The Vancouver Whitecaps' offseason: Nothing short of a disaster
Nine months from now, the Vancouver Whitecaps could very well be locking up a playoff berth, looking dangerous in their return to the MLS postseason under first-year manager Carl Robinson. Who knows? Anything can happen in the wild confines of MLS.
That possibility notwithstanding, though, there's not a lot to be proud of these days in the Canadian section of the MLS' Pacific Northwest triangle.
The Whitecaps' offseason has been nothing short of a train wreck. There was Darren Mattocks going on Jamaican TV, blasting the team and claiming that his lack of playing time was the reason they didn't make the playoffs in 2013. There was Bob Bradley choosing Norway and Frank Yallop choosing Chicago instead of taking the vacant managerial role left behind by the ousted Martin Rennie.
There was the Camilo saga, in which the league's reigning Golden Boot winner -- who was legally under contract according to MLS and the Whitecaps -- essentially forced his way to Mexican club Queretaro.
That disaster, at least, had a silver lining, with the club claiming a transfer fee in the multi-million-dollar range, according to a team announcement on Friday. That certainly softened the blow a bit (but still, having little say in the fate of your under-contract 22-goal scorer isn't exactly a point of pride) until the latest embarrassment.
According to a report by Goal USA's Ives Galarcep, one of Vancouver's two early first-round picks in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, Andre Lewis (No. 7 overall), signed with the NASL champion New York Cosmos instead -- and had already agreed to a deal prior to the draft (It should be noted that it is not uncommon for players in the draft pool to not be under contract with MLS at the time of the draft, but most -- OK practically all -- don't already have deals in place with other leagues at the time either).
Lewis, as Goal USA reports, had trained with the Cosmos in November and played with the club on its postseason trip in Spain. That was either unbeknownst to Vancouver, or a fact that did not deter the club from making its selection. At 19, Lewis was considered a high-upside pick that could join the likes of last season's promising rookie, Kekuta Manneh, as part of the Whitecaps' attacking nucleus of the future. Instead, it appears as if the Whitecaps have another black mark on their permanent record, and the Cosmos have pulled one over on MLS (which is another fascinating aspect to the plot).
And as if that was the end of it all, the Whitecaps, like they did with Camilo, have since claimed that Lewis is under contract and is a member of their club:
Did the Whitecaps assume that every player available in the draft was signed to MLS? Have the Cosmos spoken out of turn, and are they the ones in the wrong this time? No matter the resolution, contrast Vancouver's troubles, confusion and all-around inability to give off the vibe of a team in control with Canadian rival Toronto's offseason triumphs, and it's a tough time to hold your head high as a Whitecap.