Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post Draft Whitecaps Roster Analysis: Part II

While they have only signed only five midfielders to a MLS contract, the Whitecaps have many more in camp that have the potential to see significant playing time next year.  Versatility is the word for their center midfielders as the ones in camp have shown the ability to play as an attacker while being responsible defensively.  While the following players can definitely score goals, they are more in the playmaker mold and will create opportunity for the attacking players we will look at in Part III.

At the age of 15 Terry Dunfield was signed to a professional contract by English Premier League’s Manchester City and within four years he made his first appearance in the EPL.  Within nine years, due to changes in coaching, injuries and his own self-admitted immaturity, Dunfield was in League Two and looked to have settled in there.  At the urging of the national coach, Stephen Hart, Dunfield went through the process of finding a higher level and accepted an offer from the hometown Whitecaps.  The local product was probably the best player in the second half of the season with his accurate passes, crisp tackles, and clinical finishing.  Dunfield is also versatile enough to play as a holding midfielder or play in an attacking role and shows leadership skills in the locker room.

The Whitecaps first homegrown signing in the MLS, Philippe Davies, first arrived and signed with the Vancouver Residency program at the age of 16 in 2007.  The Quebec native also has some European experience playing for a second division U16 team in France.  He made his debut in 2009 at the age of 18 but had a breakthrough in 2010 when he started on the right side of the midfield in 26 of 32 appearances.  Davies will not be the fastest player on the pitch but is an excellent passer and crosser that will allow his teammates to finish into the back of the net.  He will not see much first team action as he time to grow being only 18 and is going to develop in the reserve league.

With the final pick in the expansion draft the Whitecaps selected American John Thorrington from the Chicago Fire.  Like Dunfield, Thorrington was signed to contract by EPL team Manchester United at the young age of 17 and similar to his future teammate, he was unable to find playing time in his two years there.  After another 2 years at Bundesliga giant Bayern Leverkusen with no playing time, Thorrington signed with Huddersfield Town, a League Two team in England.  After four more seasons in England he retuned stateside, joining the Chicago Fire in 2005.  He enjoyed his best season in 2008 when he netted 5 goals and added 2 assists.  Thorrington is very versatile as he is able to play any position in the midfield, out wide on either side and centrally as an attacker or in a defensive role.  If he can get over his injury woes, Thorrington can be a steal in the draft especially with his experience in the MLS

The player with the most experience playing for a MLS expansion team is Shea Salinas as the Whitecaps in 2011 will be his third expansion franchise in his four year career.  After a successful four years at Furham College, he was drafted 15th overall in 2008 by the San Jose Earthquakes in their first year back in the MLS.  After making 46 appearances in two seasons on the west coast, Salinas was drafted by expansion Philadelphia Union in 2009 where he made 17 more appearances.  The Whitecaps made Salinas their fourth player selected in the 2010 MLS Expansion draft.  Salinas is right sided midfielder who is a change of pace and will definitely bring speed out wide while also having a good touch with the ball.  He’s on the smallish side, has been injury prone and will have to prove he can handle the physical play of MLS if he wants to establish himself as a starter.

The Whitecaps have four midfielders in camp that were brought over from their Division 2 squad that will attempt to earn MLS contracts.  American Blake Wagner comes in with the most MLS experience as a former Generation Adidas player who made 40 appearances with FC Dallas from 2006-2009.  Only 22 years old, the left sided midfielder joined the Whitecaps last year appearing 16 times and scoring 4 goals.  Wagner is a good passer, has adequate speed and can locate the net from a distance with his strong leg.  Joining the Residency program as a 16 year old, Ethan Gage has played in 30 matches for senior squad in the last 3 years.  The U20 Canadian player of the year and captain of the national team is capable of playing right back and as a holding midfielder.  Because Gage is only 19 and is still finding his position on the pitch, he will not be rushed by the team as he is still eligible to play for their PDL squad next year.

UPDATE:  As per twitter post by Marc Weber of The Province, Ethan Gage is on trial with Reading FC of The Championship.  He will be welcomed back if it doesn't work out.

During the summer transfer window the Whitecaps brought in two international players from Africa in order to get a closer look of their skills and capabilities.  Alex Morfaw, while born in Cameroon, grew up in France playing in the Nantes youth system and made 40 appearances and scored 5 goals over 2 seasons.  After 2 unsuccessful years in England, Morfaw transferred to Boden in Sweden where he tallied 8 goals in a season and a half and in that span helped Cameroon qualify for 2008 Olympics.  Due to injury, Morfaw was unable to contribute immediately as he only played in 6 matches including 3 in the playoffs.  Ghanaian midfielder Gershon Koffie signed his first professional contract at the age of 15 with a third tier team, International Allies, where he scored 28 goals in four seasons.  In 2010, Koffie trained with a club in Sweden and Denmark before accepting an offer from the Whitecaps.  Due to paperwork issues he only made 6 appearances but played in all 4 playoff games which included a goal against expansion cousins Portland Timbers.  The 19 year-old plays centrally in the midfield and is versatile enough to play in a holding or attacking position.

The 2011 draft season saw the Whitecaps add another 3 players to the midfield mix as they picked Michael Nanchoff and Jeb Brovsky in the Superdraft and Canadian Joe Anderson in the Supplemental draft.  Drafted as a Generation Adidas player, Nanchoff from Akron is a left footed midfielder who is described as a smart footballer and could get an opportunity for immediate playing time with the first team.  Of all the players drafted, Brovsky is the most versatile player as in addition to being able to play wide on the backline, he can any spot in the midfield centrally and out wide.  In college, Anderson has played centrally in the midfield but can move to a forward position as he has a scorer’s touch.


Other News:

--As noted by his own twitter account Robbie Savage will not be coming to Vancouver.  He said the presentation was great but didn't want to move his family across the world.

--Ryan O'Leary, nephew of Arsenal great David O'Leary, is trialing with the Whitecaps.  While no official announcement has been made, he has been listed on the roster page of the Whitecaps website under the "in camp" portion.

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