The Vancouver Whitecaps made a big splash by signing Scottish attacking midfielder, Ryan Gauld, to a DP contract this past weekend. After training with the ‘Caps for the first time on Monday, the former Farense man was introduced to the media on Tuesday. Here’s what stood out from that availability.
It took a while, but they finally managed to make it happen.
Weeks after reports first emerged that the Vancouver Whitecaps were looking to sign Scottish playmaker Ryan Gauld to a DP contract, they finally made that deal official this past weekend, signing Gauld on a 3-year deal reported to be worth in the neighbourhood of $3 million dollars.
For a Whitecaps team who currently sits at the bottom of Major League Soccer in salary expenditures (as per the latest update), to add in a player who will be a top 10 earner in the league is a huge sign of intent, but it’s one that they’re happy to make right now.
Having talked about bringing a DP playmaker (a #10, if you will) for years, this is a deal they had no hesitation in trying to make happen as soon as they found out that it was possible, knowing that a player of Gauld’s quality would be a gamechanger for this club.
“Today, I’m a very happy and excited Sporting Director,” Whitecaps CEO and Sporting Director, Axel Schuster, said at Gauld’s unveiling on Tuesday. “This is the one piece that this organization has been working on since January, so I’m very happy that we could get this signing done.”
And by getting someone who’s still only 25 years of age, meaning that he’s still got plenty of prime years ahead of him, the ‘Caps are hedging their bets that this Gauld signing won’t just pay off in the here and now, but a couple of years down the road, too, only cementing it as a no-brainer acquisition.
In the midst of a multi-year plan that has seen them bring in hordes of young players, Gauld fits right into the curve that this team is currently on, which just ticked another box among many that made the ‘Caps want to secure his services.
“We were looking for a player that helps us make the next step,” Schuster said. “And this is a player that also helps us next season, to make that next step.”
“Since my very first day, I said I’m about believing in developing step-by-step, I don’t think that you can rush things, I don’t think that you can do magic things, you have to work very hard.”
And having only paid a small fee of around $400 000 to his former club, Farense, to bring him in, it made it a bargain deal that the ‘Caps couldn’t miss out on, especially after being linked to some #10 options that would’ve set them back upwards of $5 to $10 million dollars.
But with Gauld’s former club, Farense, being relegated this past season, there was supposedly a clause that allowed him to become a free agent, making this deal possible at a much cheaper price.
To start, Farense was adamant in denying any sort of deal, claiming that the free agency clause was invalid, but with Gauld’s intent to leave the clubs, all parties just agreed to a fee, one that would satisfy Farense (who reported that fee as their biggest ever transfer), while also giving the ‘Caps a top player at a reduced price.
So seeing all of that, however, one can wonder – why would the ‘Caps be going after a player who was relegated from the top Portuguese flight, and cost them so little?
The answer is that despite the environment around him, Gauld was one of the biggest constants in Portuguese football last season, scoring an impressive 9 goals and adding 7 assists in 33 games, directly involving himself in 51% of his team’s 31 goals they scored in 2020/2021.
On a team that was newly promoted, making their first return to the Portuguese top flight in nearly 2 decades last season, Gauld did his best to try and keep them in Liga NOS, but he fell just short in his efforts, as Farense missed survival by just 3 points on the final matchday.
That Herculean effort was reflected in the fact that he picked up an obscene 9 man of the match awards in 31 games, as he was often the best player on the park no matter who Farense played.
Thanks to not only his obvious technical skill, but relentless work rate, he did what he could in a losing cause, so for a Whitecaps team needing a hard-working creator to help fill a gaping hole in their attack, it quickly made him an easy choice to make their long-awaited DP #10, no matter what the price.
“Ryan is a player I’ve known for a while,” Whitecaps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, said on Tuesday. “Since he was at Sporting, and then he had a phase of loans here and there. What I’m going to say, and this is what I told Ryan, I never had a doubt about the technical ability. He’s a player that has great vision, a great first touch, looks for the last pass, is very good on set plays, so he’s gonna make us even better there.”
For all of the talk of his unique mix of skill and work rate, however, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t always the case for Gauld, who has only come on in that department in a big way these past few years.
Before, he had a bit of a reputation of being someone who would try and float around and let the game come to him, instead of trying to work to make the game come to him, giving him a bit of a negative reputation in some circles.
But in recent years, he’s made a complete U-turn from those days, much to the surprise of those who have known of him for a while, who have seen him grow into a complete player.
Because of that, it made him an instant fit for the ‘Caps, who look to play a high-intensity game that sees them press all over the field, making Gauld the perfect piece to slide into Dos Santos’s system.
“The doubt that I had (with Gauld) was always in the moments where the team lost the ball, but there’s been an incredible improvement there,” Dos Santos explained, “I remember I had a lot of doubts about that, and even a year ago one of our scouts sent me a message in the morning to watch the game of Ryan against Braga, and I even told the scout, ‘come on’, but he said, ‘no, you have to watch it, you have to watch it’.”
“And there was a huge change in the intensity of his game, I was very surprised by it, and I went back to see other games, and I even talked with Ryan about it, I asked him what happened, he shared with me some personal things, and other things why that part of his game is growing so much.”
You can tell how much that means to Gauld, as well, who prides that part of his game as much as his other skills.
For someone who can pick out all sorts of passes, has a good shot and has some impressive attacking awareness, he’d almost be excused for not wanting to commit himself as much to the defensive side of the game, but that’s not the case with him.
When asked to describe his game, the first thing that he made sure to point out was that part of his game, which to him is as important as his technical ability or attacking awareness.
“I’d like to say, first of all, whenever I play, I leave everything that I can on the pitch,” Gauld said on Tuesday. “I’ll give everything that I’ve got to the team. Then, hopefully I can show my creative side, help create opportunities, score some goals for the club and help turn a few draws into wins.”
“I would say most importantly, where my game’s come on the (most in the) last couple of years is in my work rate, my intensity, and I’ll be looking to bring that in as quickly as possible.”
And on a ‘Caps team that values hard work, that should make him a seamless fit into this group.
Despite some tough results this year, leaving them to sit 2nd-last in the Western Conference nearing the halfway point with a record of 3W-7L-6D (15 PTS), the one thing that this Whitecaps side hasn’t done despite that is quit, making sure to work hard in every game, win or lose.
So now that they’ve got their midfield creator that can help them improve on their lack of chance creation, which sees them currently sit 21st in MLS (out of 27) in goals, 23rd in open play goals, 27th in shots per game and 21st in Expected Goals (xG) per game, that Gauld will not only contribute on the ball, but off of it, too, should help him integrate into this team without much problem.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that by making this choice of coming to Canada, Gauld is fully committed to the ‘Caps cause, having made a big decision in coming to MLS at this stage of his career.
Despite receiving offers from some solid European teams, such as Southampton, Brighton, and Braga, Gauld made the choice to come to MLS, knowing that he could help play a big role in helping overturn the ‘Caps recent misfortunes.
And although the hefty salary offered might’ve certainly helped him in that decision, it’s not what guided Gauld’s true desire to want to make this transfer, as he believes that it’s the right choice to make at this stage of his career.
After they showed such great interest in him at the beginning of this process, Gauld is happy to commit himself to being a Whitecap long-term, and he’s happy that he’s finally able to kickstart that journey now.
“I’ve never been one to make my decisions over money,” Gauld said. “I’ve always thought there’s more to life than money. What it was was the confidence that everyone in the club showed, how much they wanted me, what they thought I could do here, what I could bring to the club.”
“The Whitecaps were the first club to reach out to me and make it known how much I was wanted here, so that’s what played the biggest part, this is where I felt that I could really progress, and hopefully be able to help this team.”
And make no mistake, though, it was a process to make this move happen.
Other than just the negotiations between Farense and the Whitecaps, Gauld then faced several obstacles in the process of trying to acquire the necessary paperwork and conducting his medical, along with the other usual administrative work that goes into this sort of transfer.
Thanks to some cancelled flights, some mistimed quarantines and the process of getting a work permit, it wasn’t easy to get this deal over the line, but they were finally able to make it happen this past weekend, after a few long weeks of working around the clock to do so.
So although it certainly might’ve tested his patience, Gauld’s finally ready to put that behind him and focus on what he can bring to this team on the field, such as his technical skills and his work rate.
He’s a big piece in this Whitecaps puzzle, and he’ll look to fill a much-needed hole in this team as soon as he’s able to.
Having started the process of meeting his new teammates, and training, that shouldn’t take long, soon giving Whitecaps fans a player they’ve looked for long and hard these past few years – a talented DP #10.
“Yeah, in the process of getting here, it seemed like every obstacle that could have come in the way, happened,” Gauld said. “From not being on flights, to quarantining, and getting the work permit and stuff, it’s been a tough couple of weeks. “
“But thankfully everything’s taken care of now, and yesterday I was able to get started on the pitch with my new teammates.”
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, August 8th, 2021, 17:00 PDT, 20:00 EDT (Dignity Health Park, Carson)
Cover Photo via: Vancouver Whitecaps/Jon Hair