Yes, the Whitecaps earned an important victory on Saturday in Montreal. I toyed with the idea of writing about it in this space but I am sure that by now you have already read all about it. More importantly, what I really have to say is that yes, it is a better result than a draw or a loss but there is still a lot of work to be done and the battle is still very much uphill for the Whitecaps and their playoff hopes. So there, that’s my take on that.
Instead, I keep catching myself thinking about Designated Players, and more specifically the Whitecaps’ DP situation. Designated Players have definitely been one of the juicier narratives in the Whitecaps three year MLS tenure. Only four players in Blue and White have been awarded the designation and considering that three of them were Mustapha Jarju, Eric Hassli and Barry Robson, we can’t really say that the Whitecaps DP record is a winning one.
Perhaps the only passing grade has to go to Kenny Miller. The Scottish striker joined the Vancouver side in the middle of the 2012 campaign alongside compatriot Barry Robson. The results? In his first half season with the team, Miller really struggled to find his form and to adapt to the league. Contrary to what happened with Robson, the Whitecaps stuck with Miller and with a full pre-season under his belt, he has become the impactful player that we all expected and wanted to see on the pitch. The Whitecaps are a significantly better team with Miller on the pitch and, with his 8 goals so far in the season, Kenny has been able to completely change the minds of most of his detractors. (Just to clarify, I was never in that group, I always believed in the Scotsman…I really did…really…go on, check my Twitter feed or ask around, eventually you will find someone who confirms my story).
With Miller signed until mid-season 2014, the Whitecaps have 2.5 spots available for DPs next season. I really like the policy of not filling the spots just because you have them. Especially with past experiences, it would be wise to really make an informed decision before firing out a DP contract. In fact, I think that Vancouver has gotten away with a couple of players that could have been DPs but whom they were able to sign without the tag. The resume and experience of YP Lee or captain Jay DeMerit could have easily warranted the role, however for some reason never got it.
So, looking forward to 2014, I look at the current roster and wonder if there are currently any players who could be upgraded to a DP status. The only one I hear people rumbling about is Nigel Reo-Coker. A strong argument can certainly be made for a “NRC 4 DP” campaign. However, I do not think Reo-Coker should be given a DP contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Yes, he has a strong Premier League resume were he has captained virtually every side he has played for. Yes, you can count him in the “above MLS average quality” player column. Yes, he makes the Whitecaps a better team that is harder to play against. However, I have not seen him having those impactful performances on a consistent basis. While we know that he can take a game by the scruff of the neck and boss it around, I would like to see that week in and week out. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, I love his passion, leadership and style of play. I am all in favour of giving him a nice raise, but a DP? I am not convinced.
Perhaps it is my fault. Maybe I am too enamoured with the “Beckham DP status” ideal. When I think Designated Players I immediately think of a player who the casual soccer fan has at least heard of. I think of star power and glamour. I think of a player who can become a powerful marketing tool and the face of a franchise. I know that is not the case of most DPs around the league but that is what my expectation is.
So, for 2014 I would love to see a new DP putting on the Blue and White jersey and while perhaps that someone is not currently in the roster but I think a…say, Diego Forlan, would do.
Don’t you think?