It took longer than expected but the Vancouver Whitecaps have their new striker.
On early Monday morning, the club announced they have signed Venezuelan striker Sergio Córdova from Bundesliga side FC Augsburg. Córdova joins Ryan Gauld and Andrés Cubas as the Whitecaps’ designated players. He also takes up an international roster spot and is signed until 2025 with an option for 2026. So along with Cordova Street, Vancouver has two Cordovas.
The 25-year-old already has experience in MLS. He led Real Salt Lake with 11 goals last season and also managed two assists while on loan from FC Augsburg. Nine of those goals came in the second half of the season. One of those goals came against the Whitecaps on August 20 in a 1-1 draw at what was then called Rio Tinto Stadium.
It has been reported that the Whitecaps will pay FC Augsburg 2.1 million Euros (About 3.018 Canadian) for Córdova’s services. But knowing MLS, things are never easy. That is because Real Salt Lake owned his discovery rights and the Whitecaps paid a lot to get him on top of the 2.1 million Euros.
They paid up to $300,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) for this year, $100,000 in 2023 GAM and $100,000 in 2024 GAM guaranteed. Vancouver is also going to pay $100,000 in 2025 GAM if Córdova starts at least five regular season matches before December 31, 2024. Well, since Córdova is a DP, that is likely going to happen, should he excel in Vancouver in his first two seasons.
So yeah, that is a hefty price.
“Sergio is a player who impressed us during his first year in MLS with Real Salt Lake and arrives in Vancouver as he enters his prime,” said Whitecaps CEO and Sporting Director Axel Schuster in the press release. “He fits the profile of a striker we want to have amongst our group. He is a proven goalscorer in our league, brings size and strength, as well as tenacity in the final third. We’re excited to welcome Sergio to Vancouver and our club.”
“I’m very happy to come to Whitecaps FC,” said Córdova “I am excited, motivated and 100 percent convinced that this year we will achieve great things. I will do my best for this family. See you soon.”
High in the shelf? Or a desperation move?
This signing raises some eyebrows. Schuster said back in January that they were looking for a striker that was “high in the shelf.” No disrespect to Córdova but this signing feels like one from near or at the bottom of the list. The Whitecaps did have other options in mind and Tai Baribo of the Austrian side Wolfsberger had them interested but the deal never materialized.
As Nathan Durec and I mentioned on the Terminal City FC Podcast a few weeks ago, this seems like a desperate move.
As mentioned in the clip, Córdova’s career high in goals in the Bundesliga is three. That is not “high in the shelf” material but his 11 with RSL should have you intrigued.
Given how much the Whitecaps gave up to get him, they are going all in. That means they are really pushing the chips in on Córdova being the main man up front. It also means they want to win now. This season and next season and possibly the season after that is the best time to compete for trophies such as the MLS Cup. Gauld, Cubas, Julian Gressel, Ranko Veselinović, (those two are in the final year of their contracts and extensions should be looked at) Alessandro Schöpf, Yohei Takaoka and now Córdova make up a decent core.
What does Córdova bring to the Whitecaps?
At 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Córdova does bring size and strength to the club. Of course, he was brought in to score goals.
Córdova has proven he can score in MLS. A big reason why is that he always finds himself in the right position and creates space for himself to get scoring chances. The final third was an area where the Whitecaps really struggled last season and Córdova could potentially change that.
Look at how he positions himself in front of the Minnesota United defenders below. His ball control is also excellent as he puts RSL up front.
Once again, he finds himself in a good position in the clip below. That is because as Andrew Brody is running, he immediately tries to find the area where he can receive the pass and get a shot. In Vancouver, Córdova is going to get more service than he did with RSL as Gauld, Gressel, Pedro Vite and Schöpf provide just that.
With all that service and his poaching ability, there is no reason why Córdova would struggle to find the back of the net with the Whitecaps.
It wouldn’t be fair to call Córdova a target man. Sure he is known for scoring goals that are delivered to him in the box but remember he has strength and good dribbling ability. He also can turn on the jets when he has the ball.
Here, he manages to hold onto the ball while using his big frame to get around the Seattle Sounders defenders and outwit Stefan Frei for a brilliant solo goal.
What do the stats say about the new Whitecaps striker?
Well, Football Reference says Córdova’s goals and non-penalty goals rate per 90 minutes is 0.26 which is below the 50th percentile. That could be better.
However, Córdova can get shots on target as his shots on target rate per 90 is 1.19 and in the 65th percentile. His shots per target percentage is 50.8% and in the 96th percentile.
The stats favour Córdova in the defensive side of the game. That may seem odd since he is a striker but it looks like head coach Vanni Sartini will want the club to be dangerous on the counterattacks and transitions.
Córdova’s tackling rate is at 0.95 per 90, (83rd percentile) tackles won at 0.63 per 90 (88th percentile), 0.28 tackles in the defensive third per 90, (92nd percentile) 0.47 tackles per 90 in the middle third (79th percentile) and 0.20 tackles per 90 in the attacking third (54th percentile)
So expect Córdova to help start the counterattack due to his tackling ability and he’ll also try to create turnovers.
The Whitecaps are getting a proven MLS striker who is great at being in the right position for scoring chances and has the defensive game to help start the transition.
However, with the amount of money paid and the fact that Córdova is a DP, they really need him to be a home run signing. The biggest concern about Córdova is his consistency to find the back of the net. As mentioned nine out of his 11 goals came in the second half of last season with RSL and the Whitecaps cannot have another poor start.
This is a signing that I and many others am skeptical are still about but it is up to Córdova to prove us all wrong.
The Whitecaps’ season opener is this Saturday at BC Place and Córdova could face his former club.