Editorial — In the nine complete seasons that the Vancouver Whitecaps has been an MLS franchise, the club has been through understandably gone through some changes. A new stadium, a world class talent come and gone and an awful stint where they donned a brown and blue kit.
However, after nearly a decade of top flight soccer, the 2019 Whitecaps found themselves in the same position as their inaugural season, last place in the Western Conference. Last year saw Vancouver record two more wins, two more goals and take sole possession of the second worst goal differential in the league — an honor they shared with New England in 2011. Despite scarce splashes of success, it’s fair to say Vancouver has never boasted a star studded line up.
That’s not without the club trying, though. Countless times fans have been fooled into thinking the latest puzzle piece will be a game changer. This list counts down the top five “flops” for Vancouver in MLS.
5. Efrain Juarez
Coming off the most successful spell of his career with Monterrey, Vancouverites thought that Juarez would be a key defensive piece at holding midfield, allowing for a more effective transition from defense to attack. The Barcelona academy product fell into a different role, starting just 14 games in 2018. Picking up a pair of red cards, the Mexican was amongst the team leaders in fouls committed. He only managed one assist in 16 appearances, far from the “tiki taka wizard” that fans were hoping for. The club parted ways with Juarez after one season. It was a failed project to say the least.
4. Joaquin Ardaiz
Stuck behind Freddy Montero, Tosaint Ricketts, Anthony Blondell and an emerging Theo Bair, Joaquin Ardaiz was never given a true chance to showcase his skills. On a season-long loan from Swiss club Chiasso, Ardaiz’s time in Vancouver was short and far from sweet. A physical, yet skillful, striker the Uruguayan never found form at BC Place. He managed no more than 12 shots in 16 appearances. Starting only three of those games, Ardaiz showed glimpses of what he could’ve been for the club, twisting and turning away from defenders. Aged 21 at the time, the youngster has a large upside to develop into. The timing just wasn’t there for Vancouver in 2019.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 17, 2020
3. Bernie Ibini
Similarly to Ardaiz, Bernie Ibini seemed like a perfect match on paper, but really that’s about as good as it got for him. A proven goalscorer in the Australian league, the longtime journeyman left Sydney FC hoping to find a home in Vancouver. Two-half seasons were all that Ibini got before he hit the road to Emirates Club.
Ibini has a similar playing style to current talisman Lucas Cavallini, a little slower but is strong and ruthless in and around the box. Whitecaps fans are hoping Cavallini doesn’t pan out the same way, with Ibini netting only once from his 25 appearances with the team. Starting only seven games — mostly because he was behind Montero, Hurtado and Kamara — Ibini will always be a big “what if” for Vancouver.
2. Anthony Blondell
You might have noticed a common trend, strikers taking up the majority of the spots on this list, and No. 2 is no different. Anthony Blondell, tall, fast, aggressive and technically gifted. What’s not to love? Mix in the fact that he won the Golden Boot in the Venezuela Primera División the season before with 24 goals in 39 games for Monagas, it seemed too good to be true. Coming off of Vancouver’s most successful season in 2017, a reliable striker seemed to be the last piece to the puzzle.
Skip forward to 2019. Blondell started eight games, scored one goal and had 18 total appearances. It’s safe to say a few more pieces will be needed to complete that puzzle.
1. Omar Salgado
Earlier I mentioned similar themes from 2011 and 2019, and fans are hoping this one doesn’t come true. Last year’s draftee Ryan Raposo has had a blinding start to his time as a Whitecap. But what about their first-ever MLS draft pick Omar Salgado?
Salgado went first overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, a draft that contained the likes of Darlington Nagbe and Will Bruin. Notice how Nagbe and Bruin aren’t on this list, yet Salgado is here. It was supposed to be a historic moment for the club.
Salgado went on to record one goal in 26 appearances over a four-year stretch with Vancouver. He notched his only goal on his first start against Columbus in 2011, and it was all downhill from there. However, the American winger fractured his foot twice in two years, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season. He currently plays for El Paso Locomotive FC in the USL.
Just a comparison for those who want it, Nagbe — who went second overall, behind Salgado — is a two-time MLS cup winner and scored the MLS goal of the year in his rookie year. Internationally, he has won the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup and named to that tournament’s best XI. Nagbe also has 25 appearances under his belt for the U.S. men’s national team.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 15, 2020