Whitecaps struggle with designated players
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson (left) watches over players during preseason training in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday January 29, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)
With the perhaps inevitable departure of designated player Kenny Miller this week, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and head Carl Robinson are effectively putting together a team that fits the coach’s plan.
More importantly, what Miller’s departure signals is the end of many failed designated player experiments for the team.
It started with Eric Hassli and while the big Frenchman was a fan favourite and scored some brilliant goals, he never lived up to the status and the hype of a DP.
Vancouver followed up Hassli with the introduction of Mustapha Jarju. The now 27-year-old Gambian dominated Belgium with his goal-scoring ability, while only becoming the butt of many jokes while in Vancouver.
What the Hassli and Jarju signings had in common were people saying, “Who is this guy?”
Hassli was a likeable guy, but neither he nor Jarju were ever able to take their game to what is expected of DP.
The Whitecaps next tried the Scottish contingent of Barry Robson and Miller. Both had a pedigree in the Scottish Premier League and the national team.
Robson bolted — likely with arms flailing — after just 17 matches, while Miller decided to stick around, making 43 appearances for the ‘Caps and scoring 13 goals. Hardly the numbers one would expect from a highly paid DP.
With Miller’s departure, the Whitecaps can now look at their new DPs for the 2014 season and beyond, and be somewhat excited of what is still to come.
In Matias Laba, Vancouver has a defensive midfielder who cuts off passes on a regular basis (22 inceptions so far) and sits third in the league in tackles. As a young DP, Laba’s upside is tantalizing.
Add in Pedro Morales, the newest DP, who has already scored three goals in eight appearances, while showing some precision passing (79.24% accuracy) and fans may start to forget about the names of those other DPs.
In hockey circles, Vancouver is often referred to as a goalie graveyard. Unless Laba and Morales can change people’s opinions, the Whitecaps and Vancouver may become the place where DPs come to die.