Good as Gauld: Looking at how Ryan Gauld could finally offer Vancouver Whitecaps their long-awaited #10 solution

The Vancouver Whitecaps have recently been linked to Farense #10, Ryan Gauld, a Scottish playmaker. Here is how he could fit into this ‘Caps team, as well as a look at how this deal might go down. 

Might the final piece to the Whitecaps attacking puzzle finally be on its way? 

It certainly seems so, as reports emerged last week via AFTN’s Michael McColl that the Vancouver Whitecaps had put in a bid to sign Scottish playmaker Ryan Gauld from Portugal’s Farense, finally giving the ‘Caps their long-awaited #10. 

After having been linked to a handful of names through the offseason and the start of the season, including Otavio, Chiquinho, Jean Pyerre, Gabriel Pirani and Alan Patrick, it appears that Gauld, who is also known as the ‘Scottish Messi’, will be the name that the ‘Caps will actually manage to grab, giving them the spark plug that they’ll hope can revive their inconsistent attack. 

With the ‘Caps reportedly offering a yearly salary of just over $3 million dollars, this move would make Gauld one of the top 10 best-paid players in MLS, truly showing the ‘Caps desire to finally bring in the sort of playmaker that they haven’t often had in their 10+ years in MLS. 

Having been one of the worst offensive teams in the league these past 2 and a bit seasons, it was often seen that bringing in a player to link play between the midfield and the final third would be the way to fix that problem, and in Gauld, the ‘Caps would get that player. 

Now, it’ll be interesting to see how he manages handling being the main attacking hope for a team that struggles to create a whole lot in the Whitecaps, but the good news is that he’s got experience from playing in a similar role over in Portugal. 

In 2020-2021, Gauld often carried Farense’s hopes on his shoulders, scoring 9 goals and 7 assists, which meant that he was directly involved in over 51% of their goals. Despite that, they were relegated, but a lot of attention was brought to Gauld in the process, as he picked up a staggering 9 man of the match awards for his near-superhuman efforts. 

So for the Whitecaps, it’s easy to see why they’d be interested in bringing him in as the centrepiece of their attack. He’s still young (25), his team just got relegated, and he shouldn’t be put off by the prospect of possibly having to be a big part of the ‘Caps offence. 

There are still a few hurdles to overcome, as despite some rumours that he was a free agent after this year, he is still indeed under contract for another year as per Transfermarkt, but that’ll just mean that the ‘Caps will have to pay a fee for his services. 

Other than that, though, all of the boxes appear to be ticked here with Gauld, so look for the ‘Caps to get this over the line as soon as possible. 

Here’s a deeper dive into why that is the case, as the ‘Caps will look to put a bow on their #10 hunt, one that has gone on for over 2 years. 

What to expect from Gauld? 

And to start, it’s important to point out what the ‘Caps would be getting from a player like Gauld, who certainly has quite the attacking profile. 

Obviously, the counting stats are what stand out most about him (9 goals, 7 assists in 33 games), but his underlying profile is quite interesting, as well. 

First, it’s worth noting that he covered a lot of ground for Farense last year, playing over the pitch, as indicated by his heatmap, which is provided by SofaScore. 

For someone who played as a #10, there is a lot of coverage in his own half, but more importantly, there is also a lot of coverage in the opposition’s final third, which for those who know the ‘Caps heat maps, isn’t something they get a whole lot of in most games. 

And a big part of that? Gauld’s deployment, as Farense sometimes deployed him as a #8 to help them stem their bleeding in other areas of the pitch. 

“Ryan is a player, a left-footed player, with a lot of quality, good vision,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said of Gauld when asked about his team’s potential interest last week. “He can play as a number 7, a number 11, a number 10. A player with a great vision, a lot of intensity, a lot of quality. I know him, not only from his time at Sporting CP, but also his time at Farense. He had a fantastic season this past season and that’s who Ryan Gauld is.”

On the Whitecaps, though, he’d be primarily deployed as an attacking midfielder, as they have a bunch of players who can play at the #6 or the #8, such as Michael Baldisimo, Janio Bikel, Leonard Owusu and Caio Alexandre, but need someone to play higher up the pitch as the true offensive creator, hence the need for someone like Gauld. 

Plus, as the numbers show, playing him up the field will be to both his and the ‘Caps benefits, as despite his mixed deployment with Farense, he shone wherever he played. 

When looking across the Portuguese league, Gauld led all of Liga NOS with 2.3 key passes per game, and was 6th in shots per game, which shows that he was among the best players in the league at both creating for his teammates and for others. 

He was also tied for 30th in dribbles per game with 1.3, was tied for fouls won per game with 1.9, and was only dispossessed an average of 0.8 times per game, which for a player who sees the ball as much as he does, is actually quite surprising to see. 

Plus, the good news is that he doesn’t mind getting involved defensively, as well, averaging 1.8 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game. As seen by that, it does show that he’s a bit better at pressing from the front than actually sitting deep and picking off passes, but by playing as a #10 underneath someone like Lucas Cavallini, Gauld’s main job defensively would be to join his fellow striker by pressing up front in the 4-4-2 that the ‘Caps typically play without the ball, anyways. 

But returning to the offensive stats, it’s worth noting how those numbers compare to some other players, giving a better idea of where someone like Gauld would fit in on the ‘Caps. 

To start, it’s worth looking at his SofaScore radar, which uses 5 categories (creativity, tactical, technical, attacking and defending) based on his stats to give him a chart while also giving him ratings in each of those aspects of his game. 

You can then take that radar and compare it against any player in the world, seeing how they stack up. 

So to compare, here’s first how he stacks up to Porto’s Otavio, one of the #10s the ‘Caps were first linked to, with Gauld’s radar in green, while Otavio’s is in blue. 

For reference, Otavio had interest from the likes of AC Milan, Leicester City and some other big clubs before re-signing with Porto earlier this year, and he had some big games against Juventus in the Champions League back in February and March, just to get an idea of his quality. 

Despite that, Gauld comes out well ahead in attacking stats, is tied for creativity, tactical and defending stats. Otavio does have a slight edge in the technical stats, but overall Gauld gets a slight edge, showing his impact. 

And for an idea of how he might stack up compared to potential #10s in MLS, here’s how Gauld’s chart stacks up to one of the best #10s in the league, 2020 MVP, Alejandro Pozuelo, who made a similar move to Gauld by moving from a league just outside of Europe’s top 5 to MLS a few years ago, and has thrived ever since. 

As seen here, Gauld comes out ahead of Pozuelo in attacking, creativity, defending and tactical stats, and is only slightly edged in the technical numbers, giving an idea of what he can do. 

But while Gauld compares favourably to a few other top #10s, to get an idea of how badly the ‘Caps need a player of his calibre, consider this. 

Gauld’s 2.3 key passes per game last year would be first on this year’s ‘Caps by 0.4, and that’s only because Cristian Gutierrez has turned out to be a set-piece machine who is currently averaging 1.9 key passes per game. Other than him, the next best Whitecap is only averaging 1.4 key passes a game, meaning that Gauld averaged a full key pass more than them last year. 

Otherwise, Gauld’s 2.4 shots per game would also be 0.4 of the next best Whitecap, their striker, Cavallini, showing his ability to create his own offence. He’d also be the 4th best Whitecap in dribbles per game, 3rd in fouls won, and most interestingly, 3rd in tackles per game, demonstrating how his multifaceted impact could benefit the ‘Caps. 

So basically, by most statistical metrics, it’s clear to see that Gauld could bring a lot to the table for Dos Santos’s Whitecaps, which is likely why he, CEO Axel Schuster and Director of Recruitment, Nikos Overheul, have been looking at the player.

There is always the question of how these stats might translate to MLS, but considering that Gauld would come from the league ranked 6th in Europe as per UEFA’s league coefficient rankings, his numbers should at least maintain themselves, and if anything, might be poised for a slight boost. 

Considering that players from leagues with much lower-ranked leagues have come to MLS and done well, that would be a pretty reasonable expectation, even on a ‘Caps team that doesn’t attack all that much. 

When would this happen?

But while Gauld might be a good fit for the ‘Caps, when might he finally don the blue and white? 

Technically, an announcement concerning his signing could happen at any moment, but officially, he wouldn’t be able to be signed until Wednesday, July 7th, when MLS’s Secondary Transfer window would open. 

Then, he’d be able to be registered and could be available for selection, visa and paperwork depending, of course. 

Obviously, for a team like the ‘Caps, the visa might not be as straightforward as one might hope, but assuming all goes well, a 4-game stretch between July 17th, when the ‘Caps take on the LA Galaxy, and July 28th, when they’d take on Austin FC, might be an ideal time for Gauld to make his debut. 

He’d need time to train with his new team, and is coming to a team that is getting to the peak of their season, while still recovering after finishing his latest campaign approximately 6 weeks ago, but having come off of a jam-packed Portuguese league season, that rest should be more of a positive than a hindrance.

With the ‘Caps poised to return to Vancouver in late August, at least based on current projections for the Canada-US border to open, as well as their schedule, that would give Gauld 20+ games to make his mark on the ‘Caps this year, including several at home in front of his new fans. 

It’s all a bit ambitious to project, as there are still hurdles to overcome with this deal, but assuming all goes well, the timing is setting up nicely for him to help the ‘Caps get on track in the second half of the year after a haphazard start. 

Plus, financially, all of this does benefit the ‘Caps, as his budget charge for the rest of 2021 would be half as much as it would’ve been if the ‘Caps signed him before June 1st ($306 250 vs $612 500), giving the ‘Caps more flexibility to possibly sign another player or two before the secondary window closes on August 5th.

Along with a potential return of DP Ali Adnan, who still awaits his visa to play in the US, it could give the ‘Caps roster a couple of big boosts before their run to end off the season. 

A lot will have to go right to make that all happen, of course, but Gauld’s arrival could spell the sign of a turnaround for a team that has been struggling as of late, winless in 6 as of writing, allowing them to rescue what could quickly turn into another lost season, while also giving hope to future campaigns.

One last hurdle:

But lastly, it’ll be interesting now to see how the ‘Caps negotiations with Farense go with the transfer window now a week away, as both sides will look to find a fair deal that will benefit both parties. 

As reported by OJogo, Farense’s president, Joao Rodrigues, wants to keep Gauld, saying that the player has 1 year left on his contract, but with his team’s relegation to the 2nd division, it might be hard for him and his team to keep Gauld onboard for that last year. 

Given that teams such as the ‘Caps, some unnamed teams in England and even the current champions of Portugal, Sporting CP, are all interested in Gauld, a solution seems incoming in one way or another. 

The likeliest possibility? 

That Farense’s president recognizes his team’s lack of leverage as a 2nd division team, especially seeing that Gauld only has 1 year left on his contract, and is likely trying to get a good transfer fee out of his outgoing player. 

Seeing that the ‘Caps reportedly offered between $1 million to upwards of $6 million for their other #10 targets, a transfer fee in that range seems the likeliest outcome, especially given the salary package reported by McColl earlier. 

For a team in the 2nd division, that’d go a long way for Farense, while getting the ‘Caps their man, making it a fair outcome for both sides, so hopefully for Vancouver’s sake, they can find a similar resolution in the next few days. 

With Gauld still being young, a decent investment in him should pay off both this year and for a few years to come, so no reason why the ‘Caps shouldn’t pony up for him, making a deal happen.

Looking Forward:

So now, all that’s left is to wait, as the ‘Caps will look to put the finishing touches on this deal as soon as possible. 

It’s not yet final, so it’s too early to actually say that Gauld will be a Whitecaps player this year, but from all counts, a deal is very close, making this as good as a chance for the ‘Caps to get the #10 as they’ve had this year. 

For a team that needs one at all costs, it’ll be good just to get that out of the way, allowing them to focus on getting their players in the best position to succeed, something that Dos Santos is probably itching to do after having dealt with all sorts of absences this season. 

Despite what they’ve shown so far in 2021, they’ve got a solid roster, but they just need to find that magic formula on the field, and in a guy like Gauld, they’ll get someone who can help make that happen. 

Having played a role as Farense’s main man this past season, the ‘Caps will be hoping that he can do the same for them this year and beyond, hopefully starting as soon as July, assuming all goes well. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs FC Dallas, Sunday, July 4th, 2021, 17:30 PDT, 20:30 EDT (Toyota Park, Frisco)

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