Thursday, July 28, 2011

Caps Release Two Defenders

A couple of weeks into the transfer season and the Vancouver Whitecaps made a couple moves to create some room on their roster for potential additions.  The club announced that defenders Mouloud Akloul and Blake Wagner were placed on waivers, and if not picked up by another MLS team, they will be released from their contracts.  The moves open up two spots on the roster including an international spot but doesn’t free up any money on their salary cap as both were waived after July 1st.

Coming through the French youth system, Akloul went abroad spending his time in Algeria and UAE before signing with Whitecaps in April of 2010.  His season did not last long as 21 minutes into his debut he fractured his ankle while scoring a goal in front of the home crowd.  While going through rehab and multiple surgeries, Akloul quickly became a fan favourite despite playing a limited time on the pitch.  After finally getting medical clearance he was one of the last additions to the roster before the season started.

The French central defender did not get his first start until the eighth game of the season as he attempted to get into game shape.  Akloul made nine starts for the Caps including two against Montreal in the Nutrilite semi-final where his goal in extra time allowed the club to advance to the final.  It was clear that after the coaching change that Akloul’s play struggled on the pitch as his final start was against the Sounders on June 22nd.  It will be hard to guess how things may have gone differently for Akloul if there was no injury suffered but he seemed to have the tools and pedigree to succeed in the MLS.

Blake Wagner was drafted out of high school in the 2006 MLS draft by FC Dallas as a Generation Adidas player.  In his three seasons with FC Dallas he made 40 appearances, including 23 starts in 2008, but deciding to sign with the Whitecaps before the 2010 season.  While listed both as a winger and defender Wagner played mostly as a midfielder last season for the Division 2 Caps. 

Wagner made nine MLS starts for the Whitecaps, all coming at left back normally when the coaching staff was forced to move Alain Rochat inside to cover injuries to several central defenders.  While Wagner did not make any glaring injuries, he lacked confidence when on the pitch especially going forward.  It became apparent that his time in Vancouver was ending when the Whitecaps acquired left back Jordan Harvey from Philadelphia and started playing Jonathan Leathers on the left side.

Both players were signed by the then newly appointed Tom Soehn for the 2010 season as the Whitecaps prepared for their first MLS season.  While Wagner was signed because the Caps lacked left footed players, Akloul was thought to be a player who could start regularly on the backline.  There will be questions whether it is fair to give a player, who suffered a major injury that required additional surgeries, only half a season to find his game.

The move opens up two spots on the senior roster and one could assume that they are close to bringing in new players to fill in the roster.  The Whitecaps still require a central midfielder and another defender whether it’s a center back or a full back.  With Akloul’s release the Caps can still bring in three international players and of course if they decide to use all available international positions, a domestic player would have to be shown the door.

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