The Vancouver Whitecaps made a trade this past weekend, moving their third-longest tenured player, the enigmatic Peruvian attacker, Yordy Reyna, to DC United for some Allocation money. In this piece, we look at what the ‘Caps lose by moving Reyna, and see if they’ve got the depth to stomach his departure.
Completely out of the blue, the Vancouver Whitecaps made a move on Saturday.
In a surprising trade, the Whitecaps moved on from their third-longest tenured player, Yordy Reyna, as they sent him and a 2020 international spot to DC United for $400 000 in 2021 General Allocation Money. They will also receive further allocation if Reyna is either extended or moved on this year or in 2021.
While the move maybe shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was, as Reyna always seemed to be at his ends with Marc Dos Santos, with the Peruvian always struggling to fit into the plans of the second-year ‘Caps coach, the timing of the move was most surprising, as it felt like the ‘Caps didn’t get the value they could’ve otherwise gotten.
During the offseason, there was some smoke about a potential Reyna transfer back to Peru, which could’ve likely seen the ‘Caps recoup more than the $400 000 of MLS money they got, but ultimately nothing materialized in terms of a concrete offer, much less a deal.
Obviously, after a trying year for Reyna, in which he was publicly fined by the ‘Caps twice for behavioural issues, first back in May for violating quarantine rules during the ‘Caps return-to-training phase, and then back in August for arriving late to a team function, this seems more of a chance to give Reyna a fresh start.
It’s a tough end to what has been a memorable 3.5 years with the ‘Caps for Reyna, who to give credit to, was never boring when he was on the pitch, both for positive and negative reasons.
When he was on his game, he could be the most talented player on the pitch, but when he was off, boy could he frustrate, leaving many to wonder what they could have on their hands if Reyna could find some consistency.
Maybe he’ll find that in DC, a team that has struggled offensively despite having offensive players like Ola Kamara, Julien Gressel and Yamil Asad, as they’ve been unable to recover after losing Wayne Rooney this offseason, while big injuries to Paul Arriola and Edison Flores also have seemed to have done their part, as well.
So for all sides, this move seems to make sense.
Reyna gets a fresh start in a new location within a league he can more than compete in, while the ‘Caps get money for an asset they felt didn’t fit into their long-term plans, giving them flexibility to make future moves, with DC ultimately getting a good player for a good price.
Could they’ve squeezed more out of Reyna?
But while the move makes sense from that perspective, when we look at what Reyna brought to the ‘Caps, could they have squeezed more out of him on the pitch?
And when we look at the numbers, there is definitely a case to be made there, as despite struggling for consistency this year, his production across the board was pretty similar to prior seasons, which as we saw before this season, is pretty darn good.
When we consider that his production came either in a role off of the bench, or deployed in positions that he doesn’t necessarily look his best in, such as a natural striker in a 4-4-2, and that does bode pretty well for Reyna.
There’s no coincidence that some of his best games came in preseason against Minnesota as the #10 in a 4-2-3-1, and against San Jose at MLS is Back as a false 9 in a 4-3-3, but now, with the reemergence of Fredy Montero, and the presence of the ‘Caps record-signing, Lucas Cavallini, up front, there doesn’t appear to be much of a role for Reyna in either spot.
Obviously, he could be used off of the bench, or as a rotation player, with the ‘Caps (and all teams in MLS) having a congested rest of season schedule, but obviously the team felt that his salary, upwards of $700 000 a year, didn’t befit that role.
To be fair, in a salary capped league, they’re not wrong, but given that the ‘Caps are unlikely to sign any more players this season, and their busy upcoming fixture list, having a player like Reyna as a depth piece could have been a massive luxury, one that could be worth his value for the next few months.
We don’t know everything here, so it’s entirely likely that this move materialized when Reyna was presented the idea of playing that role, but assuming that, they could’ve waited to make that trade.
Considering that Reyna was 3rd on the team in Expected Goals (xG) per 90 minutes, it definitely feels like Vancouver could’ve gotten more out of him, especially now that they’ve moved back to a 4-2-3-1 formation that does seem to get the most out of his best attributes.
When we consider this chart, which shows his statistical output over the course of 4 seasons with the Whitecaps, there’s no doubt that he can bring some offensive punch to an attack, as he generates shots and xG with the best of them.
While his dwindling assist and key pass rate over those 4 seasons that he was in Vancouver is a worry to play him as a #10, he’s a strong dribbler and chance generator, and while that overeagerness comes at a cost sometimes, he is still able to help his teammates build up play.
Tactically is where the move makes most sense, however, as Reyna’s inconsistent defensive workrate made it hard for Dos Santos to trust him at the #10, which is why we’ve seen David Milinkovic, one of the hardest working players in the team, take over that role as of late.
And considering that Fredy Montero has seemed to rediscover his legs in recent games, making him less of a liability defensively, even though he does tend to pace himself at times to avoid overrunning, Reyna fell out of favour at the #10 position, and with the ‘Caps depth up front, it left him as the odd man out.
So no doubt, the ‘Caps could’ve gotten more out of Reyna, but financially, they felt moving on from his salary was worth it considering where he stood on the depth chart, and tactically they felt he didn’t fit into their plans.
Statistically, his loss will hurt, no doubt, but maybe the ‘Caps felt that while he was an xG and generating and dribbling machine, there is the likelihood that his low Expected Assists (xA) numbers reflect that it somtimes comes at the cost of his teammates.
Obviously, the ‘Caps have a long-term plan to replace Reyna, which is why the money they received for him will only come into affect next season, so this is definitely a move that will take a longer time than others to properly judge and understand the ramifications of.
Where does this leave the Whitecaps depth chart?
So now, with Reyna officially off of the books, this is how the Whitecaps depth chart looks heading into the rest of the season.
And while Reyna’s departure certainly hurts the overall ability of the attacking corps, the ‘Caps have actually done a decent job at building up enough depth to be pretty two much two deep at every position.
When you also add in the fact that most of these players can play multiple positions, such as Fredy Montero (ST/CAM), Leonard Owusu (CDM/CM/CAM), David Milinkovic (LW/CAM/RW), Ryan Raposo (LW/RW/CAM/ST), Theo Bair (LW/ST/RW), Cristian Dajome (RW/LW/CAM) and Ali Adnan (LB/LW), and that does make up for a lack of numbers that they have in their squad.
Obviously, when looking at this team, there are improvements to be made, as they could use another midfielder or two, another winger and a pure DP #10, but things aren’t that bad as a whole.
The ‘Caps are helped by the fact that a lot of their ‘mid-tiered’ signings, which are players who aren’t expensive enough to be DPs, but aren’t cheap enough to be depth, such as Ranko Veselinovic, Janio Bikel, Leonard Owusu, Cristian Dajome and David Milinkovic, have all been really good for the team so far, a far cry from last year’s recruitement troubles.
You add in the value that someone like Cristian Gutierrez, who was brought in on a free transfer, brings to their squad, as well as the veteran leadership of someone like Tosaint Ricketts, who was also brought in on a cheap deal last year, and the ‘Caps have stepped up their mid-tiered recruitment massively in the close to 2 years that Marc Dos Santos has been in charge.
A year on from failed transfers such as Lucas Venuto, Lass Bangoura, Joaquin Ardaiz and PC, as well as the enigmatic tenure of In Beom Hwang, who was a quality player but never seemed to find his groove with the ‘Caps before getting sold on, the play of some of these newcomers is promising.
Small sample size is a worry, as it’s always a possibility that some of these players flame out after strong starts, but if they can continue to recruit as they’ve done for players below the DP threshold, and hit on the 1 DP opening they currently have, and they’ve got the makings of a decent roster (and it’s worth noting that they might have another depending on what happens with Ali Adnan).
Along with the strong play from youngsters such as Michael Baldisimo, Theo Bair and Thomas Hasal, as well as some strong cameos from Patrick Metcalfe and Ryan Raposo, and the ‘Caps seem to be on the right track.
They’re the youngest team in MLS with an average age of just over 24 years of age, so if their players can continue to grow together, and they surround them with the right pieces, and this team all of a sudden looks a lot better than it did a year or a year and a half ago.
Unfortunately for Reyna, that left him as an odd man out, which seemed to have made this trade possible.
So now, it’ll be interesting to see how Marc Dos Santos and his charges do for the rest of the season, with this Reyna trade likely signalling the end of any moves for this ‘Caps team before the season is over.
For the first time all year, they’ve got everyone healthy and with their squad, and while their squad is a bit smaller due to the departures of In Beom and Reyna, the emergence of Michael Baldisimo helps, as well as the return to form of Fredy Montero in recent games.
Obviously, if the ‘Caps can make a move that can help this team out, they should make it, but with player signings being understandably hard for Canadian teams (the only transfer made by either of the 3 teams was the loan of a U23 Liverpool player to TFC), if they have to wait until the end of the year, this lineup does seem to have enough firepower to make some noise.
We have to be careful judging this recent run of form, as they did beat two of the teams with an extra man, but they did also beat one of the league’s favourites in Toronto FC despite not looking good defensively, and since then they’ve tightened up the ship at the back.
As long as they can continue to score as they have as of late (they’ve scored 10 goals in the past 4 games after going on a 4 game scoreless run), and they continue to work on their defensive shape and being better in possession, this could be a fun end to the season for them, setting the table for a pivotal offseason.
But to dictate if the offseason is a fun or a negative one, they’ll need to continue to grow off of what they’ve done as of late, starting with their next two games, against LAFC and the Portland Timbers.
If they want to prove that this Reyna move was one smartly made with the future in mind, instead of a last-minute decision to cut ties, proving that they can win without him will go a long way towards doing that, long before they even get a chance to spend the money they received for him in the offseason.
While they could certainly use his offensive talent and output, if they can prove that they can more than survive without him, and then make a wise move with what he yielded return-wise, then this can be seen as a good move.
With that in mind, it’s going to be a trade we judge from a longer-term perspective, no doubt, but it’s also one that we will start to see shape up starting with their next few games here.