The Vancouver Whitecaps got the ball rolling on their offseason on Tuesday, as they officially announced the signing of young Colombian winger Deiber Caicedo through 2023. Here is what Caicedo, Sporting Director Axel Schuster and head coach Marc Dos Santos had to say on the move Tuesday, as they broke down what was a very interesting transfer process.
After a long wait, they’ve finally got their guy.
Nearly 2 months after reports first surfaced of the Vancouver Whitecaps interest in 20-year-old Colombian winger Deiber Caicedo, they officially signed him from Deportivo Cali on Tuesday, making him their first transfer of this offseason.
With winger David Milinkovic seemingly all but gone from the ‘Caps, it was imperative that Vancouver beefed up out wide this offseason, which is why this Caicedo signing made sense for them right from the get-go.
Given how young he is, as well as his playing style, which we explored in-depth when rumours of his arrival first came out, this could prove to be a very smart transfer for the ‘Caps, who are banking on Caicedo breaking out and moving on to a bigger league after a few years. Seeing that the reported transfer fee is upwards of $2 million dollars, it’s a pricy bet, but one that looks likely to pay off, as MLS continues to grow its reputation as a transitional league for young players to play in before moving up.
And when speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Caicedo confirmed those intentions, as he singled out the ‘Caps desire to play young players as a big reason for him wanting to come here, knowing that he’ll get a platform to get noticed on.
“I’m glad to be coming to Vancouver, because I want to grow,” Caicedo said via a translator. “I know it’s a team that lets young players play. And I want to keep moving forward in my career, and this is a great opportunity for me to play.”
But while it’s hoped that he makes an impact from the first day onwards, it’s definitely important to keep in mind that this is a long-term project, one that might not bear fruit right away.
Even though Caicedo’s profile suggests that he’s ready to make this jump, as he’s been putting in a good shift in the Colombian league for a while now, it’s never easy to move to a new country to play in a new league at such a young age, so it may take a while for him to adjust.
But with the ‘Caps having a fellow Colombian player who made a similar jump last year, winger Cristian Dajome, they’re hoping that he can take Caicedo under his wing, helping him adjust quickly. And although Dajome was 26 when he made such a move, it’s never an easy one for anyone to make, and considering that the two already know each other, there seems to be a good partnership forming there, one that should help Caicedo adjust quickly.
“Yes, I’ve spoken to Cristian (Dajome) a lot,” Caicedo said. “Although I didn’t have the pleasure of playing with him, I certainly have played against him in the past. In some of the conversations we’ve had, he’s told me about how great the quality of life is in Vancouver, which is very important to me, and also how much the club supported him, and would support me.”
“That gives me a great sense of calm, and a great sense of tranquillity, and I’m looking forward to playing here.”
And while the ‘Caps are preaching patience when it comes to their newest charge, that doesn’t mean that it’s too early to start looking at what sort of impact Caicedo could bring to this team.
With the ‘Caps having a need for quick wingers that can press high, the fact that Caicedo is good at both of those things, and can play either wing, should help him settle nicely into this team.
Vancouver doesn’t yet know how it wants to line up next season, and probably won’t know until well into preseason, but seeing the flexibility that Caicedo can bring as a winger, head coach Marc Dos Santos will have options when it comes to deploying the young Colombian in his system.
“We’ve done a lot of homework that makes us believe that this player, inside the right context in the right work, could be a player that plays for this team and grows in this team,” Dos Santos said Tuesday. “But of course, there’s a lot of moving pieces for a player to succeed. We see him playing on the right or the left side, he’s a winger that could play in a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. He’s comfortable both on the left and the right side. He’s a player that even at the national team level, youth national team also played underneath the forward.”
But either way, with there still being plenty of time until Caicedo actually gets a chance to don the ‘Caps strip during an actual match, it’s much too early to speculate where he’ll play. At the very least, however, he should be one to watch, not only this season, but the ones beyond it, given the tremendous upside a player of his calibre brings to the table.
A long process:
And it’s that long-term development that is a big reason why the ‘Caps were so dogged in their pursuit of Caicedo.
While the ‘Caps were not originally his first reported destination in MLS, as Nashville was interested enough in Caicedo to add them to their Discovery Rights list last year (meaning that the ‘Caps had to pay $75 000 in GAM to acquire his rights), once he came onto Vancouver’s radar, they were adamant on their need to bring him in.
Seeing that he fit their needs in terms of the sort of winger they were looking to bring in, Sporting Director Axel Schuster started to lay the groundwork for the transfer late in the 2020 saeson, diving into a file that had a lot of moving parts.
“I think he was on our radar for the first time, I would have to look it up, but I think the end of October, somewhere at that point,” Schuster said on Tuesday. “We were targeting him the first time that the scouting/recruiting department came up with his name and said that he would fit our profile and our needs.
Schuster continued: “So a lot of guys have worked on that. (First), we had to get the rights on the Discovery list as that is also very important, that also took some time, then we started to speak with the player. That is very important for us to get an idea about his character, his thoughts about his future and the next steps.”
But even though it became clear that the ‘Caps were the frontrunners to bring Caicedo in, there was still a lot of hitches to overcome, such as the acquisition of a visa and completion of a medical.
While the troubles with organizing a medical were due to the unique circumstances surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, the visa issue is one the ‘Caps constantly have had to deal with several players in the past, and it’s one they continue to deal with, as they’re still working on getting Caicedo all of the correct papers to get him to Vancouver as soon as they can.
As for the medical, thanks to some creative maneuvering and some old school technology, they were able to complete that process, officially confirming that they were going to sign Caicedo, marking the end of a long few months of work.
“So it was a long process that started initially in the fall last year already, and then it became again very complicated as we were starting to do the medicals, as he still has no visa today,” Schuster said.
He continued: “So we had to find a solution. In the end, we flew him to Mexico, after we found a clinic and a doctor we trust. That’s another thing, you have to find somebody you trust. So we flew him to Mexico, that had to be done, and we needed an appointment there, and we needed to fly him there.And then, because the systems in Mexico are different than the systems here, you could not transfer the data and the pictures online, so we had to wait until the disks (with the medical info) arrived here.”
“So it was a long process, but we were very convinced from his profile from the very first day,” he finished.
Now, with Caicedo finally a Whitecap, he’s hoping to hit the ground running, rewarding the club’s faith in him.
“Overall, that process went fairly smoothly.” Caicedo said. “I had a lot of great conversations with people from the club. And I’m very excited to get there and get going.”
Finally an MLS scheduling update:
Meanwhile, in other news, we now have a better idea of when we’ll finally see Caicedo and his new teammates in action, as MLS released its 2021 scheduling plans on Monday.
As expected, they revealed that the season will start a month later than usual this year, on April 3rd, which is hoped to give teams more time to finalize their rosters and let the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave ease up a little in both Canada and in the US.
So instead of having teams start training camp this week, as would’ve originally been the case in a typical year, with the season usually starting in late February/early March, teams will now report for preseason on February 22nd, giving them another month to bring in talent.
For the Whitecaps, that’s big news, as Caicedo was their first transfer of this offseason, leaving them with some holes that are yet to be filled. While the ‘Caps will enter the 2021 preseason with their biggest crop of returning players in the last couple of years, they still have some holes to fill ahead of April 3rd, with their search for a #10 sitting at the top of their to-do list.
But while these dates are technically official, it’s worth that nothing is final at the moment, as the league is yet to come to an agreement concerning their Collective Bargaining Agreement ahead of this season.
With no agreement in place as of the time of this announcement, it’s an interesting tactic for MLS to put their 2021 plans out publicly like this, as the possibility of a lockout does technically remain as a very real option at this stage of negotiations.
From what we’ve seen, it appears like both sides will be able to hash out a deal, one that likely sees the current CBA amended, but it’ll be interesting to see how MLS’s eagerness to share this sort of information so early on impacts these negotiations.
So now, with Caicedo’s signing locked up, and a better idea of what the MLS season will look like, the ‘Caps can focus their efforts elsewhere, as they still have a lot of work to do this transfer window.
From bringing in that DP #10, of which reports continue to swirl around about, to rounding out their overall roster, Dos Santos and Schuster are far from finished their work in remodelling this team ahead of the start of the 2021 campaign.
And while this Caicedo transfer is a nice start, the success of this ‘Caps offseason will hinge on that #10, which we’ll be following closely. As links to names such as Chiquinho and Otavio suggest, the ‘Caps are chasing some potential game-breakers, but until they actually get someone in, these rumours won’t actually change anything on the field.
But boosted by the confidence that this signing surely has given them, it’s hoped that they can make some big inroads in those areas, making this offseason a good one.
Until then, we’ll be following along closely, as the ‘Caps look to make sure that this ‘most important offseason ever’ actually lives up to the hype given to it.