The Vancouver Whitecaps had a press confrence on Friday, revealing a couple of key details, especially on the footballing side of the club. Here are some takeaways we had from the announcement.
The Whitecaps made some announcements ahead of their match against DC United this past weekend. After announcing that they had begun a search for a Technical Director that morning, as well as stating that longtime club president Bob Lenarduzzi had been moved to the role of club liaison officer, they spoke to the media a couple of hours later, giving them a chance to speak to Jeff Mallett, Lenarduzzi and manager Marc Dos Santos about the decision and more.
There were questions asked on a bunch of subjects, ranging from the abuse allegations that arose earlier in the season to the future of many key on the field aspects, including the development squad and news on the scouting department.
For a team that is currently in the midst of what will likely be the second-worst campaign in their time in MLS, a lot of those on the field aspects are interesting to look at, with the team rebuilding after a winter filled with lots of change.
Here are some of the things we took away from the exchange:
Director of Football (DOF):
The biggest takeaway from the whole announcement was that the Caps had officially begun their search to fill this position in their front office, arguably one of the things holding them back as a club. With teams going through heavy roster and coaching turnover year-over-year, the appointment of technical directors in the sport has risen, as teams have realized it’s a great way to keep a longer-term vision when making decisions on footballing matters in the club.
By making this step, the Caps took a big leap forward out of the dark, embracing the fact that their recruitment process had been flawed in the past , and that they need someone dedicated to keeping the spine of the club solid and organized if they want to be a team of the future. Dos Santos admitted as much when he spoke during the press conference.
“This is not a situation of questioning anybody’s work,” Dos Santos said Friday. “It’s a situation of us growing as a club.”
The Director of Football is expected to be the driver behind moves on the sporting side of things within the organization, likely getting a final say on many of the decisions that they will have to make on that side of the game. While it was confirmed that whoever it is will still have to report to ownership, the club will expect him to be the driving force behind revamping the footballing side of the organization.
The club also announced that there was zero other reshuffling of their front office cupboard, with high-profile executives Rachel Lewis and Greb Anderson retaining their respective positions as C.O.O and Vice President, while Bob Lenarduzzi still remains around in a yet to be defined liaison role.
By doing this, the Caps do remain open for a lot of criticism and pressure, because despite the many calls for many of those names to resign, they still remain around the club, so if this Director of Football is unable to clean things up and get things competitive in a hurry, calls will only get louder for ownership and the front office to leave.
“It’s very exciting what’s happening next,” Dos Santos said. “We embrace with a lot of pressure taking on January.”
Speaking of January, scouts are going to play a big role, with the Caps reportedly bringing 3 scouts already, with a head of scouting to be added later. When asked about the scouts on Friday, the Caps remained mum, as they did not want to reveal much about the folks hired to help find talent both overseas and within MLS, but they did confirm that the search for the head of scouting will continue while they look for a DOF.
We spoke about the scouts a couple of weeks ago, but it was good to hear confirmation on the move from the Whitecaps themselves, who had yet to publicly reveal that they had brought them in. With the Caps having issues with their scouting department dating back to the Carl Robinson days, with all sorts of contrasting reports about what exactly was the recruitment strategy around the club, the transparency of confirming this move will help.
The last of the question marks around the on the field aspects, the Development squad was created to fill a big hole that had been left behind with the departure of the Whitecaps II team. It still has quite a long way to go before it becomes close to what that second team was, as VWFC II played a role in the development of players such as Alphonso Davies, but the creation of the new squad was still seen as a positive move nonetheless.
A big reason why it is still at the level of its predecessor, however, is that they do not have a league to play in, with the squad resembling a bit of a travelling circus this season, playing friendlies in all corners of the globe. While, as Jeff Mallet put it, the “Saskatoon to Seoul” approach certainly gave these youngsters valuable experience, finding them a league close to home will prove to be much more beneficial in the long-term.
So when asked about the subject of where the team might play next year, Mallet did confirm that there were options on the table, but that they were still undecided on which one they would take. One would have to think that the DOF would end up making a big decision on that, so maybe an announcement on the league will come shortly after the DOF comes in, which will provide further clarity on the matter.
Tying it all together:
By announcing all of these aspects changing within the footballing side, the Caps have set themselves up to better handle the footballing side of their office heading into next season.
Appointing a DOF will give the club better organization on the footballing side of operations, while giving them a more long-term vision, assisting Dos Santos with recruitment, building up the Caps style of play and improving youth development. If the person they bring in can stick around for a while, they’ll be set as they head into the future of MLS. Should they have had someone like this 6 years ago? Yes. Is it concerning that it took a calamitous campaign and off-the-field turmoil to get here? Certainly so. But the fact that they took that step is still positive.
The new scouting team will tie into the recruitment that the DOF will need to do, as they will be able to rely on the opinion of these people to bring in the talent that will make the Caps good both today and in the future. Much like the DOF, they should have had this sorted out many years ago, but that they took the step is positive nonetheless. We should see the fruits of this labour this winter transfer window, with these scouts taking the next couple of months to identify targets for that crucial period, so hopefully they are able to find some gems to make people quickly forget the many missteps from Caps past.
By also putting the development squad in a league, they will improve the development of youth in the organization, giving chances for more young players to get minutes much like Theo Bair and Alphonso Davies have the past few years. If they can get more youngsters to come in prepared to tackle the grind of MLS, testing them in a pro environment where they can adapt to the intensity of the pro game while implementing the model of play that the first team wants to emulate, the creation of this squad will be looked back upon with praise.
So while the timing of this whole announcement was certainly curious, with nothing really of note to reveal, but with season ticket renewal season around the corner, maybe they thought it was a good time to set some things straight. While it’s disappointing in a way that reshuffling the scouting department and implementing a DOF took this long, not to mention sorting out the development squad, if this restructuring is to bring positive results in the future, it will make the results of this tough season much easier to stomach.