With the MLS roster freeze on Friday, the 'Caps need to make a decision. Does the club sacrifice a young star for a playoff appearance this season or trust the current group?Is this Vancouver Whitecaps team good enough for the playoffs?
Or are reinforcements needed? The MLS roster freeze comes into effect on Friday, so time is limited for the club to get a deal done with any possible partners if the feeling is there that the squad as is isn't capable of qualifying for the postseason.
While the Whitecaps were hammered for making an almost disastrous midseason overhaul last season, perhaps this year the argument could be made that not enough fresh blood was injected to bring a bit of freshness, with no new first team faces save the signing of goalkeeper David Ousted added to the mix.
Still, the timing of this roster freeze comes at an awkward moment.
With his team having won just one of its last eight matches, head coach Martin Rennie is under pressure and will perhaps seek to trade a young player or a draft pick to get a more experienced player who can help push this team across the finish line and into the playoffs.
But, in that circumstance, depending on the player and the potential return on the table, it's possible someone higher up at the club could veto the move for the long-term benefit of the club, if that were the view.
That said, Rennie, who has always expressed confidence that ownership would stand by him during difficult runs in the past, has generally come across as someone with a long-term vision, so if such a move is made, it would certainly carry at least some level of surprise.
The two young players other teams will likely seek in potential trade talks are 23-year-old Darren Mattocks and 20-year-old Omar Salgado.
Mattocks has had a year to forget, scoring just three goals over 15 appearances and only managing seven starts due to a combination of poor form and a knee injury, but teams will surely look at the Jamaican’s rookie season and look to make a move in hopes he can carry that promise forward in seasons to come.
As for Salgado, his situation is even less ideal, as he has missed the entire season to date with a broken bone in his foot that just doesn’t seem to want to heal. Given he’s a first overall pick and an American youth international, there should be plenty of teams interested in the Texan – but teams will be looking to pry him away on the cheap given his injury history so that could make the Whitecaps less eager to shop him.
The other assets teams out of the playoff picture would be interested in are draft picks, the most enticing of which is Toronto FC’s 2014 first round pick acquired via the Eric Hassli trade in July 2012. The Ontario-based club is having yet another dire season and that pick should be among the top three in next year’s draft.
Backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton could be of interest to some clubs looking for a relatively cheap player capable of competing for a starting job (the 28-year-old makes just $66,000), but isn’t likely to bring much back in return given he’s yet to complete a full season as an MLS starter.
As the North American transfer window is closed, the Whitecaps are limited to continental transactions and realistically it doesn’t appear the club is set for any deadline day blockbusters.
But given the pressure on this club and its coach to qualify for the postseason for a second consecutive season, it would be surprising if the decision is made to stand pat and do nothing at all if there is a move on the table which could help this team into the MLS Cup playoffs.