The Vancouver Whitecaps are making moves.
First, there was the signing of veteran midfielder Damir Kreilach. That was the first domino to fall in terms of signings and the second one officially fell on Thursday morning.
The Whitecaps announced they have signed veteran winger/striker Fafà Picault for 2024 with an option for 2025.
What to know about Fafà Picault
The 32-year-old American-born Haitian international played last season with Nashville SC. He has six years of experience in MLS as he played for also played for the Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas, and Houston Dynamo.
Last season, Picault scored five goals and managed one assist for Nashville in league play. He also managed three goals in Nashville’s run to the Leagues Cup final.
Picault can play as a winger or a striker. The one thing that is first noticeable about him is he is a presser. Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini is a big advocator for pressing. Picault also brings some pace and can move the ball up the pitch right away.
Here is a compilation of Picault from last season and with the Haitian national team. As you can see, Picault is constantly fighting for the ball and uses his pace to create scoring chances. He likes to cut it from the left and usually score goals in and around the six-yard box.
The underlying numbers show how good Picault is at pressing. But the concern is his production as those numbers aren’t as appealing. Like Kreilach, the big question surrounding Picault is, how much does he have left in the tank?
Where does Picault fit with the Whitecaps?
Picault is naturally a winger. But Sartini doesn’t use wingers in his system so it is safe to say he will be played as a striker. He would be a backup for Brian White since Simon Becher is reportedly joining AC Horsens in Denmark.
The Whitecaps also need a wingback since JJ Adams of The Province reported that Richie Laryea is unlikely to return. It is tempting to put Picault as a right-back because of his pace. I think they need someone better there.
Sartini’s 3-1-4-2 formation was used from late June onwards after he tried using the 4-3-2-1 formation. (AKA the Christmas Tree) If he decides to use the latter, Picault can play alongside Gauld in an attacking midfielder role or in his place if needed.
But this signing is nothing more than depth in attack. Yes, there are concerns about his finishing but if he can put up at least five goals as a striker, that would be a success.
What’s next for the Whitecaps? What are they cooking?
So all the Whitecaps have done so far is sign two veteran free agents. Nothing against Picault and Kreilach but they are nothing more than depth and make you go “OK,” like One Punch Man during one of his biggest fights.
They are the appetizers. The main course is still in the kitchen. Whitecaps CEO and Sporting Director Axel Schuster is cooking something.
As mentioned, the Whitecaps still need a right wingback. If you listened to the TerminalCityFC Podcast, you know how much Nathan Durec and I have been begging for a centre-back.
I should mention that centre-back doesn’t have to be an elite player. Tristan Blackmon and Ranko Veselinovic are solid MLS centrebacks but they need someone to take the pressure off them. He needs to be someone like what Sebastian Berhalter is to the midfield: Not expected to start every match but when he plays, he delivers.
The player would ideally be a left-footed CB who is also good in the air. That is because the Whitecaps were one of the worst teams at defending set pieces last season. But it is hard to find defenders like that, especially one that the Whitecaps can realistically sign.
The Whitecaps still have time to make signings. They play Tigres UANL in the first leg of the Champions Cup first round on February 7 in Langford and begin their MLS campaign on March 2 at BC Place.
Vancouver had a good 2023 and 2024 is a big year. It is the club’s 50th anniversary and they have the oppurtunity to prove that they can be one of the MLS’s elites. Right now, they look worse than the team that fell to LAFC in the first round.
This is probably the biggest offseason for the Whitecaps since they entered MLS. If they do the right things, they can be on the level of the likes of LAFC, the Columbus Crew, or FC Cincinnati.
Like any meal, it has to be prepared carefully. The Whitecaps are busy in the kitchen and hopefully, by March 2, Whitecaps fans will be served with an MLS Cup contending team. It’s not going to be easy but 2024 is the year they have to push the chips in.