The biggest move of the 2013 offseason for the Vancouver Whitecaps came three days before the season started. They signed former Malaga CF, Dinamo Zagreb and Universidad de Chile creative player Pedro Morales. This filled their third and final designated player slot to much fanfare.
The Rise and Fall of Pedro Morales
At the time of the signing, MLS teams were bringing in names like Obafemi Martins, who signed with Seattle. The sight of a rival spending over three million dollars to get a well-known player irked Whitecaps fans. The Whitecaps were only rumored to have spent three hundred thousand dollars on Morales.
Morales’s debut would come three days after his signing versus the New York Red Bulls. With the Caps already leading 2-0, they subbed him in and he made an immediate impact. He also assisted on a goal, playing a 40 yard ball to Kenny Miller who finished beautifully over the keeper. But no sir, he was not done there. Receiving a pass from Nigel Reo-Coker, and firing it first time across body to score. That made it 4-0 for the home team, shocking the previous regular season champions. New York got a late one, but it was a great way to start off a season at home for the Caps. Also for their new star in Pedro Morales.
Morales did not score for seven games after his debut goal until scoring a penalty against the San Jose Earthquakes. Then a minute later, adding a spectacular second goal. Two months later in July, he had a fine performance in Portland against the Whitecaps rival, the Timbers. Morales scored two and added two spectacular assists to lead the boys in blue to a 4-3 over the Timbers in their home building. He then scored once in Philadelphia on a penalty, midway through the season in July, and took off from there. Morales finished the season with nine goals and 11 assists in all competitions. No one had more than three assists in the entire 2014 season for the Caps. Morales was named MLS Newcomer of the Year.
Things were only looking up from here, right?
2015 came with high expectations for this Vancouver team who, at stretches in their four year history, had been extraordinary. Other times they had been, well, dreadful. The Whitecaps fans thought they had their new player of the future. Although 2015 Morales was nothing like 2014 Morales, he did assist on four of the first goals of the season. He didn’t look like the player who had put up 20 points the year previous. The Whitecaps placed third overall in MLS in 2015, and got matched up against rivals in Portland for the MLS playoffs. Morales was injured for the last month of the season, and played just the final 13 minutes of the 0-0 draw. In the return leg he played, but was invisible. Giving the ball away to Diego Chara in what turned out to be the nail in the coffin for the Whitecaps 2015 season.
Morales finished the season with 23 games played, amassing four goals and six assists in the process. More than half of his 13 career MLS goals in his first two seasons came from the penalty spot. The fans pointed fingers at Morales for his fitness and the team’s inability to have success in the playoffs. After a poor season, there was a lot of head scratching going on as to why the Whitecaps staff extended his contract through 2018.
So with a fresh contract and the captaincy under his belt, Morales was looking to lead the Whitecaps into the 2016 playoffs. Morales assisted on the first two goals of the season like he did in 2015, but failed to make an impact the rest of the way. Morales often injured his hamstring and right knee, which was heavily taped for every game. He was often played out of position on the left wing with his slow pace. Other games he slid in alongside Matias Laba in a defensive minded move, something he nor the team were comfortable with. Although some of the blame placed on Morales was diverted by signing 15 year old Alphonso Davies, the fans always seemed to be fed up with his lack of commitment to a play or certain facet of the game.
After much speculation, Morales confirmed that this would be his last season in Vancouver. As the Caps sputtered down the stretch, the loyal but sometimes cruel Whitecaps fans were happy to give up Pedro. Despite Morales scoring a wonder goal in the last game of the season, the Caps placed 16th overall, a year in which he played 27 games, with nine goals, six assists, and his first ever red card. The club and Morales mutually agreed to terminate his contract so he could pursue other options. He finally announced in January of 2017 that he was going to join Colo-Colo in his home country of Chile, a move to join former Whitecap and 2015 leading scorer, Octavio Rivero.
Morales, the hopeful replacement to the Whitecaps franchise scoring troubles, initially worked well, but in the end not so much. The Whitecaps need to sign a proven MLS scorer who is young and talented. Your move, Carl Robinson.