. Cue all the “Overheul the team” jokes, I love a good pun but that was just low-hanging fruit. Nikos comes off time with Statsbomb as the head of technical scouting for the analytics company. He will be joined by Dave Dir and Kevin Antunes and Steve Meadley. Meadley a long-time member of the club will serve as the College scout and homegrown player-manager.
On February 16th the club would add Wade Martin as the Chief Revenue Officer. Martin comes off working with the actual Moneyball team the Oakland Athletics. “I was really just struck by the commitment from ownership to take the organization to the next level,” He would say about the Whitecaps. It was getting very evident that ownership wasn’t kidding about moving into the MLS 3.0 (or wherever we are at now).
Along with moves in the front office, Vancouver also added a coach to help things on the field. With Vanni Sartini moving to the development program there was a vacant assistant coach role. It was filled with someone who knows his way around Major League Soccer with 2 MLS Cups, Ricardo Clark. A former player for the Houston Dynamos and more recently a coach with their academy, and a coach for the US men’s U20 team.
Axel was very excited about this signing in addition to his duties with the first team. Ricardo will also be working closely with the academy and youth players in a one-on-one role. “We have a number of young players and his experience will be a great resource for these young men. We are very pleased to add Ricardo to our club.”
New And Returning Faces To Bolster The Squad
The Whitecaps made some key signings in the offseason. And also locked up some of the players they think will be helpful moving forward.
Returning Faces –
Andy Rose versatile midfielder and center back was signed to a new contract through the 2021 season. He will also work with Nick Dasovic and the Academy team as Andy earned his UEFA A and A Elite Licence. A very valuable depth piece for Vancouver as Andy Rose has shown his abilities at multiple positions.
Another returning face for Vancouver is Jake Nerwinski who agreed on a contract till 2022 with an option for the 2023 season. After another season of improving Jake should get playing time behind another Whitecaps signing. Head Coach Marc Dos Santos has spoken about the increased need for depth this season with the schedule, international duty, and the style of play.
Vancouver also returns GKs: Maxime Crepeau (16), Thomas Hasal (1), Isaac Boehmer (60) Defenders: Ali Adnan (53), Derek Cornelius (13), Ranko Veselinovic (4), Erik Godoy (22), Jasser Khmiri (20), Cristian Gutierrez (3), Gianfranco Facchineri (34) Midfielders: Russell Teibert (31), Damiano Pecile (62), Leonard Owusu (17), Michael Baldisimo (55), Janio Bikel (19), Patrick Metcalfe (32), Simon Colyn (54)* Forwards: Theo Bair (14), Lucas Cavallini (9), Cristian Dajome (11), Ryan Raposo (27), Tosaint Ricketts (87) (*On Loan)
MLS SuperDraft –
The Vancouver Whitecaps took advantage of this year’s MLS Superdraft. Taking David Egbo a striker from the University of Akron with their first pick, 9th overall. The Whitecaps didn’t wait long to sign him to a contract through till 2023 with an option for the 2024 season. With 21 goals and 13 assists in 56 appearances (35 starts), Egbo can provide Vancouver with another scoring touch. It could also be a possibility that David will be loaned out this season if MDS is unable to get him the proper playing time.
In addition to David Egbo, the Whitecaps would also add depth on the back end drafting RB Javain Brown. Brown was Vancouver’s second selection (23rd Overall) and brings his International experience with Jamaica. More recently he played at the University of South Florida where he was American Athletic Conference First Team All-Conference and All-Rookie team in 2019. Brown is also signed through till 2023 with an option for 2024. Both players will join the club after figuring out Visa and work permit issues.
New Additions –
More exciting for Whitecaps fans were the new additions to the squad. It was very evident that ownership was willing to spend on talent in the past 15 months. This offseason we saw 3 more big additions.
On January 26th the Whitecaps announced the signing of Déiber Caicedo. For a 2.5m fee from Deportivo Cali in the first Columbian Division. Déiber is an attacking winger that can play both sides and is coming off 3 goals and 4 assists in 17 appearances in the league play last season. He also added one assist in 6 appearances during the Copa Sudamericana. With the new young Designated Player rules Caicedo will fall into that category for the Whitecaps.
Vancouver would continue with more signings as the Whitecaps crash into the 2021 training camp. Adding 27-year-old Right-back Bruno Gaspar on loan from Sporting CP. Bruno is coming off a season with Olympiacos in the Greek Super League 1 where he had 21 appearances in all play. A member of the Angola national team after playing his youth with the Portuguese youth team. Gaspar will bring a lot of European experience and poise for the Whitecaps at RB. He can also play the left side if there ever a need.
Despite the improvement of Jake Nerwinski in an attacking role, Gaspar will prove Vancouver with similar attacking play from both sides. The quality that the two can provide with crosses and overlapping runs could help the Whitecaps find the back of the net more this year after only 24 goals last year. Bruno will most likely join the team directly in Utah to avoid some of the travel restrictions.
The signings would keep coming as Vancouver announced late last week they had reached another deal. This time via transfer from Botafogo FR in Brazil for midfielder Caio Alexandre. Vancouver keeps the wallet open as this was a reported 4 million dollar transfer (The Province). Not the 10 fans were looking for Caio has very smart playmaking ability as a box-to-box midfielder. He has also shown a nice touch in setting up runs and countering out of his own end.
Caio will also take up a young designated player spot. Does that leave one left for, maybe a number #10? The Easter eggs have been there with various reports. And CEO Axel Schuster, not shying away from the fact that they are on the hunt. Unless you specifically ask what teams they are looking at. Then he can’t understand English, I did applaud the interesting deflection as it gave me a laugh during the media roundtable.
Vancouver also upgraded their depth at Keeper with the addition of Evan Newton. This heats up the battle for the top spot between Hasal and Crepeau. Regardless of who wins I can see Vancouver keeping all of their keepers with what happened last year. The only thing for certain is the Whitecaps aren’t done yet adding players.
Whitecaps Crash Into The 2021 Training Camp
The Whitecaps crash into the 2021 training camp this season at home. With travel restrictions and starting the season abroad, it only made sense. 2 weeks in the books but a carousel of players as new ones filter in and a handful of old ones head out to represent Canada. 5 players are on their way for the U23 Olympic qualifying that gets underway on March 19th. Ryan Raposo, Theo Bair, Derek Cornelius, Patrick Metcalfe, and Michael Baldisimo all got the nod and left to join the National team.
Unfortunately with travel restrictions, Vancouver might not have a full squad until they are settled into Utah closer to the start of the year. Here is the travel path for Deiber Caicedo to join the team, Cali to Bogota, Bogota to Panama, Panama to Toronto, and Toronto to Vancouver. He also had to quarantine in Toronto upon arrival.
Despite preseason setbacks once again this year. It didn’t stop the team from getting their legs in a 9 vs 9 inters quad game. Thankfully this year we will have the wonderful coverage of Sarita Patel Whitecaps sideline reporter. We were able to get a glimpse in on the game from Saturday and despite the 0-0 scoreline there seemed to be a good level of intensity.
Things get back underway this week but expect the same depleted numbers. We should slowly get an idea of the style that coach Marc Dos Santos wants to implement this season. He will not be limited in options if he wants to go with a 5 in the back formation or run his comfortable 4-4-3.
A Utah Relocation To Start The 2021 Season
With Covid-19 protocols still in place in Canada and the United States. It was announced Wednesday by the team that they would begin their season in Sandy, Utah. Not a bad view to start the season.
Major League Soccer also announced the home openers for every team. Vancouver will kick things off against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, April 18th at Rio Tinto Stadium. The decision to start in Utah and not Portland like last season was based on the setup offered. Vancouver will have an exclusive training pitch, gym, and locker rooms. Like last year a big focus of the club will be providing support for the player’s families so they can focus on football and not worry about things off the pitch.
Vancouver will travel to Miami for the second week of the season. To take on, of course, Toronto FC who will be calling Florida home to start the year. That game will go on Friday, April 24th. Beyond that is still unknown as the MLS has yet to release the rest of the season. It could be released in chunks so the Canadian teams could return home to play later in the season as restrictions ease.
Whitecaps CEO and Sporting Director Axel Schuster on that possibility, “Rest assured, our main objective is to play as many of our home games in Vancouver as possible. We’re working very closely with the league and public health officials and look forward to a time when our fans can safely attend matches at BC Place once again.”
Sports Talk Line And Vancouver Whitecaps Coverage
The Whitecaps continue their 2021 training camp in Vancouver. A far cry from the beaches of Hawaii or San Diego of the past. The Whitecaps will finish up their preseason in Vancouver. Hopefully, with some exhibition games against UBC. Sports Talk Line will have you covered no matter where they go. Vancouver will head to Sandy, Utah for the beginning of April and look to have the full complement of players join them there.
I will also have you covered on Twitter @JoshuaGriffith0, so follow me for the latest Whitecaps news and updates. We won’t be able to cover things in person but the team has been outstanding in providing media and responding to requests. So stay tuned to The Unnamed Sports Show for exclusive one-on-one interviews.
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