After a very busy few weeks, the Vancouver Whitecaps have a week and a half off. They have played 17 MLS matches this season and that is about the halfway point of the season.
The Whitecaps also won their second Canadian Championship and made it to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League (Now called the CONCACAF Champions Cup) where they fell to eventual finalists LAFC.
So now that we are at the midway point of the season, it is time to hand out the midterm report cards. In soccer, players are often rated out of ten, not in letter grades. So that is what we are going to do. Each player will get a rating and a maximum of four sentences.
Feel free to agree or disagree as you please.
Yohei Takaoka: 10/10
The Whitecaps goalkeeping let them down last season and they need to bring a starting calibre goalkeeper in. They brought in Yohei Takaoka from Yokohama F. Marinos and he has impressed with his shot-stopping ability and how he can move the ball with his feet. His best save so far is off Sunusi Abrahim in stoppage time in the Canadian Championship Final
Thomas Hasal: 1/10
Thomas Hasal has only played two matches this season, in the second leg of the CCL round of 16 against Real España (A 3-2 loss but the Whitecaps won the tie) and the 3-1 loss in St. Louis. That game showed Hasal was rusty and he has been playing with Whitecaps FC 2. He also got a senseless red card in WFC 2’s game against Austin FC II. Perhaps a loan could get Hasal’s confidence back.
Tristan Blackmon: 8/10
TrBlackmon has demonstrated great passing and ball-playing ability from the back much like last season. It is also nice to see him get involved offensively by trying to get his head on headers and he even scored one goal off a Julian Gressel free kick. There are times when he was caught out of position defensively but for the most part, he’s been solid at the back.
Ranko Veselinović: 8/10
Ranko Veselinović is a defender who likes to keep it simple. He often gets the ball and makes sure to clear it out as much as possible. This season, we’ve seen him even try to cross the ball into the box a few times. Like Blackmon, he has been caught flat-footed defensively at times but he has been mostly solid.
Mathais Laborda: 7/10
Mathais Laborda was the first major signing the Whitecaps had last winter. While naturally a centre-back, he has been playing most of the season as a right-back. He hasn’t been bad there but it would be better to play him as a CB. Laborda has had a few times where he struggled with aerial duels and has looked shaky but he’s been mostly fine as he has shown he is great at tackles, interceptions and surprisingly crossing.
Javain Brown: 7/10
For starters, Javain Brown has had an up-and-down season, but he has been much better than he was last season. Though there have been a few silly mistakes (like that mistimed header) defensively, he has shown he can be reliable defensively and has made some decent passes and crosses.
Ali Ahmed: 10/10
It’s a shame Ali Ahmed is out with a concussion after suffering that horrific injury against Pacific FC and let’s hope he comes back as strong or better yet, even stronger than he was prior. Ahmed has excelled as a left-back and box-to-box midfielder. He has shown excellent pace, tackling and passing and is still third in MLS in tackles per 90 at 3.3 according to FotMob.
Ryan Raposo: 7/10
Another young Canadian, Ryan Raposo has transitioned from winger to fullback. Raposo this season, still is a project defensively but he is showing improvements. He has also displayed great playmaking skills and runs. There is still lots of room for growth for Raposo.
Luis Martins: 6/10
I’ve been critical of Luis Martins because there were times when looked slow tracking back and has been up and down defensively. But, he has displayed in the last few months he can do just that and has been excellent at crossing. In recent games, he’s been better after a tough start
Karifa Yao: N/A as he hasn’t played much
Karifa Yao has only played in the second leg against Real España and just one minute in the 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. Yao is known for being good in the air but in the game against Real España, he did not good. Yao needs more minutes, he’s been playing with WFC2 but a loan to a CPL side would benefit him more.
Alessandro Schöpf: 7/10
Alessandro Schöpf looked decent before his muscle injury back in April. But after he came back, he’s been quiet and is currently out again with a groin injury. Schöpf has shown he can make some good forward passes and tackles but he needs to get that spark back when he gets back.
Julian Gressel: 10/10
The Whitecaps need to extend Julian Gressel as soon as they can. He’s been their best offensive player all season as he leads them in assists with five and is tied for first in MLS in big chances created with 12 alongside Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada. Gressel’s excellent playmaking and crosses have also earned him a call-up to the US Men’s National Team for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. Again, extend this man.
Andrés Cubas: 10/10
The Paraguayan N’Golo Kante has also been one of the Whitecaps’ best players. Andrés Cubas has done Andrés Cubas things consistently all season. He’s been a force in terms of tackling, passing and interceptions.
Ryan Gauld: 9/10
It was a slow start but Ryan Gauld has shown he is the engine of this team (Though you could also argue Cubas earns that title too) in the last few months. Gauld in his last three games in all competitions has scored three goals (they were penalties but still) and as the season progresses, he has shown that he is the excellent playmaker that leads the Whitecaps. Let’s hope for more Gauld magic in the second half of the season
Pedro Vite: 8/10
Pedro Vite is developing nicely. One reason is confidence as he is fully settled into a new team, city and environment. He’s getting involved defensively, looks faster and has made some solid passes. As Vite’s confidence grows, so does his development.
Sebastian Berhalter: 9/10
In his limited minutes, Sebastian Berhalter has impressed. He’s been solid defensively and has been a good passer. When he and Cubas are together, the double pivot is nice to see. Berhalter may be only 22 but he already plays like a veteran.
JC Ngando: N/A as he hasn’t played much
JC Ngando has only played twice this season. He had minutes off the bench in the 5-0 win over CF Montreal and the 1-1 draw in Minnesota. The Whitecaps 2022 first-round Superdraft pick has shown promise with his passes and runs and is one to watch for the future
Brian White: 8/10
Brian White is still the league leader in expected goals. (8.2) He had trouble finding the back of the net early in the season but leads the Whitecaps with nine goals in all competitions. (six in MLS) White’s best attribute this season is his work rate as he continuously fights for the ball and presses. It’s been a good season for White but again, he needs more actual goals but with the way he is playing, they will come.
Simon Becher: 8/10
Simon Becher has cooled from his hot start but he has shown a lot of promise. He’s been excellent off the bench and has been great at poaching. There were times when he has been hesitant to shoot but Becher proved he belongs in MLS.
Sergio Córdova: 2/10
The Whitecaps DP striker has disappointed so far as Sergio Córdova has not had a goal or an assist in all competitions yet. There were times when he looked invisible or not engaged but last game against FC Cincinnati showed everyone why the Whitecaps signed him. Córdova was pressing, using his strength and even shooting. Now he needs to find a way to do that consistently and put the ball in the back of the net.
Deiber Caicedo: 6/10
Deiber Caicedo had a horrific knee injury last season. This season, he hasn’t played much but has looked fine. He hasn’t been the quick playmaker that he was before the injury but he has shown flashes. Caicedo does deserve more minutes however but if he doesn’t…could he be the one that leaves in the summer window?
Head coach Vanni Sartini: 8/10
Vanni Sartini isn’t on the hot seat, for now. Yes, he has made some questionable lineup and tactical decisions but he has the Whitecaps playing with an identity. They are a team that presses, keeps possession and defensively, starts a counter once they get the ball. It seems the players buy into Sartini and his coaching and he’s done a good job but the job isn’t done yet.