With reports circulating that the Whitecaps are on the verge of acquiring 33-year-old Bryan Ruiz from Brazilian club Santos FC and reacquiring 31-year-old Fredy Montero from Sporting CP in Portugal, there are lots of questions involved. In an offseason where the average age of the 13 confirmed signings is 24.5, many may be wondering where two veteran attackers struggling for game time will fit in in a Whitecaps team that is aiming to be a young, dynamic attacking force that can compete in this MLS 3.0 era. Here are a few reasons why these two signings would be key for the Whitecaps going forward if they are to come to fruition.
With Marc Dos Santos looking to implement a high tempo pressing style in the mould of European teams such as 2017-2018 Napoli under “Sarriball” and Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp this season, it is expected that Dos Santos will roll with a flexible 4-3-3 that allows for intense pressing and a possession-based attack. This system requires players with good technical skills, good energy levels and a good head for the game. A lot of the players acquired fit that mould, with Dos Santos showing he is not afraid to go after unheralded names who fit the bill, such as Hwang In-Boem, Joaquin Ardaiz and Jasser Khemiri. Looking at the depth chart if Ruiz and Montero were to be signed, we can see that they would slide very nicely into the striker and CM/CAM roles. With Hwang being young and expecting some sort of adjustment period, there is room for Ruiz to slide in and hopefully rekindle some Sporting CP magic with Montero. Also, with those signings, it would allow the Whitecaps to be essentially two deep at every position except LW, huge for the team considering the MLS schedule is more compressed than usual with the new playoff format change starting this season. With Canadian championship promised to be taken very seriously this season, it is paramount that the squad is able to withstand competing in both MLS and in the Voyageurs Cup, as injuries can tend to pile up with the amount of travel and strain both competitions can put on players.
With the youth movement that has hit this Whitecaps roster, the experience provided by Ruiz and Montero will be paramount. Taking a look at the 2018 champs, Atlanta, we can see a good example of this. Headlined by the big names such as Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Exequiel Barco and Franco Escobar, they got huge contributions from 30 somethings like Micheal Parkhurst, Brad Guzan and Jeff Larentowicz. MLS offers a brutal travel schedule and circumstances that are unlike other leagues in the world, so it is key to have some veterans that have been around the block. Montero has produced in this league before, as proved by his stints in Seattle and his 2017 stint in Vancouver, where he scored 13 league goals in a system that he did not at all fit in, helping lead this team to a 3rd place finish in the west. Ruiz is well-versed in this continent as well, with over 100 appearances for his national team and a lot of experience competing against players at this level in Concacaf and throughout his escapades in some of the top leagues in Europe, such as the Eredivisie, the Premier League, LIGA Nos and the Jupiler Pro League.
With Ruiz reportedly coming in on a free transfer, he is unlikely to be a DP which is going to be huge for the club. He is going to have a chance to rediscover his form without all the pressure that being a big-budget DP can bring. It allows the club some flexibility, allowing them to use the Davies money on a younger number 10 either this summer or next, based on how Ruiz performs. They will be able to pursue a younger bigger name during those periods, where teams are more willing to let players go as it is not in-season and therefore easier to find replacements. If the move does not work out on the field, his experience will be valuable for someone such as Hwang, who is looking to make a European move in the next few seasons and his contract will not be that burdensome. If it does work out, the club will have a veteran who is very skilled and technical, providing an edge to the Whitecaps attack at a reasonable price. For Montero, he is a few years younger and has performed as a DP before, so he should do well in that role if he is to get a DP contract. He has proven he can handle the MLS schedule and will work well with mentoring Theo Bair and new striker Joaquin Ardaiz, who was brought in today and is relatively untested at the top level despite coming from Serie A at the ripe age of 20. Montero is good with his feet and participates in building up the play, which fits well with Dos Santos’s style, and has proven his ability in front of goal at many levels. He still has the ability at the top level, as shown by his 5 goals scored in 10 Europa League games since returning to Sporting CP around 12 months ago. There is obviously going to be some concern as he has missed a few games with a knee injury this season, but he is not a player who relies on raw athleticism as much, instead showing an incredible offensive awareness and good finishing, which we saw during his time here.
Obviously, these signings are just rumours, with none of them yet confirmed at the time of publication, but with many media sources reporting them in different countries, they have potential to be two very good signings for the Vancouver Whitecaps. There are always going to be a risk with signing 30+-year-olds, but with the profiles of Ruiz and Montero, there is a lot to be happy with. They should be good fits in the new system, providing valuable experience and skill to a roster that could definitely use some in the positions they play. With Ruiz being a low-risk investment, there is definitely potential for high reward there and we already know what to expect from Montero from his time here 2 seasons ago.