Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Transfer Windows Close But Rumours Will Never Die

The MLS transfer window closed on April 15th and will not reopen again until July 15th but transfer rumours have not simmered down for the Vancouver Whitecaps.  In recent days the organization has been linked in European newspapers with the potential of Owen Hargreaves and Andriy Shevchenko arriving in the summer on free transfers.  With the European league’s seasons winding down there will be more and more of this speculation in the papers as player A will be linked to Club B.

This is just the latest round of speculation concerning the Whitecaps and the two players above as they have been linked in the past as potential acquisitions.  It either takes a small connection or one person’s whisper to fan the flames and the media will spread the rumour like wildfire.  Just take a look at the talk of the possibility of Irish striker Robbie Keane joining the Whitecaps before the season started.

Keane, then of Tottenham, was not getting any first team minutes and was languishing on the bench for the Spurs.  The Whitecaps had many open spots on their roster, especially at the forward position, and the head man of the Caps, Paul Barber, was formerly part of the Tottenham organization.  Add to this that Keane’s wife, a model, gave an interview that she would love to follow a similar path to the U.S. as Posh Beckham and there was legitimate foundation to the story.  Of course everyone ignored the fact that it was highly unlikely the Whitecaps were going to pay a high seven figure transfer fee for his services.

This is not to say that the Whitecaps did not inquire about Keane but you can imagine that prior to the season the front office may have talked to agents and clubs about the possibility of around 100 players.  The only inquiry that became public was when Robbie Savage tweeted about a Caps offer and the club had to have known that he wasn’t going to keep his mouth shut.  Another one was the picture of Thoradson and Sohen scouting a team in Chile and so far nothing has come of that trip.

In my opinion it is highly unlikely that either Hargreaves or Shevchenko ever wear the Whitecaps kit and play in Empire or BC Place.  Prior to the season the Shevchenko story had legs as many experts felt the Caps would struggle to score goals.  Since then the Caps have added a designated player in Eric Hassli, discovered a sniper in Camilo and learned that first overall pick Omar Salgado would be available for the full season.  The position that was deemed a weakness has been strengthened and the veteran striker would become redundant unless another is moved or they look at one of their current strikers at another position and then a Shevchenko signing could be a possibility.

Despite the fact that many supporters feel Hargreaves turned his back on his country of birth to play for England’s nation squad there are other reasons he would not be a fit.  The ex-Canadian midfielder has a long list injury issues and has barely played for Manchester United since his arrival three years ago.  This year he only lasted for eight minutes before he was shut down and playing on turf will not help his cause.  Even if the organization entertained the idea they may have changed their mind after seeing how Teal Bunbury was treated when he visited Empire earlier this year.  Of course they did just sign Sydney Leroux who many supporters consider to be the female version of Bunbury.

The Whitecaps have two international spots available, acquired at the expansion draft through trade, and should fill them in the summer.  The two positions that I think they would do well to bolster is to acquire a central attacking midfielder who can slide up to forward when needed and a fullback capable of playing either the left or right side.  The club can also sign up to two more designated players with each only counting $175,000 for the remainder of the season against the salary cap with an additional purchase price of $250,000 paid to the league for the third DP spot.

After reading list of available free summer transfers and if money is no object for the Whitecaps and their deep pocketed owners then I would suggest that a player like Australian international Harry Kewell would a solid choice as the second DP.  Kewell can play multiple positions in the midfield as well as up front as a striker, is a possession type of player who is left footed and can play the MLS style of football.  He would be available for free and still shows he has the legs to contribute on a regular basis. 

An international player that I would like to see to fill the fullback position for the Whitecaps is a defender like Greek international Loukas Vyntra.  Being a two footed the defender he is capable of playing any position on the back line but primarily Vyntra is a right back.  While Jonathan Leathers has had a solid season there will be more fixture congestion and having another defender will mean less of forcing Blake Wagner at left back as he will be able to cover for Rochat as well.

Whitecaps supporters should not get too excited when hearing about the names that may be coming this summer as the primary task of newspapers is to sell copy or increase traffic to their site by creating rumours.  It’s very hard to avoid the stories and not dream about the additions and throw in your own ideas about who should and shouldn’t be signed.  Everyone wants to be an armchair manager for the favourite club.  It only took myself seven paragraphs to start throwing out my own ideas for who the the Caps should sign.  When it comes to making personnel decisions, the Whitecaps have made few mistakes so far in their early existence in the MLS and that should continue that trend of finding the right players when the summer transfer window opens in less than three months.

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