MLS Leaving the Caps in the Cold?

January has not been an inspiring month for the Whitecaps faithful. Each week a new embarrassing episode brings to question the competency of the club’s leadership.

Rumors began in mid-December in the Spanish-language press of Camilo Sanvezzo signing with the Liga MX club Queretaro F.C, pending a work visa. On January 6th the English-language media in Canada and the U.S. became aware of the situation after the 2013 Golden Boot winner appeared in a Queretaro F.C jersey announcing he signed a contract with the Liga MX club via Twitter. Of course this was much to the surprise of Vancouver and Major League Soccer as they believed he was under contract. The month did not improve, last week it was discovered that the Whitecaps number seven overall pick in the SuperDraft, Andre Lewis, was in fact under contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.

Losing your 25-year-old 22-goal scoring striker unexpectedly, then having to loan, buy out, or outright cut one of your 1st round selections after only a month of training camp, seems like the making of a disastrous 2014 season.

What Caps’ fans can take solace in is that these embarrassing episodes are not completely the club’s fault. The league has a much greater responsibility with these two events than the Caps. Just how much is up for debate.

The Camilo exit was allowed to take place because of unilateral contracts, a product of MLS’s  single-entity system. Both the Dispute Resolution Chamber of FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport have ruled against the parties exercising the unilateral option. Could the Whitecaps have prevented the whole incident by offering him a raise? Over 92 MLS regular season appearances with the Caps he scored 39 goals and registered 16 assists.  Last season he only earned $247,500. Could the club afford to put him on par with the club’s highest paid player, DP Kenny Miller, with a salary of $1.25 million? Since the club’s revenue and budget sheet is not available, outsiders can only speculate.

What can be said is while no one has equaled Camilo’s production, the Caps are not short on options at the forward position. Beside Kenny Miller, the club has 23-year-old Darren Mattocks, a Jamaican national drafted 2nd overall in 2012, and 19-year-old Kekuta Manneh, who last season became the youngest player in league history to score a hat trick. There is a rationale for the Whitecaps not to pay Camilo, regardless of how unjust it seems. If Camilo was expendable, for competitive reasons the Caps would have been wiser to trade him to another MLS club willing to give him a raise. At this moment, the club still has little in way of creative midfield talent.

Ultimately, the Whitecaps got lucky to receive a reported “record multi-million dollar transfer fee.” That amount, too, is undisclosed. Whatever the sum, it would help ease the embarrassment a bit; especially since the league’s contract structure may have left  the club with few options.

The blame for what occurred with Andre Lewis should be totally laid on the feet of MLS. When Goal.com reported that Lewis had a contract with the New York Cosmos it became a situation of what did you know and when did you know it. In a January 18th article on the Vancouver Sun site, both president Bob Lenarduzzi and coach Carl Robinson were aware of Lewis’ situation when they landed at the Vancouver airport a day after the Superdraft. In the Goal.com story, the Cosmos CEO Erik Stover said Lewis signed between the combine and draft.

This raises the question, did the Caps or any other club’s interest in Lewis force the league to negotiate with the Cosmos? Or did the league, not wanting to have a combine player stolen by the Cosmos arrange the odd loan, buy, or cut situation the Caps faced while determining if the if the player has value?

Just the inclusion of Lewis in the draft reflects poorly on the league. If the Caps or any other club was interested, they could have dealt with the Cosmos. Rather the Caps are placed in an awkward situation compounded as they were just off the heels with the Camilo transfer.

Are the Caps just a victim of MLS policies that are starting to crumble from pressures outside of the dome the league created? Or is Bob Lenarduzzi and the management staff proving to not have the sophistication necessary to navigate within the league? The true answer won’t be clear immediately. Perhaps, by the end of the club’s fourth MLS season we will know if January foreshadowed another disappointing season without a playoff appearance, or if more information comes out displaying yet another example of MLS’ failure to deal with the outside world.

This week’s Throw-In:

  • This week the New York Red Bulls announced the signing of 29-year-old Spanish center back Armando Lozano. He had played in Spain’s Segunda División before the transfer, and is former teammates with Sporting Kansas City’s Oriol “Uri” Rosell from his time with the Barcelona B squad.  There are, probably, more examples of Segunda División players coming to MLS but, if Armando has a successful run with RBNY can Segunda División defensive players challenge the South American Central Attacking  Midfielder as the hot new commodity?
  • Colorado Rapids loaned Tony Cascio to the Houston Dynamos… first time ever… a step forward or kind of pointless? I say it is pointless, or at least this specific situation. If the loan was to a club still in CONCACAF Champions League, or will be in next season’s competition I get it. Avi Creditor on Planet Fútbol believes Cascio will replace Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia during the World Cup. First, is Davis guaranteed a spot? Second, does Honduras legitimately have a chance to advance past the group stage?  If neither occurs, what guarantees Cascio more playing time with Houston than Colorado?  The smart route is to learn from Sporting KC’s successful loan of Dom Dwyer to Orlando City SC.

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  1. Jonny SOB

    I guess with this league stuff like this comes in waves. First saw it with the Union now seeing it with Vancouver…tsk..tsk

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