Guys Who Could be Guys: Reloaded | The Honourable Mentions
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports This is a follow-up to my article on domestic players who could make an impact on the Whitecaps next year. In the course of researching that article, I came across a lot of players who were interesting but didn’t quite fit with the list I was making. These players basically fall into three categories. He’s pretty impressive for his age but isn’t ready for MLS yet He’s good but wouldn’t be a good fit for the Whitecaps system He’s good but he’s an international Centre Mids: Yes, I skipped the first 3 positions. If you don’t like it make your own list. The CPL is simply crawling with midfielders who probably aren’t ready for MLS yet but who are super impressive for their young age but probably not ready to step into MLS. There’s also a couple of players in USL and MLS who are skilled and probably available for very little but who wouldn’t fit very well into a 3-4-1-2. Player: Isaiah Johnston Age: 19 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: York United Estimated Cost: 165k (transfermarkt) Of the “pretty good for a guy who’s only XX years old” crop Johnston is the one that pops the most from the eye test. This is because he completes a lot of dribbles and shoots a lot. He is a lot of fun. But in addition to that sparkle, there are some drawbacks to his game. He sometimes gets pushed around physically, he loses the ball a lot, and he isn’t the most progressive passer. If he can figure out two of those things then I think the sky is the limit. The good news is, there’s lots of time for him to improve. Data courtesy of centre circle data (@canpldata) Things you love to see featuring Isaiah Johnston pic.twitter.com/Jy215gIPxN— York United FC (@yorkutdfc) October 15, 2021 Player: Arturo Rodriguez Age: 22 Nationality: Mexican/American Current Club: Phoenix Rising Estimated Cost: 330k (transfermarkt) Rodriguez lead all USL centre mids in xG+xA per game in 2021. Assuming a 25-30% drop-off in production he would be in the top 5 centre mids in MLS for this stat. For a Whitecaps team that needs scoring beyond Brian White and Ryan Gauld, this seems really appealing on its face. But I’m not sure Rodriguez would fit into the Whitecap’s system. For Phoenix, he plays in a midfield 3 and isn’t very involved in the build-up. He mostly floats around the final 3rd looking to receive progressive passes and make things happen. But I don’t think a player with that profile would work very well in a midfield pair and he would never displace Ryan Gauld or Pedro Vite in the #10 position. But if you’re an MLS team who plays with a midfield three you should be giving his agent a call! Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis Player: Victor Loturi Age: 20 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Cavalry F.C Estimated Cost: 0$ ( expiring contract according to transfermarkt) Loturi is a player the Whitecaps should be keeping a close eye on next season. He is young, domestic, and plays pretty effectively in a 3-4-2-1 formation. But there is a difference between pretty effective and dominating the league. That’s basically the reason he’s not on the main list. He is quite well-rounded, perhaps a little conservative with his passing, he just needs to get, like, 15% better at everything. But the good news for him is that he’s only 20 and this was his first full pro season. So lots of time to get better. Loturi is on an expiring contract according to transfermarkt so a cheeky move, if the Whitecaps wanted to flex their relative financial might, would be to sign him and loan him back to Cavalry. Hell, that might be a fun thing to do with a lot of players on this list. I don’t know if the CPL has rules against those types of shenanigans but why not test their limits! Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) Player: Sean Young Age: 20 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Pacific F.C Estimated Cost: 0$ (expiring contract according to transfermarkt) Say it with me, folks. He’s pretty good for only being 20 but not ready for MLS yet. Young is more of a defensive specialist (with lots of shots, which is kind of fun). But at this stage, you’re not getting a lot of ball progression and he gets pushed around physically a bit. Plus this was his first season where he played over 1000 minutes. Young fits into a sub-category of the three categories which are listed above. Let’s call this category “guy who looks really promising in limited minutes.” For players like this, it might be worth exploring their interest in playing for the u-23 team which, allegedly, will be playing in an MLS-run reserve league next year. I’m not sure how the pay and exposure of that league might compare to CPL or USL but players, especially more junior ones, in those leagues don’t make very much money. The opportunity to be a regular starter, make a similar or greater amount of money, and be closely watched by an MLS team might be appealing. Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) Player: Alessandro Hojabrpour Age: 21 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Pacific F.C Estimated Cost: 0$ (expiring contract according to transfermarkt) Hojabrpour is the oldest of the “pretty good for how old he is but not quite ready for MLS gang” and as a result, he is probably the best right at this moment. He’s pretty purely a defensive midfielder, not providing a ton of offence. He is pretty good at defending. He leads all CPL midfielders in interceptions and wins a high percentage of his duels and aerial battles. But if you’re going to be a defensive specialist then I would hope to be absolutely blown away by your defending. You had better be an absolute wall, the human equivalent of the Pokemon Bastiodon. Especially if you’re coming to MLS from a smaller league. I’m not sure Hojabrpour meets that standard. Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) Player: Cedric Toussaint Age: 19 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: York United Estimated Cost: 165k At this moment Toussaint is a pretty average all-around centre midfielder with above-average progressive passing. But when you’re average at 19 then you have to figure you have a decent shot at being great by the time you are 23. York United has Toussaint locked into a long-term contract but there’s no real rush to snap him up at this point. He is a few years away from being MLS quality but the fact that he is this good this early on in his career suggests he can make it. Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) Player: Jose Gallegos Age: 20 Nationality: American Current Club: San Antonio F.C Estimated Cost: 330k (transfermarkt) Gallegos has gained some hype because he has a few of those “amazing skills, the next Xavi times Iniesta plus Riquelme, welcome to Bayern Munich!??!” videos made on him. And, yes, he is a very good dribbler with a lot of technical ability. His xG+xA also suggests he would be an above-average scorer for his position in MLS. But I’m not sure he would fit into a midfield 2 very well, there are no wingers in Sartini’s system and he would never play ahead of Gauld or Vite as a #10. He does defend and play in his own end more than Rodriguez does, so he’s closer to a yes from me. But at the end of the day, I’m just not confident enough in it. Like Rodriguez, I would have no trouble recommending him to a team that plays with 3 in midfield. Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis Player: Liam Fraser Age: 23 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Toronto F.C (on loan to Columbus Crew) Estimated Cost: 1.65 million according to Transfermarkt but I kind of doubt it would take that much This one is pretty simple. Fraser is really good and Toronto isn’t really using him. But he’s basically exactly the same player as Michael Baldisimo. Vanni Sartini doesn’t really use the actual Baldisimo so it seems unlikely there would be a regular place in his squad for Fraser. Data courtesy of fbref Wingers/Attacking Midfielders Vanni Sartini has stated that he “hates wingers” which makes looking at them as prospects for the Whitecaps kind of a waste of time. But there are plenty of winger/striker tweeners who could be worth keeping an eye on. Player: Lamar Walker Age: 21 Nationality: Jamaican Current Club: Miami F.C Estimated Cost: $0 (expiring contract according to transfermarkt) Lamar Walker is an exciting young player who, in my opinion, is already ready to make an impact in MLS. He can play anywhere across the front line Unfortunately he is Jamaican and the Whitecaps aren’t really in a position to be signing more international players of Walker’s profile. But if we apply the 25-30% drop in production rule to him we find he would project as a pretty solid MLS scorer. Similar players, at least in terms of the amount of xG they generate, would be Kevin Cabral, Tajon Buchanen, and Emanuel Reynoso (Johnny Russell). How many international players get signed every year that don’t even come close to touching that level? Of course, Walker isn’t necessarily a guarantee to hit those heights either. There is a risk with any transfer and Walker’s game other than his goalscoring ability is a bit lacking in polish. Namely, his passing is really terrible and he doesn’t do a ton of defensive work (though it should be said, Miami is not a very high pressing team and older footage of him playing in Jamaica seems to show him pressing more). But, was he on the Vanni Sartini Whitecaps, he would almost certainly be a striker. As a striker, his passing and his defensive ability would be less of a problem. Thanks to the greatest friend of anyone looking for a deal on a player transfer, expected goals underperformance, Walker isn’t likely to generate the level of interest he probably should. It’s kind of a shame the Whitecaps are so short on flexibility when it comes to internationals. But, hey, maybe Deiber Caicedo takes another big step forward in 2022, a big offer comes in, and suddenly an international slot is available for the 2023 season. Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis Player: Antoine Coupland Age: 17 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Atletico Ottawa Estimated Cost: $0 (contract expiring according to Transfermarkt) Antoine Coupland only played 513 minutes this season. But considering he is only 17 and playing on by far the worst CPL team they were pretty much the most impressive 513 minutes he could have possibly produced. He showed strong close dribbling skills and got on the end of an impressive number of high danger scoring chances. But it would be irresponsible to come in too hot after less than 6 games worth of action. He’s a player worth watching very closely. Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) GOAL ⚪ "Watch me, rookie... "Viti Martinez, looking for service from Antoine Coupland in an earlier effort, returns the favour properly at the last to help give @AtletiOttawa a 2-0 win over @CPLCavalryFC#CanPL POST-GAME | https://t.co/hishXepRT3 pic.twitter.com/1UlofF6LWm— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 12, 2021 Player: Tristan Borges Age: 23 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Forge F.C Estimated Cost: $0 (expiring contract according to transfermarkt) I don’t see Borges as a sort of domestic David Milinkovic. Which is to say he would be a pretty good backup but probably not an elite MLS player. There is a certain utility in having a solid domestic backup who you can get for free. But, from a Whitecaps perspective, there are no wingers in Sartini’s system, he would never play as a #10 ahead of Gauld or Vite, and I don’t think he would be that effective of a striker. But if Montreal or Toronto need a guy then he could be that for them. Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) Player: Diego Luna Age: 18 Nationality: American Current Club: El Paso Locomotive Estimated Cost: $0 (expiring contract according to transfermarkt) The 18-year-old burst onto the scene in USL with 9 goals and 5 assists this season. Now, he did over-perform his xG pretty significantly but he showed that he has the potential to grow into an MLS player. He’s quite a similar player to Coupland. He also has strong close control, comes deep to get the ball, and is also a shoot-first player that generates a ton of shots. But where he differs from Coupland is that a lot more of Luna’s shots are of the highly speculative long-range variety. So the next step for him is either to improve the quality of his shots go full Lorenzo Insigne and just fire off a million bad shots a game knowing a certain percentage of them will find their way into the net. If we apply the tried and tested 25-30% decline in xG to Luna then he would profile as a pretty fringe MLS player at this stage. But his play was very impressive for a player his age and he is worth watching closely to see if he can take another step. Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis Also, his existence means there could one day be a front three of Diego Luna, Danny Trejo, and Emilio Estevez-Tsai. I desperately hope some club out there makes this happen. Strikers: There are four strikers who I like a lot but who didn’t make the full list. Two of them I think are MLS level players but are internationals and two are domestic but haven’t played quite enough minutes to be 100% sure that they are MLS ready. Player: Nathan Fogaça Age: 22 Nationality: Brazilian Current Club: San Antonio F.C (on loan from Coritiba) Estimated Cost: $0 (expiring contract according to transfermarkt) A scrappy striker who formed a deadly strike duo with Santiago Patiño for San Antonio F.C. Nathan is pretty good all around. He scores goals, he plays physically, he dribbles well and he’s good at getting on the end of high danger scoring chances. But he’s Brazilian and, as far as I can tell, not in line to gain US or Canadian Citizenship any time soon. So, for the Whitecaps, that’s kind of the end of that (at least in the immediate term). Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis Player: Ronaldo Damus Age: 22 Nationality: Haitian Current Club: Orange County SC Estimated Cost: $0 (Expiring contract according to Transfermarkt) Can you imagine if Brian White was fast? Damus is if Brian White was fast. If you look at him through ASA’s G+ model it is kind of hilarious. He is negative in almost everything except receiving. He is just so good at getting on the end of passes into the box. Damus profiles as an above-average MLS striker (using our old friend the 25-30% cut) and, frankly a lot better than a lot of current players occupying international slots. But, he has been playing in the US for 3 years now. So (based on like 30 seconds of research) he should be coming up on green card eligibility. So Nikos Overhuel and Axel Schuster should really have a google alert set up for “Ronaldo Damus green card.” Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis Player: Woobens Pacius Age: 20 Nationality: Canadian Current Club: Forge F.C Estimated Cost: 165k (transfermarkt) With fantastic off-the-ball movement and a tremendous ability to win physical duels, Woobens Pacius was really close to making the main list. But two things held me back. Firstly, four of his eight goals this season came again Atletico Ottawa, by far the worst team in the league. Secondly, he isn’t doing a whole lot outside of the opposition penalty box at this stage. Data courtesy of Centre Circle Data (@canpldata) If he can increase his shot volume a bit and maybe add a bit of defensive play to his game then he absolutely will be an MLS player. Woobens Pacius stock continues to soar... still only 20, lots more to come from him, I imagine#CanPL #CanMNTpic.twitter.com/o9M23zhQjX— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 21, 2021 Player: Jordan Adebayo-Smith Age: 20 Nationality: American (big up to my American on a technicality brothers worldwide!) Current Club: Tampa Bay Rowdies Estimated Cost: 110k (transfermarkt) Fast, technical, and an absolute monster at generating high danger shots. Just about every minute of Adebayo-Smith’s first season in the US was fabulous. The problem is there just weren’t that many of them. He was planted firmly on the bench behind Stevan Dos Santos and Sebastian Guenzatti, two of USL’s best strikers. This leaves the scout (or blogger writing in his mother’s basement) in an awkward position. He looks fantastic based on the minutes he has played but he hasn’t quite played enough to be 100% sure. A guy who is fast, good at dribbling, scores goals, and is American sounds like exactly the type of guy someone gives you way too much TAM for in an inter-MLS trade. So if the Whitecaps jumped on this now and it works out then it could be a huge boon to the organization. But there’s not quite enough data at this point to be certain it would. But, hey, the Whitecaps are about to have a reserve team where someone like him could start every week! Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis This concludes my list. If there is a player who you feel should have been included then consider posting a comment either here or on Twitter. It will drive engagement to the article and if enough people do it-it’s definitely the kind of thing that will annoy me and lead to a follow-up article. I joke, of course. The first one of these got a ton of positive feedback so I hope you all enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed making it. Perhaps there will be more of this in the future.