With the 2011 transfer window now open, the Whitecaps will look to upgrade their MLS roster as they attempt to improve their slim chances on making the playoffs this year. There are quite a few holes that need to be filled in their starting eleven and in their overall depth. However most of those changes will take place in the offseason when they will have more time and opportunity to scout players.
For now the Whitecaps can bring in a few players which would help solidify the line-up and correct the current weaknesses in their game. These players will have to fit in the current salary cap structure for this season which only the team officials are aware of. With the imminent release of Akloul, the roster currently has two openings on the 30 man roster and the Caps can bring in up to three international players. Of course more spots would be available if they decide to release additional players. These are the four positions that the I believe the Whitecaps need to upgrade in order to have any chance at finishing the season on a positive note.
1-Central Midfielder: Of all the needs the Whitecaps have this one is the no brainer. The Whitecaps have had their issues when they approach the final third and a creative midfielder would resolve this issue. The midfielder they need to acquire also needs the mentality and the leadership of a field marshal as there have been many times when the Caps overrun by the opposition. The current crop of midfielders they have play the game in a similar way as Dunfield, Brovsky and Koffie are all great at recovering the ball in the midfield but when they start to push the forward, the attack seems to stall. The team expected a contribution from John Thorrington when they picked him the expansion draft but the MLS veteran has only played less than a half due to injury. An acquisition in the midfield would decrease the pressure that has been unfairly placed on these three to play that role.
2-Central Defender: The Whitecaps have been unable to find a regular partner for their captain Jay DeMerit on the backline. As of right now Michael Boxall fills the role and while he is developing into a solid player, the team can’t be comfortable having a supplemental draft pick as a starter. There is also the rumoured release of Mouloud Akloul that has yet to be announced but has been confirmed by a few beat reporters. It’s is also very clear that Soehn doesn’t trust Greg Janicki in a starters role as he was released by Soehn in DC and was signed to the Caps before his arrival in February of 2010. Having a starting quality defender in the center would also keep Alain Rochat from having to move inside when the need arises. With the current players on the roster at this position an athletic center half with the ability to push forward would be ideal.
3-Left Midfielder: The current left wing position has the Caps filling round holes with square pegs as they are desperate enough that they moved Camilo from his normal striker position to the left wing spot. While the Brazilian is great at making runs off the sidelines into the box, he doesn’t provide proper service and can be a liability when tracking back. Their first round pick, Michael Nanchoff has had injury issues all season while home-grown product Russell Teibert is still too young for regular duty. The ideal player for this roster spot would be a winger with pace, the ability to provide service with crosses and provide some goals. It would be a bonus if he could slide on the odd occasion and provide coverage in a central role playing either as a withdrawn striker or in as an attacking midfielder.
4-Fullback: This would be more of a depth move for the club as the Whitecaps need someone versatile enough to play both the right and left side. The starting duo of Alain Rochat on the left and Jonathan Leathers on the right have been solid this year but when one is unavailable due to injury or position switch then the questions arise. There is a major drop off in talent whenever Rochat has been rested this year or has had to move to cover for a central defender as Blake Wagner doesn’t have the ability to join the attack and gives away the ball too easily. Soehn has shown very little confidence in Wes Knight and while athletic, Bilal Duckett is far too raw for MLS duty. The Whitecaps need to bring in a player to cover Rochat when the need arises and maybe challenge Leathers for time on the right side.
I believe the Caps should and will only sign one designated player this transfer window and it should be for a leader in the central midfield. The Whitecaps would then fill the other spots with solid players that while not superstars, can fill certain roles on the pitch. An added bonus would be if the majority of the new acquisitions are not on the north side of thirty years old. I also don't feel that the Whitecaps need to add another striker especially with the eventual return of Atiba Harris and the possibility of Camilo returning back from the wing position if a replacement can be found. Of course if rumours of the Brazilian being sold to a Middle Eastern club are true then a forward would become a priority.
If they are to bring in four players then two more players will need to be released to make the roster numbers work. The first player may be Peter Vagenas who was brought in as a stop gap as he was signed to a three month contract. If they need an additional international spot then Alex Morfaw would be the logical one to be released. Morfaw has a large salary number ($90,000) for a player who has rarely seen the pitch for the MLS squad. In addition to his lack of playing time, the Whitecaps have two players, in Brovsky and Koffie, who are younger than Morfaw, make less money and have contributed this season.
The additions would also provide depth by pushing current starters to the bench increasing the team’s overall strength. While the loss of the Champions League will alleviate fixture congestion for the Whitecaps the MLS season is still a grind and better options off the bench will keep all the players fresh. Even if the playoffs are a stretch for the expansion team, the Whitecaps still have the chance to win the Cascadia Cup and have the bragging rights by finishing ahead of their rivals in the MLS table.