Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Whitecaps Add Two Internationals. Who's Next?

The Whitecaps signed two international players today, as it was announced the team has inked Gerson Koffie and Nizar Khalfan to MLS contracts.   The signings are the first non-domestic footballers on the squad as both players originate from the continent of Africa.  Both Khalfan and Koffie are holdovers from the 2010 NASL squad, as the Whitecaps are allowed to sign an unlimited number of players from that roster.  The Caps still have eight international spots to fill in having acquired two through trade during the expansion draft.

The Whitecaps discovered Khalfan while the team played a friendly against the Tanzanian national team in 2009.  Nizar Khalfan, while normally considered a winger, is a versatile player as he can play anywhere along the midfield.  In fact, the majority of Khalfan’s starts in the 2010 season were up top as a striker paired with Cornelius Stewart.  Khalfan could be considered a jack of all trades as he does many things well but there is no doubt his biggest asset is his speed coming down the wing.  While his starts in MLS will be limited in 2011, Khalfan will be dangerous for the Whitecaps as a substitute.

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.  While he joined the Caps in the summer of 2010, due to paperwork issues he only made 6 appearances and included a goal against expansion cousins Portland Timbers in the playoffs.  The 19 year-old plays centrally in the midfield and is versatile enough to play in a holding or in an attacking position.  He shows great poise on the ball and his ferocious tackles in the field will earn him quite a number of cards this year.

The Whitecaps have now a total of 16 players signed for 2011, 14 domestic and 2 internationals, and the next question is who is next to sign.  It’s fairly easy to identify the six domestic players that will be added as Russell Teibert, Kyle Porter, Jeb Brovsky and Bilall Duckett have all earned praise at different times in the offseason.  Academy product Brian Sylvestre should be the third goalie and Blake Wagner is a left sided player with MLS experience.  Davide Chiumiento, Cornelius Stewart and, if healthy, Mouloud Akloul should be signed as international players.  While 2-3 of the remaining 5 spots may be reserved for incoming players in the next month or so, the Caps have Long Tan, Micheal Boxall, Ridge Mobulu and Alex Morfaw to fill those spots if necessary.

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