Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Post Draft Whitecaps Roster Analysis: Part III

The players that the Whitecaps have brought in to compete for the attacking positions will not strike fear into the opposition’s defenders and goalies.  There are only two pure strikers in camp, one who is on trial and the other, who is signed, can’t play for the team until he turns 18 in September.  I purposely made this the last part of the series because I was hoping management would have brought someone new through the transfer window.  Some of the players I have included in this piece will play the majority of their time as midfielders but they also have the ability to move up top to play the forward position.

Once the Whitecaps had selected their ten players in the expansion draft, they had acquired four that had played striker in the MLS.  However, after the wheeling and dealing that took place, post draft, the Whitecaps were left with only one, Atiba Harris of FC Dallas.  While his natural position is winger on the right side of the midfield, Harris has the size and ability to play as a target striker as witnessed during the MLS playoffs last year.  As a midfielder he is good on the dribble, has provided crisp passes and accurate crosses for his teammates.  When asked to play in the box he shows a great ability winning balls in the air and has shown flashes of his finishing abilities.  Internationally the resident of St. Kitts and Nevis has had a solid strike rate scoring nine goals in 25 appearances.  The chances of Harris starting at up top will depend on who will be brought in through the transfer window.

The Whitecaps stunned the MLS world when they drafted Omar Salgado first overall at the Superdraft but as management have stated since then they had rated Salgado above others based on his skills and world class potential.  It’s hard to argue with the potential he displays as he has all the requisite skills a top striker would need to develop into a generational talent.  In addition to his size (6’4”), the former Chivas academy player has above average dribbling, ball control, striking skills and obviously is very good in the air.  While other teams drafted college players in the first round, the Whitecaps drafted a product of an academy that has recently produced EPL standout Javier Hernandez.  This will be a perfect test for the Whitecaps, as well as Salgado, and their reputation to develop young talent into professional players.

Swiss international Davide Chiumiento was signed during the summer of 2010 and the former Juventus academy product, while primarily having played attacking midfielder, came to Vancouver with the desire to play the second striker position.  He did not see much success in the few games he played in the fall but lack of conditioning and chemistry was a main reason for that.  While not having a top gear, Dede is quick and has an amazing skillset that allows him to connect with midfielders and distribute the ball forward.  Ridge Mobulu was another Swiss player brought in during the summer and primarily played as a forward for the NASL side.  While the midfield is his more natural position as he can play wide or centrally, he may see some time as a second striker.  Mobulu was born in Switzerland but will represent Congo internationally as both his parents were born there.

Immediately after playing a friendly against the Tanzanian national team, the Whitecaps were impressed by and then signed Nizar Khalfan.  He's another player who is considered a winger but is also very capable of playing a central role on the pitch. However the majority of Khalfan’s starts in the 2010 season were as a striker.  In addition to his creative and playmaking abilities, the 21-year-old has blazing speed and uses it to create distance from his opponents.  Cornelius Stewart is another player who can fill the striker position as he was Khalfan’s partner for the majority of last season. Stewart has the ability to fly past opponents, is strong on the ball and is very good at distributing the ball whether it’s putting a through ball going forward or finding trailing midfielders sneaking into the box.  Both of these players will have to work on their touch around the net in order to maximize on their opportunities when attacking. 

The Whitecaps have a couple of Canadian products that if not immediate options for first team duty could be future pieces of the puzzle.  Kyle Porter is a residency product who signed with the Whitecaps in 2008 but has spent the majority of the last two years on loan to German side Energie Cottbus.  He returned to the Whitecaps last summer and according to Teitur Thoradsson has been very impressive both out wide and up top.  In his debut appearance last season Porter displayed those skills when he crossed a perfect pass into the box that was converted into a score.  Another option is two-time U17 Canada player of the year Russell Teibert is an attacking player who can either play on the left side of the midfield or as a striker.  After a brief time with TFC the Ontario native joined the residency program at the age of 15 in 2008 and unlike Porter remained with the academy.  Both players are fixtures on the U17 and U20 national teams and if signed to MLS would be under contract as homegrown players.

There are a couple of unknowns, for fans, that are in camp that could be potential roster players for the forward or winger position.  Chinese international Long Tan is a striker acquired by the club from Tampa Bay that completed a deal from the summer went they sent Sanchez and Steele south.  The Caps traded for him as they were intrigued by his size and his athletic ability on the ground and in the air and hope he can develop his finishing abilities.  Born in Kosovo but not now citizens of Switzerland, Bedri Gashi is another young player from the Alps in the Whitecaps organization.  Gashi was signed to the residency and may start the season there but there is potential as he can play either side of the midfield and may find a spot up front as well.

Other News:

--Ethan Gage has returned to Vancouver and his agent is waiting for a potential contract from Reading FC in Champions League.  His opinion is that it went well but if nothing is offered he is happy to return to the Whitecaps.

--Budweiser is the official beer of BC Place and the Whitecaps.  There is a positive to this news as if this is the only choice at games there will either be more sober people and less fights at the games or pregame sales at pubs will increase significantly.

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