A third of the way into a new season should be a pretty good time to take a look at the players the Vancouver Whitecaps added to the roster for 2018 and see just how they are fitting into the team and the system.
One small problem with that however is that right now the Whitecaps don’t so much have a “team” as they do a random collection of players who trot out on to the field from one game to the next.
Another small problem is that more than one of those players didn’t really seem to be acquired to fit into the system at all.
Nevertheless it says in The Bible that “judge not lest ye be judged” doesn’t apply to professional athletes so let’s go ahead and condemn or condone our fellow human beings with impunity.
Sean Franklin (Guaranteed Compensation-$150,000)- The veteran MLS defender was probably acquired as experienced back up to Jake Nerwinski at right back. But in the last few games he’s earned the starting spot and has shown a nice blend of defensive solidity and attacking prowess.
It’s a shame the presence of the old American prevents the young American from getting in to the team but overall Franklin is a slightly better defender than Nerwinski and a slightly less effective attacking presence and Carl Robinson can’t really be faulted for preferring the former over the latter in this instance.
Worth the money? Yes so far
José Aja- ($240,000)- Aja has become the de facto replacement for Tim Parker as Kendall Waston’s central defensive partner, quickly moving ahead of Aaron Maund in the pecking order.
Aja is nowhere near as reliable a defender as Parker was but he is also nowhere near as bad on the ball as Parker was.
Ostensibly he’s the ideal partner for Waston given their combination of brute force and passing ability but they’ve still to really settle as a consistently effective defensive pairing with every game bringing at least one moment to give the opposition hope.
Whether that’s something that can be fixed with time and familiarity or whether it’s just a feature of the way the two will always play together remains to be seen, but Waston’s departure for the World Cup will make Aja the senior man in whoever his new work buddy turns out to be.
That should tell us a lot more about how good a signing he was.
Worth the money? Yes so far
Efraín Juárez-$620,000- This is where it gets complicated. Juarez arrived in Vancouver after playing as a right back for much of his career but was touted as a central midfielder.
Juarez can play in the midfield of course, it’s just not his best position and its hard to know if Robinson chooses to play him there because he thinks he can add to the team or if he plays him there because that’s where the player wants to play.
Safe to say that whatever the reason the Mexican has yet to show anything other than glimpses of talent and flashes of petulance.
Yet Juarez definitely has the talent and experience to prosper in Major League Soccer and it’s not inconceivable he could turn out to be a pivotal player for the remainder of the season given a fair wind and the right mix of players around him.
But we will probably end up chalking this signing down to another example of the club forlornly hoping their coach could get something out of a player that previous coaches couldn’t.
Worth the money? Not yet no
Jordon Mutch- $285,000- It’s tempting just to type “see previous entry” for this one. Mutch arrived on loan from Crystal palace having barely played a game for the EPL side and with no obvious role in the way the Whitecaps play.
Yet when he has seen the pitch both his strength and quality have shone through and it was as frustrating for fans to see him pick up another injury as it was for the player.
The pessimist that lives inside every football fan will have looked at that moment and shrugged and thought “that’s going to be his season in a nutshell” but the optimist who keeps hammering the pessimist over the head with inflatable unicorns will be hoping the Englishman can find full fitness and form during the latter half of the season.
Worth the money? At that price yes
Felipe Martins- ($425,000) I doubt Carl Robisnon has ever seen a player who is comfortable on the ball and not thought “he would make a good deep-lying defensive midfielder”.
For much of this season the Brazilian has been an expensive version of Russell Teibert and, to be fair, he’s done the job just as well as Teibert does the job.
Except THAT’S NOT WHERE HE SHOULD BE PLAYING!!!
Felipe may not have been stellar when he has played further forward but he has at least offered some degree of guile in an attack that desperately needs it and some service of genuine quality in a team that prefers to play the ball to “areas” than to feet.
Whether the way the team played at the end of the Houston game will convince/force Robinson to be more adventurous is anybody’s guess but it would be frustrating to watch the team’s best passer of the ball tootling ineffectively around in his own half for another ninety minutes.
Worth the money? Depends where he is playing