The striker’s role is yet to be defined in this Vancouver squad, but his experience should prove to be valuable.
The Vancouver Whitecaps signed Canadian International Tosaint Ricketts last week, bringing in an experienced forward to a front line that has struggled to score goals all season long. While he is not expected to be a huge saviour for a team who’s goalscoring problems run much deeper than the overall production of their attackers, he brings a steady hand to a lineup that has a dearth of it, at least in terms of experience in this strange league.
With 13 goals in 51 games in his last stint in MLS, where he often played the role of super sub with Toronto FC, he brings some pedigree that is sorely lacking in this squad. In a league where even the best of teams rely on MLS veterans to surround their arrays of international talent, Ricketts provides the Caps with a valuable commodity that will boost their squad.
“I did quite well,” Ricketts said on Tuesday when speaking of his time in MLS. “I scored a lot of goals there in my short time, and for any striker, goals is confidence, I’m familiar with the league, I scored some goals with TFC and I’m hoping to come here and do the same.”
His time with TFC was very productive, with Ricketts being an important piece for their MLS Cup winning squad, bringing second wind when brought on off the bench. While his role may be more pronounced in this misfiring Vancouver squad, the championship mentality will surely be a great help for the Caps, especially for youngster Theo Bair. So when manager Marc Dos Santos had the chance to pick up Ricketts, he jumped at the opportunity.
“We felt that Tosaint was a player that knows the market very well,” Dos Santos said of Ricketts. “He’s won an MLS Cup with Toronto, playing a role from the bench that was very important. He’s a worker, he’s there for the team, he wants to play his role in the best of his capabilities, so it was an easy fit for us.”
But where does he fit?
So while Marc mentions that Ricketts will be an easy fit for his squad, the question remains: where will he slide in for this Caps squad? A natural striker, he also has the speed to stretch out teams as a wide player, which for a Whitecaps team that has struggled with their wingers all season, could provide them with a useful asset.
When asked about it on Tuesday, he gave a pretty direct answer.
“Of course I’m the type of guy who will do anything for the team,” Ricketts said when asked of his preferred position. “But I’m most comfortable up top, in the box, getting onto those balls, but I’m here to do what I can to help.”
Over the course of his career, he has played both as a winger and as a striker, so while he says he prefers the perch up top, he may be best deployed as a wide player, using his speed to get behind defences, sort of as a shadow striker/winger hybrid. But with Theo Bair filling that role admirably the last few games, he may get his chance up top. While, like with the other forwards on this squad, it will be wondered how much he can truly produce with the lack of midfield service, he should still bring a new element to the squad.
Either way, Marc Dos Santos now has some different looks to deploy his offence, which for a team who’s main offensive options off the bench against Portland were a struggling Joaquin Ardaiz, a left back in Brett Levis and a right back in Scott Sutter, having some more offensive depth won’t hurt. Ricketts has shown to be both valuable as a starter and as a substitute, either tiring out defenders from the first minute onwards, or coming on and stretching out tired defenders.
Ricketts should feature on Saturday against DC United, after having made the big flight over from Lithuania. He scored a lot in his short time there, having scored to the tune of 8 goals in 13 Lithuanian league games, as well as well as 2 more in 5 European matches accross both the Champions League and Europa League. It was an adjustment period for him, as he had to endure a lot of interesting quirks of the league, but he did well to find success.
“It was quite difficult,” Ricketts said of his time over there. “The language barrier was quite big in our team. We had a Russian-Speaking coach who didn’t speak English and spoke a bit of Lithuanian so I had Lithuanian players translating me Russian to English, so the connection between me and the coach got lost at times, but I did quite well to deal with the adversity.”
So while he had a good experience over there, grabbing confidence and goals left, right and centre, he was ready to move when Canada came calling once again.
“It was very fast,” Ricketts said of the move. “I was in Israel, preparing for a Europa League match against Maccabi Tel Aviv, probably the biggest match in the season. I heard the night before the match that it was going to happen, so it was quite drastic, I had to act quickly and speak to the right people and get it done.”
Ricketts will have the whole week to train, after adjusting from the lengthy travels he had to endure to get to Vancouver. But if he is called upon Saturday, either as a starter or a sub, he is ready to make an immediate difference, with his form, confidence and spirits as high as they’re going to be. So for Ricketts, he says bring it all on.
“I would say yes.” Ricketts said when asked of his fitness. “I was getting a lot of minutes in Lithuania.”
“Due to the travel and everything, It’s been an adjustment with time, but I’m ready to go, I’ll give everything I can in as many minutes as I can as hard as I can, so I’m ready.”