With reports suggesting that Colombian winger Cristian Dajome is the newest Vancouver Whitecaps player, we look at what the tricky winger could bring to the Whitecaps, before taking a quick look at what Vancouver’s 4th overall Super Draft pick, Ryan Raposo, also brings to the fold.
After a quiet offseason, the Vancouver Whitecaps had a flying end to the workweek, bringing in 2 new wingers to the club.
Early on Thursday, the Whitecaps made a big splash at the MLS Super Draft, selecting a Canadian winger, Ryan Raposo, with the 4th overall pick. After many had thought that trading the pick away could be a true possibility, Vancouver elected to instead select the 20-year-old Canadian, a move that solidifies their threadbare winger cupboard.
And later on in the day, in a case of double-dipping, Vancouver decided to solidify the position even more, with reports out of South America suggesting that Colombian winger, Cristian Dajome, would be on his way north.
When asked about the reports on Thursday, Whitecaps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, told JJ Adams of The Province: “I had a talk with a player two days ago, who is wanted by teams in South America. He was very clear that he wanted to be here and play here”. BTS reached out to the Whitecaps to comment on the move, but the club was not able to say too much, neither confirming nor denying the impending transfer.
After a strong season on loan to Independiente de la Valle in Ecuador, where he helped them win a historic Copa Sudamericana, it’s a huge coup for the Whitecaps, who are bringing in the Colombian on a free transfer.
For the Whitecaps, it’s a pair of solid moves, both of which should immediately improve the team. With all signs suggesting that Honduran winger Michaell Chirinos’ time at the club is over, as reports out of Honduras suggest that Chirinos doesn’t want to take another loan deal in Vancouver, signing Dajome gives them a new winger piece to build around, at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
Along with the addition of Raposo, who on a generation Addidas contract costs nothing against the cap, it solidifies the wing position for Vancouver heading into the start of the season. Even though Raposo looks still quite raw, despite his talent level, he’ll be eased in, and along with the addition of Dajome, won’t need to be rushed into anything he isn’t yet ready for.
With Marc Dos Santos liking the look of Yordy Reyna on the wing (provided that he doesn’t make a return to Peru), along with the strong play of Theo Bair last year and into this year with Canada’s national team, it gives them a solid wing corps, bar maybe one or two extra signings. With Tosaint Ricketts and Georges Mukumbilwa also able to play out wide, they should at least be solid enough to start the year, allowing them to now focus on their most important needs: signing a #6 and a #8, something Whitecaps CEO, Jeff Mallett, said is on the way when he spoke earlier this week.
But what exactly do Dajome and Raposo add to the Whitecaps? In this one, we set out to answer that question.
Dajome: Hidden value continues to unearth itself in South America
While it’s yet unsure how Dajome will perform in Vancouver, at least until he sets feet on the turf at BC Place, the early indications are rather positive. The move is a win from a financial standpoint, as signing him on a free transfer is a great piece of business, allowing them to bring in quality talent without extending into the expensive TAM or DP territory.
From a playing standpoint, it also appears that Dajome can perform towards that TAM/DP level, at least if his time in Ecuador is any indication. Peter Galindo of Sportsnet, who is an avid South American football watcher, noted in the 8 or so games he watched of Dajome that he’s someone who ‘roams across the pitch a lot. Very dynamic’, ‘loves through balls. Usually goes for the killer ball over the simpler pass. It hurt him against stronger opponents in Sudamericana’ and ‘Tracks back a fair amount’.
For Vancouver, whose frontline will be expected to be defensively responsible next season, pressing heavily from the front, while also being fluid and interchangeable in the attack, those signs seen from Peter are rather positive. Dajome’s love for the killer pass isn’t as positive, but given the Whitecaps struggles to create chances last year, the ambition certainly wouldn’t be misplaced, especially if Marc Dos Santos finds a way to coach it into something positive.
From a statistical standpoint, his numbers also immediately grab your attention, as he averaged 0.31 XG and 0.16 XA across all competitions last season, including 0.29 XG and 0.18 across 11 games in the Sudamericana.
You factor in his 2.62 shots/90, his 3.68 successful dribbles/90 and 1.09 shot assists/90 (key pass), and you’ve got a player that can add a lot to the Vancouver frontline. While he appears to be more of an inside winger, which means he likes to both cut inside and play creatively while also playing in the channel between opposing centre backs and full backs, that does appear to fit the profile of wingers Dos Santos likes, making this a natural fit.
When comparing him to Chirinos, who many, myself included, were calling to keep, he fares rather well. While the key pass stat is a bit lower than you would have maybe hoped, especially after reading 86Forever’s Caleb Wilkins’s piece on why the Caps need more players who fare well in that stat, he looks to be a good goalscoring winger, at least when looking at his XG.
Defensively, he stacks up fairly well, as he engaged in around 5 duels/90, winning 50% of them, while also making 1.78 interceptions/90. With Cavallini also being an avid presser of the ball, it should allow Vancouver to push themselves down opponents throats, especially if they can engage someone like Yordy Reyna on this part of his game, as well.
Style of play
A look over at the game film confirms some of what Peter says, especially offensively, as he loves to cut inside to make things happen. When watching his clips, he swaps wings all of the time, and looks quite comfortable on both sides, creating goals and assists from all areas of the pitch.
This clip below is a sequence where Dajome starts on the left side, from a deep position, before cutting inside sharply. From there, he uses an explosive burst of speed to create separation, before sliding in a diagonal ball, which meets a slashing forward. While his forward doesn’t finish the move, Dajome continues his run and goes right towards the box, showing good instincts, where he fortunately has the ball bounce to him nicely.
For a Vancouver team that struggled to generate offence from the middle of the pitch last season, seeing him cut in with such bravado is encouraging, as it allows him to make plays like the one above, or play off of midfielders to try and generate a chance from a different spot.
He can also do damage in transition, as his speed allows him to make things happen when his team wins back the ball, as seen in the next clip. With the defenders stretched out, he picks up the ball in space, where the defender leaves him plenty of room to walk in, possibly fearing a burst of speed that could leave him in the dust.
Instead of doing that, Dajome smartly slows things right down, and spots a quick back post run, finding his teammate brilliantly for a cheeky curled assist.
At the same time, Dajome can also cut outside, pushing himself right down to the goal line to make plays. When on the right wing, he appeared especially good at doing that in clips, as he made sure to use his pace to create that separation, before putting balls into the middle.
One thing that did stand out is that he struggled to get balls in high, with his crosses often coming in low and hard, which isn’t a bad thing, but important to note given Whitecaps striker Lucas Cavallini’s proficiency in the air. With Cavallini good at scoring off those low crosses, it shouldn’t be much of an issue, but it’s still something worth possibly keeping an eye out for
But while his crosses weren’t the typical high balls, he did know how to whip in a low one, best seen by the sequence below. He uses his speed to get around a defender, before slamming one in low and hard, right into the zone of confusion for defenders and the goalkeeper, allowing a teammate to pounce and get an easy goal.
So when looking at his profile from a chance-creation perspective, there’s a lot to be excited about there. He has good bursts of speed, allowing him to open up space between him and defenders, forcing them to think twice when defending him. If they play him too tight, he can push around them into space, but if they stay too far back, he’s shown himself capable of picking out teammates with clever balls.
Goalscoring wise, he appears to be good with both feet, with his right foot being his preferred weapon of choice. While he isn’t scoring screamers from outside of the box, he finishes what he can get inside of it, which he seems to do a fair bit, especially when in transition.
Take this next clip, as an example. Late in a game, with his opponents pushed up, he makes a lengthy run, before playing a teammate in space. Closed down by the opposition, his teammate attempts to return him the ball, finding him at the back post. Despite the tricky angle of his positioning, Dajome elects to volley the cross first time, finding the goal nicely, adding a nice strike to the highlight reel.
In other sequences, when the ball appears in the box, he appears to be quite decisive, a trait that should help Vancouver score more next season. Along with Cavallini, who is also quite definitive in the box, it should give the Whitecaps a reason to make defenders have to stay awake in the 18-yard zone, knowing that a mistake or half-chance could be ruthlessly punished.
In this next clip, we see some of that from Dajome, who received the ball on a failed defensive block, before taking a quick touch and feinting the keeper with his body language. In less than a second, he had the ball controlled and slotted home with his left, putting no doubt behind his finish.
In transition, however, he doesn’t seem to be affected by having lots of time and space, as seen by some of the passing clips above. In this next clip, when Independiente was in transition, Dajome had plenty of time to think as he descended 1v1 with the goalkeeper, before slotting home.
Despite running nearly the length of the field, with the defenders trying to drape themselves over him like a carpet, he was calm and collected in the finish, which for Whitecaps fans, is a trait they’ll be happy to see come in.
All-in-all, he appears to be a versatile forward, one who can finish goals, but one who is also smart enough to create for his teammates. For a Whitecaps team looking to improve their offensive creation, while also adding more XG, this looks to be a good fit, especially if Vancouver can find a way to get the best out of him.
Part of how they’ll do that is based on how they deploy him, which based on the current players available, looks to be in a front three beside Yordy Reyna and Lucas Cavallini. With Reyna being comfortable basically anywhere across the front 4, while Cavallini is speedy and versatile despite his size, a front three of them plus Dajome would be fun to watch, as they could basically roam free in the final 3rd.
By doing that, they could cause plenty of confusion for defenders, who will have to deal with all 3 popping up in different spots in their box. If they can smartly interchange with each other, putting together nice combination play and piercing diagonal runs, it could be fun to watch, especially in transition, as they push down defenders with their speed and creativity.
With all 3 being good passers, as Cavallini’s hold-up and passing play is quite solid, while Reyna has typically averaged 1.5 key passes and 0.2 xA a season over his 3 years of MLS, they’d also be able to find each other in favourable positions. You add in their solid finishing abilities, and you have the recipe for a quality modern front 3, with their positionless abilities being part of a shift in the modern game.
While having a strong midfield would help, as having someone who can suck in players and open up space for them would be nice, even on their own you’d figure that Reyna, Cavallini and Dajome could be a good counter-attacking trio. You add in those supposed incoming midfield upgrades, with that #8 helping on the chance creation side, while the #6 helps keep things tidy and push the ball upfield, and there is certainly a recipe for an improved Whitecaps side.
Obviously, things don’t always pan out in MLS as expected, but given that Dajome is coming off of a strong season in Ecuador, and is also fresh off an offseason rest similar to that of MLS, he should come in rested and in-form. Along with a rested Ali Adnan and Hwang In Beom, two key players who were hit hard by fatigue last season, things are certainly trending up in Whitecaps-land.
From an off-the-field standpoint, this is an excellent deal. Bringing in a 26-year-old on a free contract is a tidy piece of business, especially with the pre-contract, considering that clubs like Corinthians in Brazil have appeared to try and come in at the last minute.
With a lot of South American leagues having a similar schedule to MLS, there’s a lot of value to be found in terms of contract situations, as their deals can expire in the MLS offseason, instead of the summer, like they do with European teams.
And with teams being in their offseason, it means for more open negotiations, as they too are looking to rejiggle their squads. You factor in the rest, as Dajome comes to Vancouver in the midst of an offseason, instead of being in the middle of a campaign, and it’s a winning strategy to pursue.
With no DP slots available, these are the kinds of deals Vancouver needs to be in on to fill the rest of their roster, as they can find quality talent at a good price. If you can scour the non-traditional South American leagues, or even the smaller teams in the bigger leagues like they did with Erik Godoy, there are players to be found there, and it’s proven by the smart teams in MLS year-after-year.
Hopefully, for those crucial midfield spots, they can do a similar bit of business, as they now turn their focus to that all-important #8 and #6.
Ryan Raposo: Strong Super Draft pick?
While his move isn’t as high-profile as Dajome’s, Vancouver appears to have picked up a solid piece in Super Draft pick, Ryan Raposo, a winger/midfielder out of Syracuse University. After a sophomore season in which he scored 15 goals and had 37 points, which count both primary and secondary assists, he looks ready to make the jump up to the professional game.
But stats aside, as translating college numbers over to the pro games varies player-to-player, his own description of himself certainly shows why the Whitecaps were interested in him. ( For more on Raposo, you can check out Samuel Rowan’s piece on him at 86Forever)
“I like to get on the ball and I like to run at defenders,” Raposo said on a conference call Thursday. “I like to keep possession of the ball and connect with my teammates as well. I also think that defensively I have a high work rate. I love to get stuck into challenges and I would definitely say that I’m a two-way player. I’m the most competitive person I’ve ever met
For a Whitecaps team looking to press more, what he says concerning his defensive work rate is positive, while what he does offensively seems to match up with the other wingers Dos Santos has targeted, such as Chirinos and Dajome. Dos Santos likes wingers that can be versatile, who can play both wide and on the inside, as well as being able to play both in possession and directly, and Raposo fits that description.
He’s not expected to get too much of a run in the first team, barring an injury crisis, but he does look like he’ll be a good substitute/rotational piece, and he can certainly grow into a starting role as things roll along. Only 20, picking him up feels like a homegrown signing, especially given his Canadian citizenship and his Generation Adidas contract, as it looks like he’ll be inserted into the squad heading into the start of the season.
While it’s only the 2nd signing of the offseason, bringing in Dajome looks to be a strong move, one that should complement the Cavallini signing nicely. The offseason will be made or broken by the midfielders brought in, no doubt, but things are starting to look nice and settled up front.
Along with the Raposo pick, a smart selection in a changing MLS Super Draft landscape, and it was a good way to end the week for Vancouver. With preseason slowly approaching, the Whitecaps are starting to put the pieces of their puzzle together, which after a long offseason, is positive to see.
How that puzzle ends up being is yet to be determined, but based on what we’ve seen, there are some very intriguing pieces in it, so now it’s just to wait and see how things end up working together. After a trying 2019, things appear to be trending up, both on and off the field, with this move looking to be the next step in that.
And as the chase to return to the playoffs continues, it’s encouraging to see some of these kinds of moves emerge, as the Marc Dos Santos and Axel Schuster rebuild continues.