Vancouver Whitecaps Player Ratings 2021: The Forwards

Last time out we looked at the performances of the Whitecaps midfielders in 2021 and, before that the defence. Can you guess who we will be looking at today?

No, wrong! It’s not the admin staff, it’s the forwards. That was a terrible guess. Be better!

Cristian Dajome- There have been times when Dajome has been the essence of the Whitecaps team. If he was making an impact then the Whitecaps were making an impact. That changed with the arrival of both Sartini and Gauld, but Dajome remained a vital presence. However….it’s still not clear how he will fit into Sartini’s system over the long term. He’s an okay central forward slash deep lying forward but he’s so much better when given room to run in out wide and hit those powerful crosses that are essentially shots hit along the six yard line. It’s not impossible to envisage him as a wing back in the near future.

Season rating-6

Deiber Caicedo- Caicedo grew as the season went on and the hope is that a good pre-season will see him work on his final pass and his finishing to help shape him into a more complete player. He could be integral in 2022 or he could be an impact sub.

Season rating-6

Tossaint Ricketts- His contributions off the field were invaluable in making a connection with the supporters upon the return to BC Place. His contributions on the field were less successful. But he worked hard when given the chance and was hampered by injury for much of the year.

Season rating-3

Ryan Raposo- Another season where Raposo made little impact when given his limited chances. Needs to move to somewhere where he will play meaningful football.

Season rating-2

Ryan Gauld- The Platonic ideal of the kind of Designated Player that Vancouver should be signing. Gauld won’t amaze people with his trickery or elicit gasps of astonishment as he rakes a cross field pass to the feet of an on rushing wing-back. But he will always make the right run, make the right pass and be in the right place when a ball falls loose in the box and, in doing so, drag those around him into doing the same. Throw in his tireless work ethic and Gauld is already the best DP in Whitecaps history.

Season rating-7

Brian White- The Platonic ideal of the kind of intra-MLS player the Whitecaps should be signing. Seen as a back up to Lucas Cavallini when he first signed White’s profile went from “Who is he?” to “How is he doing that?” surprisingly quickly. But he did it by playing for the team, sticking to his role and being a better finisher than most of us expected him to be.

Season rating-6.5

Lucas Cavallini- There were time this season when Cavallini looked less like a professional footballer and more like an Avant Garde performance artist as his cameo appearances would feature what seemed to be an array of challenging takes on modern society. What was he trying to say as he watched another ball bounce haplessly off his shins? Why was he just trying to protect the ball in the middle of the pitch? Not move it forward or backwards, just protect it? Were his incessant yellow cards a damning indictment of the growing authoritarianism within the world? Were his arm waving complaints to his colleagues about their own failures a biting satire on the lack of self awareness within a privileged elite? Nobody knows. Cavallini may have been a functioning striker in the dim and distant past, but it’s rare to see a player fall of a metaphorical cliff quite so precipitously. He really needs to leave.

Season rating-1

Vancouver Whitecaps Player Ratings 2021: The Midfield

Last time out we took a look at the the multitude of defenders on the Whitecaps roster and awarded season ratings based on objectivity and science.

This time we take a look at the less crowded area of midfielders.

Russell Teibert- The official Whitecaps site archly lists Teibert as a forward. He’s not. This season however (or rather this half-season coinciding with the appointment of Sartini) Teibert demonstrated that he could do more than simply scamper back to receive the ball from a central defender, before returning the ball to the same central defender with unerring accuracy. He hit intelligent forward passes, got some assists and even scored a goal. Aside from the period where Martin Rennie tried to turn him into an MLS Arjen Robben it was Teibert’s most impressive run of form as a Whitecap. That was both pleasing to see and yet somehow tinged with the melancholy of the lingering shadows of all the seasons that might have been had his coaches asked more of him.

Season rating-6

Janio Bikel- There were those (me) who hoped that this season Bikel would show the quality to impose himself in the midfield role. Be an upgrade on Teibert and give the Whitecaps the combination of steel and guile they’ve been missing for so long. But it never happened or, if it did, it happened in fits and starts and Bikel was relegated to the bench without ever performing well enough to win his place back. A hugely disappointing season.

Season rating-3.5

Leonard Owusu- During pre-season Owusu earned rave reviews for his performances. Mar Dos Santos took this as unacceptable behaviour and barely played him for months on end. Vanni Sartini did play him and, while he could be fitful in his level of play, Owusu did offer at least some of the steel and some of the guile that the Whitecaps have been missing for so long.

Season rating-5.5

Michael Baldisimo– Sartini tried Baldisimo as a central defender and although the idea of turning him into a Koemanesque lynch pin of the defence seems appealing it didn’t work. Neither did Baldisimo work in midfield this season and it’s hard to see how he ever will while Sartini is in charge. Sartini needs his two central players to be water carriers and Baldisimo’s game is built on accepting the occasional leak in return for the possibility of jets of inspiration. Baldisimo needs to be somewhere where he will play football regularly.

Season rating-3

Patrick Metcalfe- There was no shame in Metcalfe failing when he was played in central defence and there was no shame when he failed when played as a wing-back (there was bafflement, but no shame). But on the few occasions when Metcalfe did get to play in central midfield he still remained an anonymous figure. A sadly failed audition.

Season rating-2

Caio Alexandre– Injury curtailed his season to make any genuine assessment impossible. But Alexandre showed glimpses of what he could do going forward and the possibility of him linking up with Gauld remains intriguing.

Season rating-4

Next time out we look at the forwards!

Vancouver Whitecaps 2021 Player Ratings: The Defence

Now that a wild ride of a season has ended for the Vancouver Whitecaps it’s time to take a deep breath, use the benefit of hindsight and pass unflinching judgment on each and every player.

But where shall we start? We shall start at the beginning and keep going until we get to the end.

Max Crepeau– This was comfortably Crepeau’s best season for the Whitecaps. Mainly because he was less savey and more catchy. Or, for those who are not au fait with the more technical terms of the goalkeeping trade, he’s developed into a more mature and therefore less noticeable goalkeeper. His distribution could still be better but perhaps that will come in time too?

Season rating-7

Thomas Hasal- Hasal played just enough games to have an opinion formed about him and yet not enough to give that opinion any value. When he did play he lacked the confidence he displayed last season and he now needs to be somewhere where he will play on a regular basis.

Season rating-4.5

Bruno Gaspar- There were times in his early appearances when Gaspar looked disinterested in playing football of any kind. He was reluctant to get forward and equally reticent to track back. That left him a tough task to win over the fans and he probably never quite did that. He definitely got better as he acclimatized to MLS, but good enough to earn another season? No.

Season rating-4.5

Javain Brown- The surprise hit of the summer. Brown came into the team and did exactly what Sartini wanted him to do by getting forward as often as he could. Brown wasn’t perfect in every game, especially from a defensive point of view, but the Whitecaps were a worse team when he wasn’t playing. Give this man a pay rise!

Season rating-6.5

Cristián Gutiérrez– Would have been a similar summary to Brown, but injuries hit his season deep. Still, Gutiérrez is well suited to the wing back role and has quality in his crosses and set-pieces. It’s a big season for him next year, not least in terms of maintaining full fitness.

Season rating-5.5

Marcus Godinho– Barely played but did start the playoff game against Kansas for some reason. He’s not terrible defensively, but Godinho is not a good attacking full back and so it’s hard to see where he will fit in the long term.

Season rating-3.5

Jake Nerwinski– Until Sartini was appointed coach, Nerwinski was heading down the road marked “Yesterday’s full back”, with his lack of pace and lack of quality in his final ball marking him down as a remnant of a previous age. But Sartini’s decision to play him in the central defensive role revitalized his career and Nerwinski proved himself to be perfectly competent, with even the odd foray up the field added to his repertoire.

Season rating-5.5

Ranko Veselinovic- Veselinovic got better the more he played, although neither Dos Santos or Sartini seemed to fully trust him. Nevertheless, with a full post-season of playing in a three man defence Veselinovoic could (should) be a regular starter next season.

Season rating-5.5

Erik Godoy- If Godoy could stay fit he’d be the most important player on the Whitecaps squad. A solid defender who reads the game well and can pass the ball. But he can’t stay fit it seems which makes balancing his contribution a tough ask for any coach. Keep him for the minutes he can play or opt for a more reliable option?

Season rating-5

Andy Rose- Beloved by coaches for the experience he brings to the defence, Rose has proven himself to be better in theory than in practice. There certainly seemed to be no discernible improvement when he was in the team and his penchant for overestimating his ability to hit a forty yard pass to feet can become wearisome. Should not be in the playing squad next season.

Season rating-3.5

Florian Jungwirth- Seemingly brought in for his leadership as much as his play on the field, Jungwirth did indeed prove to be “good in the locker room”. He was also pretty good in games too, providing a touch of physicality the other Vancouver central defenders lacked. He’s been signed for another year and rightfully so.

Season rating-6

What a lot of defenders the Whitecaps have!

But the objective in the off season has to be making sure there is quality cover in the wing back role and adding at least one more central defender to the roster, mainly to avoid either Baldisimo or Metcalfe having to play there ever again.

Next time out we judge the midfield!

Vancouver Whitecaps face the final curtain.

And so it ends.

The 3-1 defeat at Kansas City ended the Whitecaps 2021 season with perhaps more of a whimper than a bang.

The chosen starting eleven seemed to be a case of Vanni Sartini being a little too Vanni Sartini, with Godhino and Gaspar as wing backs and Andy Rose in central defence.

Rose was fine, although the defence looked capable of being breached whenever the hosts broke forward with the ball, but Gaspar and Godinho offered nothing of quality going forward and Vancouver were subsequently toothless in attack.

Neither could they find a way to get Ryan Gauld into the game as Owusu and Teibert were out played and anonymous in midfield.

Once Dajome was moved to the wing back role the Whitecaps looked to offer more of a threat but, by then, it was too late.

But no sense to dwell on the disappointment of this one defeat and look instead at the overall tenor of the season because, for once, the Whitecaps losing in the playoffs doesn’t feel like the end of something. It feels like the beginning.

There’s already the nucleus of a good team there, but the off season acquisitions will be crucial.

They need to be better in the centre of the pitch next season and they need one more (maybe two) genuine attacking wing backs to offset the possibility of injuries demolishing the teams preferred style of play as well as another central defender.

They also need to replace Cavallini with a better player.

All this presumes that Vanni Sartini returns as coach of course, but that must surely be a given.

He may have got it wrong in this particular game, but he’s changed the mentality of the players and the quality of the football in a manner that seemed inconceivable during the early summer.

It all starts again in February so the Whitecaps will be back before we know it.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-4, Gaspar-3, Godinho-4, Rose-4.5, Nerwinski-4.5, Jungwirth-4, Teibert-2, Owusu-3, Gauld-4.5, Dajome-4.5*, White-4 (Godoy4.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: A new world struggles to be born

Heat domes, bomb cyclones, tornadoes and the Vancouver Whitecaps making the playoffs.

Things just get stranger and stranger.

The Whitecaps clinched the much coveted berth with a 1-1 tie against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday afternoon and now travel to Kansas in the next stage of their adventure.

Almost more impressive than that feat however was the way Vancouver approached the game.

We have all lived through the Whitecaps facing a Cascadian rival at home in a crucial game and immediately retreating into their shell. Playing with fear and a hope for the best attitude that admits defeat from the get go.

But, under Sartini, they are a different animal.

They attacked from the first whistle and didn’t allow the inevitable Fredy Montero goal to distract them from their purpose.

Sartini’s decision to play the same system no matter who was available has turned out to be the foundation for the resurgence of the team.

Okay we got to see Baldisimo as a central defender and Metcalfe as a wing back. But the message it sent to the players was that they were going to play their own way and if they lost then so be it. But no more emphasis on how good the opposition were and simply setting up to nullify them.

Sartini is the first Vancouver MLS coach (since Teitur Thordarson) to not go into every game with an inherent sense of inferiority.

He’s also the first coach since Teitur Thordarson to connect with the supporters.

Tom Soehn was an executive in a coach’s tracksuit, Martin Rennie was too out of his depth to think of such things, Carl Robinson didn’t think anybody in British Columbia understood the game as well as he did and felt such statecraft beneath him and Marc Dos Santos was too trapped in the purgatory of the way he wanted his team to play and the way it actually played.

No doubt Sartini’s willingness to connect with the fanbase is down to his personality, but it’s also a savvy PR move on his part.

A club with the need for as much positivity as it can get will find it immensely difficult to remove the most positive figure in the organization.

But would it be the right move from a purely footballing point of view?

It’s possible that Sartini is riding the wave of optimism the players have felt since returning to BC Place and it’s possible that once the fresh scent of change wears off they stop buying whatever he is selling them. It’s also possible that the addition of Ryan Gauld has been enough to propel the team on such a good run. And it’s possible that it could all end in tears and heartbreak before we know it.

But there seems to be more substance to Sartini’s coaching than merely good will and good quotes. He’s got the players to pass and move (it’s an indication of how poor the Whitecaps have been that passing and moving is seen as a major innovation) and suddenly the player on the ball has an option to pass to rather than staring down the blind alley of nothingness that induces the hopeful punt forward.

And do we really think Dos Santos would have used Gauld as anything other than a get out of jail free card from the regular backs to the wall defensive showpiece?

It would be a brave decision by the Whitecaps to replace Sartini and the role would perhaps be something of a poisoned chalice for the new incumbent to drink from.

For now though it’s on to Kansas with the knowledge that the Whitecaps will approach the game in the way it should be approached. An opportunity to be grabbed rather than an ordeal to be survived.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6, Brown-6, Gutierrez-6, Jungwirth-6, Nerwinski-6, Veselnovic-6, Teibert-5.5, Owusu-5.5, Gauld-6.5*, Dajome-5, White-4.5 (Bikel-3)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Lariats of Fire

I suppose it was always going to come down to the final game against Seattle.

But the 1-1 tie with LAFC felt like a rehearsal for that game for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Because this game was the difference between the freedom of trying to get into the playoff places and the tension of clinching a playoff place.

And the early Dajome goal simply convinced Vancouver that hanging on to what they had for the rest of the game was a sensible tactic.

It wasn’t.

But, on the positive side, they were much better defensively in the second half. Less inclined to invite pressure and more inclined to keep the ball whenever they could.

It wasn’t pretty, but they worked for what they had and, in the end, just about deserved what they got.

Hopefully this game will have exorcised the playoff jitters from their collective consciousness and they can play the Sounders with a degree of freedom they lacked in Los Angeles.

The playoffs effectively start on Sunday afternoon.

Go big or go home.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6.5*, Gaspar-5, Brown-4.5, Nerwinski-4.5, Godoy-5, Jungwirth-5, Teibert-4.5, Owusu-5, Dajome-5.5, Gauld-5.5, White-5 (Guttierez-5.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Circling the heights

The Vancouver Whitecaps played the first half of the crucial end of season game against Minnesota United in exactly the way we have come to expect the Whitecaps to play such games.

They were tentative on the ball, more concerned with going backwards than going forwards and out played and out fought.

That they went into the lead at half time thanks to alumni Michael Boxall was a minor miracle. But it didn’t feel like a turning point, it felt like a pit stop on the trip to playoff despair.

Maybe that’s because I’m old enough to remember when a Vancouver coach would look at that one nil lead and think that either a) things were going fine so why change them? or b) now is the time to hunker down and hold on to that lead for as long as we can.

That didn’t happen this time however and the Whitecaps approached the second half with vigour, movement and some genuinely nice passing moves.

Thus it was not a surprise when Brain White slotted home after one of those slick moves and it was somewhat of surprise to see Minnesota grab a goal back with less than three minutes remaining.

Fortunately those minutes were the property of Lucas Cavallini, as he first picked up the ball in midfield and ran around in a circle before earning a time wasting foul and then held the ball in the corner to kill even more precious seconds.

But the biggest shout out of the day goes to Jake Nerwinski.

Nerwinski seemed to be heading for MLS oblivion once he lost his right back role to faster and more attack minded players. But he has slotted into central defence startlingly well and could well prove to be a valuable member of the squad for seasons to come.

Whatever happens now the Whitecaps will go into the final game of the season (at home to Seattle) with at least a chance of making the post-season. Who would have thunk it?

And who would have thunk that watching the Whitecaps could be a genuinely enjoyable experience?

What a world.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-5, Gaspar-5, Brown-6, Nerwinski-6.5*, Veselinovic-6, Jungwirth-5.5, Teibert-5, Owusu-5.5, Gauld-5.5, Dajome-4.5, White-5.5

Vancouver Whitecaps involved in a game of football

The Whitecaps 1-1 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes was one of those MLS road games.

The team never gelled. Passes were mostly either under hit or over hit and when they did reach their target the target couldn’t control the ball with the first touch.

So there’s two ways of looking at the result (actually there are a myriad of ways, but two will suffice for now).

This was either a point gained on a night when the out of town scoreboard favoured the Whitecaps and the team didn’t play well. Or it was a point lost as Sartini sent out his strongest starting eleven and will now probably have to rest at least a few for the crucial game at BC Place on Wednesday against Minnesota

The main positive of the evening was the performance of Bruno Gaspar who, for perhaps the first time in a Vancouver jersey, looked capable of being a starting full back.

His goal was the icing on the cake, but the substance was in his defensive play and his ability to get forward when needed.

Suddenly Brown and Gutierrez don’t look to be the automatic choices for the starting spots.

As for the rest of the players there weren’t so much negatives as just an absence of polarity. Neither here nor there. Just hustle and bustle with no real end product.

Only time will tell if this was a point gained or a point dropped but, for now, it’s best to just move on and never think of this game again.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Gaspar-6*-Dajome-4.5, Veselinovic-5, Godoy-5.5, Jungwirth-5-Teibert-4, Owusu-4.5, Gauld-5, Caicedo-3, White-4

Vancouver Whitecaps: A little bit very bad, a little bit very good

The Whitecaps season wasn’t dead when they went into the break in Portland two goals down and playing like they had never seen each other before in their lives, but it was definitely sitting on the couch and wondering if that pain in its left arm was something to really be concerned about.

Turns out it was nothing to be worried about at all because they went on to win the game 3-2.

How did that happen?

Seriously, how did that happen?

It was mainly the introduction of Cristian Dajome for Javain Brown (after Brown played possibly the worst game of his career) because Dajome provided a degree of intent and spark that was badly missing in the first half.

But for those who believe that sport is a mix of Greek tragedy, high farce and some kind of bizarre twist on an allegorical Morality Play it really all changed the moment Lucas Cavallini was replaced by Brian White.

Not because Cavallini was particularly terrible (although he wasn’t great) but because the universe has decided that the Canadian striker must suffer the fate of watching his supposed understudy reap all the glory night after night after night.

The scoring began with a Caicedo run from his own half, was followed by Gaspar (Yes Gaspar!) pulling a seemingly lost ball back to White who (obviously) headed it into the corner and it ended with Dajome slotting home a penalty that he earned for himself.

Not even seven minutes of added time could derail the Whitecaps.

The previous results of the evening had left Vancouver seemingly adrift in the post-season race, but suddenly they find themselves in the playoff places and with more belief than a Ted Lasso episode written by Neil Diamond.

On to San Jose where we have no idea what will happen next.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-5, Brown-1, Godinho-4, Jungwirth-5, Nerwinski-4.5, Gutierrez-4.5, Teibert-3.5, Bikel-4.5, Caicedo-5, Gauld-4, Cavallini-3 (White-5, Gaspar-5.5, Dajome-6.5*)

Whitecaps win the Russell face off.

For the first half of the first half against Sporting Kansas City the Whitecaps were given a footballing lesson.

Out played, out pressed and out thought they somehow hung in there in the vain hope that a moment of quality from a player with the vision to arrive in the right place at the right time pulled them out of the mire.

But, before Russell Teibert added the second with a trademark rapier strike from the edge of the box, Ryan Gauld had pounced on a Brian White knockdown to give Vancouver the lead.

Up to (and following) his goal Teibert had his worst game of the season. Dawdling on the ball and misplacing any pass that wasn’t sent backwards (seemingly with the express intention of putting a teammate in trouble).

Oh well, the footballing gods can be fickle masters.

A two goal lead barely seemed credible and when Johnny Russell brought one back for Kansas before the break it felt like only a matter of time before the Whitecaps succumbed again.

But they didn’t,

To their credit they kept Kansas at arms length for the whole of the second half and only those invested in the result would have felt that the equalizer was coming.

The Whitecaps were certainly helped by having three actual central defenders playing in central defence, but they were also helped by the return of Javain Brown who, even playing on the left, offered the attacking threat that’s been lacking in his absence.

Given the way other results went this weekend a win felt as close to a necessity as it could be and the Whitecaps earned this one with a mix of old fashioned grit and new fashioned nous.

In the circumstances this might have been the most impressive win of the Santini era thus far.

Although “era” seems excessive for such a short amount of time. “Epoch”? Period?” “Span”?

Let’s go with “Span”.

Given the circumstances this might have been the most impressive win of the Santini span thus far.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6, Gaspar-5, Brown-6, Godoy-6*, Veselnovic-5.5, Jungwirth-6, Owusu-4.5, Teibert-4, Dajome-4, Gauld-5, Whire-5 (Bikel-5.5)