The Vancouver Whitecaps could be looking to add players with proven MLS experience by trading their 2013 SuperDraft picks, and that could be a positive, writes Martin MacMahon.
Since the ‘Caps made the transition from the second-tier NASL to Major League Soccer, the club has disproportionately sought to find its own talent from beyond the league.
Sometimes it has worked, and sometimes it hasn’t.
Bringing a significant second-tier group in during year one was inevitable, as the club brought up players management perceived would be capable of making the jump to the top – that trend continued under new head coach Martin Rennie in 2012, as he brought five players he was familiar with from his time with the Carolina RailHawks along with him for the MLS ride.
While the Whitecaps that made the jump largely failed to make the transition apart from notable exceptions such as Gershon Koffie and Davide Chiumiento, Rennie’s willingness to give his former Carolina charges a chance seemed to turn out to be a good bit of business.
The players brought along were on relatively low wages. In Brad Knighton, one of those five, it appears the Whitecaps have a genuine MLS starter to show for his faith, and a pair of solid squad players in Jun Marques Davidson and Matt Watson who come with good attitudes at an affordable price.
So while it might be said that promoting from the lower leagues has worked for the Whitecaps, at least on some level, its foreign adventures have often been pricey, dangerous affairs.
Designated players, specifically, have been a problem. Of the four signed, two have had mixed success (Eric Hassli and Barry Robson), while two have been extremely disappointing by any metric (Mustapha Jarju and Kenny Miller).
And even when it works out with bringing in foreign players, and players come good (think Alain Rochat, Lee Young-Pyo), there seems to be a fatigue factor by season’s end. Lee noticeably lost steam in the second half of the season, and Rochat famously requested that he not be played in one match near the end of 2011 because he was too tired to participate.
Major League Soccer may not be the best league in the world, but it has challenges which elite players from any league would struggle with. Add in Vancouver’s location on the map and the travel schedule becomes tough for anyone to deal with, let alone a player on the wrong side of 30.
It’s not that players from Europe or Asia or wherever are worse – often they are objectively better players who have achieved more than most Major League Soccer players ever will. But, if a player comes here as his abilities are waning, with big expectations, yet in need of a prolonged adjustment period – well, those allegedly superior abilities and experience often get lost in the shuffle.
However, when a team looks to add proven MLS talent through trades, there’s a bit more certainty. While players don’t always sync up with their new teammates immediately, they’re familiar with the league, their opponents, and the often unique environments MLS has to offer.
Having such an international roster sets the Whitecaps apart, and certainly makes them interesting for fans and observers.
But having a few more players with experience in North America and Major League Soccer – whether those players are from this continent or not – will probably help more than hinder as the Whitecaps look for more consistency in 2013.