Last weekend, reports of the Vancouver Whitecaps potentially signing winger, Deiber Caicedo, surfaced in Colombia. In this, we look at those rumours and what to make of them, before seeing what Caicedo brings to the table, and why this sort of signing will only become more popular in the next few years.
It’s that time of year once again.
As the Vancouver Whitecaps offseason starts to ramp up, so do the transfer rumours, which tend to come in fast and furious around this time of year.
The first rumour hit the waves last weekend, as Colombian Outlet Futbolete reported that the ‘Caps are supposedly close to signing 20-year-old winger, Deiber Caicedo, for a fee around the $2 million dollar mark.
While it’s always hard to know how much stock to put in those rumours, it’s worth noting that Caicedo, a left-footed winger, nearly exactly fits the profile of player that Whitecaps Sporting Director Axel Schuster recently confirmed that his club was looking at. When asked about potential transfer targets during the ‘Caps year-end media availability, Schuster said that his team was looking for a Young DP left-footed winger, which helps explain these links.
Seeing Caicedo’s age, as well as his reported price, it seems to fit with these supposed young DP rules that are expected to be amended this offseason, in which teams will be allowed to sign 3 DPs under the age of 21 at a reduced salary cost, on top of the 3 usual Senior DPs they’re allowed.
With Schuster speaking of such a targeted profile so specifically, it would make sense if they had that sort of transfer already lined up, making the Caicedo links legitimate.
On the other hand, you do have to be careful with this sort of report, as it’s also entirely possible that a club could be using the ‘Caps interest in young left-footed wingers to raise the value of their own young left-footed winger, but there does seem to be a bit more than just smoke with this rumour.
As Transfermarkt noted, Colombian journalist Diego Rueda did later report that Nashville SC had also inquired about Caicedo in the summer and put them on their discovery list, so it does appear like he could be a player that could be headed to MLS soon, some way or another.
So until we know more about this story, it’s hard to say what exactly will happen, but it’s certainly one worth monitoring, especially from a ‘Caps perspective.
What could he bring to Vancouver?
And when looking at his profile, you can certainly see why the ‘Caps are looking at him, as he certainly seems like a very intriguing prospect.
Anytime a player who’s played 30 first division games before turning 21 becomes available, you can only get excited. Especially when said player put up an impressive 8 primary assists over the course of those 30 games, along with 2 goals, you can see why teams might be interested in his services.
For a ‘Caps team looking to improve its chance creation, their links to Caicedo make a lot of sense, especially when diving into some of those numbers.
Thanks to Peter Galindo of Sportsnet, who shared Caicedo’s statistical radar over the weekend, we can see some of his advanced stats, and from what he shared, there’s a lot to be excited about.
Ironically enough, Galindo actually already had Caicedo on his list of potential Whitecaps signings based on their statistical needs, so needless to say, with Galindo’s knowledge of the South American football scene, that does make these links even more interesting.
Putting up 0.18 Expected Goals (xG) and 0.18 non-penalty Expected Assists/90 (xA) per 90 minutes on a team that finished 4th in this year’s Categoria Primera A is pretty solid, especially as a winger.
On the ‘Caps, those xG and xA numbers would’ve placed him 4th and 3rd on the ‘Caps in 2020, respectively, giving you an idea why they’d think someone like him would help their offence.
And while those sorts of numbers can fluctuate based on a team and a system that they play, you also can’t help but notice the 1.62 shots/90 that he generated on 5.76 touches in the box/90, which is pretty impressive. With the ‘Caps looking to improve on their inconsistent play in the final third, as they finished with the 2nd-fewest amount of possession spent there out of any team in MLS in 2020, you could see why players who are able to take the ball there could be valuable to them.
Lastly, the big stat that stands out is pressure regains, as Caicedo generated 2.76 of them per 90 minutes, showing that he likes to press. While there has been much that has been said about the ‘Caps inconsistent high press, there’s no doubt that it’s something that they want to do more, so bringing in players that know how to do it would make a lot of sense.
Elsewhere, his 2.84 successful dribbles and 2.27 fouls won per 90 minutes looks positive, but again, that could be as much as a byproduct of his team’s system as it is his talent. That’s not to say that those stats could be misleading, far from that, but a player can benefit in those areas depending on his team’s system.
Seeing that Deportivo Cali had the 3rd-most goals in Colombia this season, they clearly had some sort of proficient offensive system, one that allowed Caicedo to press high and help set up his teammates.
What that means is that if the ‘Caps were indeed to bring in Caicedo, it’s important to place reasonable expectations on him. Yes, his rumoured transfer fee would make him one of the most expensive players on the squad, but as a 20-year-old leaving home for the first time, an adjustment period may be required.
Especially in the case of a move to Vancouver, where he’d also have to adjust to joining a team still figuring out its identity on the field, it might not be an easy move at first.
But on the other side, it is the sort of intriguing move that you can’t help but look at with optimism, as these sorts of young South American talents have become all the rage in MLS in recent years. Considering that Caicedo will come at a discounted salary hit due to this new Youth DP initiative, that makes a player of his profile all that much more intriguing, as the team won’t have to risk bringing him in as one of their 3 senior DPs.
He seems like the sort of player that could play as a facilitator on a good team, and seeing that the ‘Caps desperately need facilitators for Lucas Cavallini, this move would make sense.
While, like much of their likely other transfers these last 2 years, his offensive success may hinge on the team’s ability to bring in a focal point #8/#10 DP this offseason, he does seem like someone who works hard off of the ball, making him a little less likely to flounder.
So, all of this to say, this seems like a good signing, provided that it’s just the start of what the ‘Caps do, and not the focal point of their winter recruitment.
This sort of transfer is going to become quite common:
And as we await further news on Caicedo’s future, as he could very much still go to Nashville, it’s worth noting that we’ll start to become really comfortable with these sort of transfers this offseason, both in Vancouver and elsewhere.
In recent years, MLS sides have infiltrated the South American market with much success, as many of the top players in the league have come directly to MLS via their South American clubs.
With this new Young DP initiative, that’ll only increase the value of these South American players, especially the young ones, as teams will be able to go after promising young talent, shelling out money without worrying about the cost or roster restraints of making them a senior DP.
While teams should also be keeping a close eye on the African and Asian markets, as there is a lot of untapped talent there that teams could poach away, expect the South American pipeline to keep on growing until that happens.
As long as these South American players continue to adapt to the MLS as well as they have, mostly due to the similarity between league schedules and travel in South America compared to MLS, teams will return to this well of talent, much as we’ve seen in recent years.
And seeing that the ‘Caps have mostly seemed to have done better at recruiting talent from South and Central America than they have from Europe, don’t be surprised if these Caicedo links aren’t the only time they’re linked to someone from there this offseason, as they’ll certainly have their eye on a bunch of players plying their trade in that continent.
So now, it’ll be interesting to see where things go with these links.
Clearly, there’s some sort of fire behind that smoke, but you never know how this sort of story will end.
As Marc Dos Santos has warned in the past, sometimes transfers reach 99% completion until falling apart at the last sprint, so until Caicedo is actually unveiled as a Whitecaps player, it’s hard to say much else on the rumours.
At the very least, it’s promising to see them linked to this sort of player, and hopefully they find a way to get this deal over the line in the coming weeks.
And seeing that they’ll still have 2 more Youth DP spots if they do that, targeting more players of a similar profile, at positions such as right back and in central midfield, should be the next priority.
Along with a need for some veteran players in midfield, the ‘Caps should be able to provide plenty of support for that big DP midfielder, whoever it ends up being.