Digging deeper: The year that was for Christian Bolaños

Bolanos celebration - new kit

VANCOUVER, BC –Christian Bolaños is “aging like fine wine.”

That was the headline of a Costa Rican newspaper this week after the Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder played a lead role for the Ticos in their World Cup qualifying victories over Trinidad & Tobago and the United States, recording a goal and an assist in both matches.  

Bolaños, 32, is no stranger to the international scene.

He has already represented Costa Rica in two FIFA World Cups, including their memorable run to the quarterfinals in 2014 when he led the team in assists and chances created.

This is a player Carl Robinson coveted for a while. And he finally got him in 2016.

So how do we assess his first season in MLS? 


The 32-year-old led Whitecaps FC with eight assists and 46 chances created (defined as a pass, cross, or throughball instrumental in creating a goal-scoring opportunity) in 27 appearances.

See the team-leaders below.

<strong>CHANCES CREATED</strong>
<strong>GAMES PLAYED/STARTED</strong>
<p align="center">Christian Bolaños</p>
<p align="center">46</p>
<p align="center">27/23</p>
<p align="center">Pedro Morales</p>
<p align="center">34</p>
<p align="center">27/26</p>
<p align="center">Cristian Techera</p>
<p align="center">31</p>
<p align="center">29/19</p>
<p align="center">Erik Hurtado</p>
<p align="center">25</p>
<p align="center">24/12</p>
<p align="center">Nicolas Mezquida</p>
<p align="center">19</p>
<p align="center">28/17</p>

That speaks for itself.

In terms of chance-creation, Bolaños was Vancouver’s most dangerous offensive player in 2016.

He also chipped in with five goals, which was the second highest total on the team. Four of those goals came in a five-game period during the months of April and May, including this classy volley that was voted as the runner-up in the 2016 Whitecaps FC El Jimador Shot of the Year competition. It also happened to be his first goal in MLS.


If you delve a little further into Bolaños' season, you’ll find even more signs of encouragement.

Naturally, it took him a little while to settle in (though he did pick up an assist in Vancouver’s season opener), and it’s easy to see why. Bolaños started just two of Vancouver’s first eight matches – due to a suspension, international duty, and a niggling injury.

That was his least productive stretch of the season.

In fact, only at one point during the entire campaign did Bolaños go more than one consecutive start without recording either a goal or an assist. And that was during a four-game period in July/August when Vancouver had three tough road matches at Houston, Dallas, and Colorado.

That deserves to be bolded. 


So what should we expect from Bolaños in 2017?

The hope, of course, is that there will be less of a transitional period and that he’ll be able to hit the ground running. It will be particularly interesting to see where Bolaños fits into the lineup.

This year, he was used primarily as a right winger. With Costa Rica, however, he’s deployed as an inverted winger on the left side. And he is also capable of playing centrally in the #10 position, as he did for Whitecaps FC on October 2 vs. Seattle with Pedro Morales and Matias Laba playing underneath him, which could be an option if Carl Robinson slots exciting youngsters Kekuta Manneh and Alphonso Davies on either wing.

See below for a visual representation of his play in each of these three positions (based on his successful passes).

Digging deeper: The year that was for Christian Bolaños -

green: successful pass, yellow: chance created, blue: assist

Bolaños' deployment will also depend on what sort of attacking players Robinson acquires this offseason – and whether he opts to use a 4-2-3-1 formation, a 4-4-2, or a new look altogether. Either way, the options are aplenty thanks to Bolaños' versatility. And it will certainly be one of the storylines to watch come preseason, as Bolaños enters his 16th year as a pro.

Good thing he's aging like fine wine. 

Digging deeper: The year that was for Christian Bolaños -