The Vancouver Whitecaps were busy on the last day of MLS’s Secondary Transfer Window this past Thursday, bringing in some new faces, while also sending a few out at the same time. Here’s what went down.
After conducting their main piece of business earlier in the week, they finished what was still yet to be completed on deadline day.
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, their 2021 MLS Secondary transfer window was already a success, having brought in a long-awaited DP #10, Ryan Gauld, to be the centrepiece of their attack, so any further deals on top of that would just be seen as a bonus for them.
Because of that, it was nice to see them then go out and make a pair of moves on deadline day, first bringing in 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder/winger, Pedro Vite, on a ‘Young Money’ contract, before adding a veteran centre back, the 32-year-old Florian Jungwirth, via a trade from San Jose.
With their lone needs after the Gauld signing being to bring in some winger, centre back and left back depth, to check off 2 of those boxes in 1 day was nice to see, although one does have to wonder that with their extremely stretched left back depth, there still might be moves to be made in that area.
Plus, they weren’t done wheeling and dealing there, either, as they also sent out youngsters Theo Bair and Gianfranco Facchineri on loan, sending them on moves to get some much-needed playing time that should help further their development.
Even if one would have wondered if the pair could contribute to this team in the here-and-now, at least the team is getting them some sort of minutes with this move, adding them to their extensive loan list that already consists of David Egbo, Damiano Pecile, Jasser Khmiri and Derek Cornelius, with the hopes that they can possibly help the club down the line.
So all-in-all, it was a busy day in Whitecaps land, as they locked down their roster for the stretch run of this 2021 season, one in which they’ll hope that they’ll be able to make a late run for the playoffs.
After a topsy-turvy first half of the season, they’ve finally got all of their roster pretty much healthy, plus they’ve got all of the signings they want in the fold, giving head coach Marc Dos Santos all of the tools that he’d need to try and attempt this push.
Will it pay off? Too early to tell, but it’s important to note that while some of these moves were made with the present in mind, they’ll show their true value down the road, too, which is nice.
Here’s more on what all of these moves mean for the ‘Caps.
Vite: A bet for the future
And to start, it’s worth diving into the ‘Caps first and biggest move of the day, which was to bring in Vite on a transfer reported to have costed upwards of $2 million, in a move that was made with both an eye on the present, as well as on the future.
As a ‘Young Money’ player, Vite will count against the Salary Cap at a reduced hit despite the hefty fee shelled out for him, giving the ‘Caps their 3rd such player after Deiber Caicedo and Caio Alexandre.
Considering how good Caicedo and Alexandre have been for the ‘Caps this year, it’s an exciting transfer, one that should hopefully pay off for the ‘Caps down the road, giving them more of the sorts of players that MLS wants its teams to buy, hence the introduction of such initiatives.
But diving into the numbers, what can one reasonably expect from Vite? Despite his young age, can he step into the starting XI like Caicedo and Alexandre did? Or will he need more of an adjustment period?
And while it’s much too early to properly answer that question, the answer is probably somewhere in between, as he is the youngest of the 3 ‘Caps ‘Young Money’ signings, making him one for the future, but he does also appear to have some skills that could prove to be useful to this Vancouver team right now.
To get an idea of how so, here’s the midfielder/winger’s statistical radar, provided by Peter Galindo of Sportsnet, which helps give you a better idea of his strengths and weaknesses.
Going through this, it’s clear that the ‘Caps have picked up an intriguing player on many fronts, as seen by the numbers.
Despite being a youngster playing in the top flight of Ecuadorian football and in the Copa Libertadores, he’s done pretty well for himself with his minutes, as shown here.
Nominally a midfielder, he’s become a key asset on the wing for Independiete Del Valle this season, scoring 3 goals and adding 6 assists for his side.
And for the ‘Caps, that’s good, as while his best position appears to be as a #10 in the long-term, they do need help on the wing right now, so that could pave a spot towards immediate playing time for him.
Plus, when you dive a little deeper into the numbers, there’s a lot to like about his overall statistical profile beyond the counting stats, as well, as he averages 0.16 Expected Goals (xG) and 0.19 open play xG assisted per 90 minutes, which is a pretty decent rate for a youngster.
For example, if you project that over a 30 game season, that’s around 4 to 5 xG, and around 6 xA, which would be pretty darn good for a youngster if he were to turn those into goals and assists.
Obviously, stats from the Ecuadorian league probably won’t translate over as seamlessly as it might another league, but at the same time, the ‘Caps do have a player that recently played in the Ecuadorian league, Cristian Dajome, who also played for Vite’s IDV, and his stats did translate over quite similarly, so projecting Vite as a 5 goal 5 assist player seems reasonable to start (with obvious room to grow).
Moving from those counting numbers, though, Vite stands out in a few other stats, completing 86.3% of his passes, getting 1.92 touches in the box per 90 and completing 1.1 dribbles, showing that he’s good at both keeping possession, but also taking on defenders and getting into decent areas.
Most importantly, he likes to defend, as well, which is a characteristic of Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos’s system, averaging 3.63 pressure regains per 90 minutes, which is quite the solid defensive involvement rate for a winger.
Overall, there’s a lot to like with Vite, as he seems to be a good defensively responsible winger, one that likes to keep possession, but also likes to take on guys 1v1. That’d make sense given that he’s also a midfielder, but for the ‘Caps it’s perfect, as that’s the sort of winger they’ve really seemed to target these past few years.
So now, there is one question that remains – when will Vite make his debut?
And it’s interesting to note that his transition to the ‘Caps might not be as smooth as some anticipate, as he still needs to work on some paperwork to get him into the country, and Dos Santos says he wants to be cautious with his development, easing him into the squad.
Considering he appears to be already doing well in the Ecuadorian league, however, one has to wonder if that’s just the head coach reducing pressure for the youngster, but at the same time, you never know what to expect from a 19-year-old coming to a new country for the first time.
But with the ‘Caps now set at the attacking midfield position with the arrival of their DP #10, Ryan Gauld, and have a pretty good pair of starting wingers in Caicedo and Dajome, they do have the ability to ease Vite into the fold, instead of throwing him into the fire by starting him right away.
From there, they’ll be able to see how fast he can get up to speed, but based on what we’ve seen from him in Ecuador, when he does get up to speed, there’s a lot to like, both now, and also in the future, as there is still a lot more to come from him.
On a ‘Caps team that is already one of the youngest in the league, they’ve added another potential jewel, as they continue their quest to invest in promising young South Americans.
Jungwirth: Some help for the here and now
But while Vite’s acquisition was the main deal the ‘Caps completed on deadline day, they then later made their most important deal of the day, at least in terms of the here-and-now, bringing in Jungwirth for $200 000 in GAM, along with the possibility for a further $100 000 in GAM that could be triggered depending on some performance-based incentives.
For a ‘Caps team that is quite short at centre back, with just 3 first team centre backs over the age of 20 currently on the roster, it was a move made to add some veteran presence at the back, as the 32-year-old Jungwirth brings a good wealth of European and MLS experience to a group needing it.
With the always unreliable health of Erik Godoy, and some of the niggling injuries that has bogged down Andy Rose as of late, bringing in Jungwirth now gives them a bit of breathing room should anything happen to the current group, and there is always the possibility that he fights his way into the starting conversation depending on how he trains.
Because of that, though, you can’t help but pose the question – if Jungwirth were to play, what does he bring to the table?
And the answer is that he appears to be a pretty good ball-playing centre back, one that managed to put up decent numbers in Matias Almeyda’s aggressive man-marking system in San Jose these past few years.
To get an idea of how decent, here’s his comparables chart, courtesy of FBref, which takes his numbers from the last 365 days and compares it to other MLS centre backs.
As seen above, he’s proven to be one of the better ball-playing centre backs in MLS, sitting in the 74th percentile for passes attempted per 90, 77th percentile in passes completed per 90, 72nd percentile in progressive passes per 90, and 64th percentile in progressive carries.
On a ‘Caps team that struggles to progress the ball at times, those skills could actually pave a way for him to slot into the lineup, as he’s proven to be a top 25% passer of the ball among his peers, as this chart shows.
Otherwise, he still appears to have decent defensive numbers, sitting in the 93rd percentile in pressures and 70th percentile in blocks, and that’s despite playing in an aggressive defensive system that isn’t exactly what people might call ‘defence-friendly’.
So for him, heading to this Vancouver team could be a blessing in disguise, as his ball-playing skills would certainly be in demand, but he could be better suited to their slightly more passive defensive system.
Plus, according to SofaScore’s radar tool, which also takes players and compares them to the prototypical ‘average’ player for that position, Jungwirth is considered an above-average defender, so it’s not as if he’s a slouch defensively, either.
All-in-all, it’s a decent move for a good depth veteran piece that has the potential to contribute, which is all anyone could’ve asked for in the ‘Caps hunt for a rotational centre back.
And as a bonus, he can also play in midfield and at full back, so even though the ‘Caps are quite loaded in the middle of the park, his ability to play on that left flank might prove to be useful should something happen to Cristian Gutierrez, the ‘Caps lone natural left back on the roster.
That’s not to say that all his rosy, though, as the one risk that comes with this deal is that Jungwirth is on an elevated salary, with his yearly pay of over $500 000 putting him in the top 4 of current Whitecaps players, but the good news is that his contract appears to be up at the end of the year, so the ‘Caps are just paying half of that for the next few months.
Because of that, they can use him without risk for now, and if he does indeed prove to be a useful acquisition that the ‘Caps would want back for next year, they could renegotiate a better deal for him as a free-agent.
So overall, it’s not a bad signing, as he fills an area of need depth-wise, but he’s also good enough to contribute now, if needed, which is exactly what you want from a player like this.
Bair, Facchineri and Colyn: Development the priority
And to round off the news from deadline day, it’s worth noting that while most of the chatter was about those who came in, there were also some faces who exited, as Bair and Facchineri were both sent out on loan, moves that should hopefully further their development.
To start, Bair was sent to Norweigan 2nd division side Hamarkameratene on a loan through the rest of the 2021 season, giving the forward a chance to play on a team currently fighting for promotion to the 1st division, sitting 1st in the league near the halfway point of their campaign.
For a 21-year-old with over 1300 minutes of MLS experience, in which he’s looked pretty good, one does wonder if he would’ve been ready to skip straight to the 1st division, but with this move, he’ll have a chance to play significant minutes on a team looking to work their way up.
If he can dominate that level, as he should, it will pave the way for him to either finally get an extended look in MLS or another league, an opportunity he probably already deserves at this stage.
At his age, though, minutes are the priority, and with him clearly out of the ‘Caps plans, having just played 4 games for a total of 26 minutes so far this year, this move will get him the playing time he needs to prove himself.
After bursting onto the scene in 2019, looking like one of the more promising youngsters in MLS, it’s been tough sledding for him to get minutes, so this move should hopefully give him the platform to unleash himself again.
Moving on, then there’s Facchineri’s loan, which also sees him leave for the rest of the 2021 season, but he’ll be staying in North America, joining the San Diego Loyal of the USL, a side that should be among playoff contenders at the end of the year.
And for the 19-year-old, this is also a good move, as he’s probably not quite ready to get minutes at the MLS level quite yet, but he’s not far off of that point, something he can certainly prove with a good loan stint in the USL.
Having looked pretty good in just under 200 minutes of action in the Canadian Premier League in 2020, he gets to join a good team in a league slightly better than the CPL, giving a good chance to prove the skills that have had many raving about him for years.
Plus, the good news is that with him still being so young, especially at a centre back position where players peak later, this move will be a good one at this stage of his career, as he’s in just his 2nd professional season.
As a bonus, he’ll also be learning the ropes of the pro game under a pretty good head coach in former MLS legend, Landon Donovan, who’s quickly picked up a solid reputation as a coach in his short time in the USL.
Because of all that, there’s a lot to like with this move, so it’ll be interesting to monitor Facchineri’s progress over the next few months.
Lastly, but not least, there was also finally an update on one ‘Caps player currently sitting in limbo, Simon Colyn, who after a loan stint at Serie B’s SPAL’s youth side last year, was left without a new club.
Still under contract with the ‘Caps, he appears to want to stay in Europe, so to do that he’s been looking for a solution, so as a result he’s currently trialling with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, which is a club that he’s trialled with in the past.
It’s unsure yet if he’ll stick, but that could be a good move for him, so hopefully Colyn can make the most of it, as the 19-year-old is a very promising player, but one that has dealt with his fair share of setbacks these past few years.
If not, it’ll be interesting to see what his next step might be, but hopefully he can just find a solution that gets him the regular playing time that he deserves, much like some of his fellow ‘Caps homegrowns have found as of late.
So overall, it was a busy few days for the ‘Caps, who will be happy with their new acquisitions, Gauld, Vite and Jungwirth, but also happy that they finally found solutions to get some of their promising youngsters back on the field.
As they get set to finally make their long-awaited return to Vancouver in the coming weeks, which will officially come on August 21st when they take on LAFC at BC Place, things are looking up for these ‘Caps as they get set to hit the halfway mark of this MLS season.
Having picked up points in 6 of their last 7 games, they’ve found a decent pocket of form, so even though they’ve won just once in their last 12 games, they’ll hope some of their new faces, and the return home, all help change that.
Because of that, it shapes up to be an interesting second half of the season, one that might be one of the more intriguing run of games in ‘Caps history, especially considering all that’s gone on these past few seasons.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, August 8th, 2021, 17:00 PDT, 20:00 EDT (Dignity Health Park, Carson)
Cover photo via: Jared Martinez/Matthew Stith and MLS