NEWS – It is nearly halfway through January, and in the midst of the Whitecaps’ pre-season training in Marbella, transfer news and rumours are swirling on social media.
With one signing already confirmed earlier this week, and a couple of positions singled out for reinforcement, this pre-season window will look to revamp a squad after a lackluster 2022 MLS season.
Vancouver Whitecaps Transfer Roundup for January 14th, 2023
On Tuesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps confirmed the signing of 23-year-old Uruguayan centre-back, Mathias Laborda, from Club Nacional in Uruguay; their first major signing of the season.
The young defender boasted some impressive defensive numbers last season for Club Nacional, in what was his third title-winning season with them.
He made 12.32 recoveries (per 90), won 76.73 % of his defensive duels, as well as 60.38 % of his aerial duels won, and maintained an 86.1 % pass accuracy (per Wyscout). Laborda is more of a traditional defender; he isn’t one to wander too far up or try to initiate attacks through long balls. He is more of the reading of the game, making crucial interceptions, and snuffing out fires.
For a team that had pretty dreadful defensive records, with 57 goals conceded, giving them 1.7 goals conceded per match (which was joint-fourth worst in the entire league), signing a defensively astute defender like Laborda is a sensible acquisition for the ‘Caps.
It will remain to be seen if, as a right-footed centre-half, he is placed in the heart of a back-three, or on the right side of a back-four. Either way, it will bring some relief to reinforce the backline ahead of the new season, with Karifa Yao being the only other defensive singing done earlier in the season in the Re-Entry Draft.
It’s official ✍️🇺🇾
‘Caps have signed Uruguayan centre back Mathías Laborda through 2025, with a club option for 2026 🌊#VWFC
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) January 9, 2023
Vancouver Whitecaps Transfer Interests
One of the hottest transfer stories this week is Vancouver Whitecaps’ reported interest in 25-year-old Israeli striker Tai Baribo. Baribo plies his trade in Austria, playing for Wolfsberger AC.
Baribo is having a stellar season for Wolfsberger so far, scoring 11 goals and assisting two. He is just two goals shy of matching his last season’s tally, and the Austrian Bundesliga is only halfway through its season.
Baribo is a dangerous striker, with a poacher instinct, and is not afraid to put pressure on the opposing defense and pop out of nowhere to punish even the slightest of mistakes. He is a prolific finisher, with 0.69 goals per game ratio, and gets himself into good situations to shoot, averaging 2.19 shots per game. He is also solid in possession, holding up the play and spreading it wide, and maintains a 79.9 percent pass accuracy.
With reports already stating that a $1-million offer has already been filed earlier this week, it will be interesting to see, if signed, if Baribo will take up a Designated Player spot (replacing former striker Lucas Cavallini) or if the ‘Caps can sign him on to a non-DP spot. Provided he can continue his red-hot form in 2023, It does not seem to matter though as he keeps scoring goals.
J2 de D1 🇦🇹 > Tai Baribo 🇮🇱 ouvre son compteur en offrant à Wolfsberger le point du nul (2-2) grâce à son égalisation à la 88è minute à Altach.
L'attaquant international israélien de 24 ans tentera de faire encore mieux que ses 11 buts marqués lors de la saison passée en D1 🇦🇹. pic.twitter.com/6rFstcooH6
— ERETZ Sport (@EretzSport) July 31, 2022
Vancouver Whitecaps Transfer Rumours
With the Whitecaps currently in a pre-season camp in Marbella, Spain, the squad has had a couple of additions to its camp from outside the regular team. One of those is 32-year-old Senegalese centre-back Salif Sané, who is recently a free agent after being released by Bundesliga side Schalke 04.
Sané is currently training with the ‘Caps, as he is trying to get back to peak fitness after an injury-plagued 2022 season. With only ~510 minutes played for Schalke last season due to various niggling injuries, the experienced defender is getting back up to speed with the ‘Caps.
When fit, however, he is most likely head and shoulders above most of the centre-backs in the league (both physically and figuratively). The 6’4” centre-half is commanding in the air, extremely intelligent in breaking down attacks, and loves to progress the ball and start moves from the back.
The likelihood of his signing, however, is low as of right now. Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster (source: Gemma Karstens-Smith of The Canadian Press) commented on his presence in the camp as a “situation where…both sides can benefit right now” but they are taking it “day to day”.
Given his previously high wage with Schalke, it would be hard to see him join the team without becoming a DP player, and, given their lack of attacking threat, one would imagine that the ‘Caps are saving that DP spot for a forward.
The 32-year-old has been a free agent since the summer and is given an opportunity to compete for a roster spot. Would add some much needed experience to the Whitecaps backline.🇨🇦 @Transfermarkt pic.twitter.com/QIEE3HwLEL
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) January 11, 2023
Another new face to the Marbella camp is Forge FC’s very own Daniel Krutzen. The 26-year-old center-back has been spotted training with WFC2 late last year and seemingly has impressed enough to trial with the first team in Spain.
One of the CPL’s best defenders of the last four years, he was an integral part of the Forge winning season for three out of the last four seasons. He missed out most of the latest title-winning season due to injury, but his form the year prior shows what he is capable of; winning 67.5 % of his defensive duels, making 5.61 interceptions (per 90), and having 10.78 recoveries (per 90).
With his newly-acquired permanent residency, he would now count as a domestic player, after previously being considered international due to his Belgian nationality. That would make things easier for the Whitecaps if they were interested in signing him on.
However, given the signing of Yao and Laborda, unless they offload some more defenders before the beginning of the season, the ‘Caps might want to put more resources into strengthening their midfield and forward line. But if they do choose to sign him, he would definitely be a defender you could rely on.
The Whitecaps will have at least one more center-back training with the club in Marbella. Krutzen will, therefore, have some competition to make the team. pic.twitter.com/xxu1gp29hs
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) January 9, 2023
More on the Horizon?
With pre-season just started, and the first match against Real Salt Lake at home still six weeks away, the Vancouver Whitecaps still have plenty of time to meticulously research players, scour their scout network, and make the right moves.
One thing is for sure: if 2023 is to be an improvement over 2022, then we will certainly see some more new faces lineup come February 25th.