Q&A: New 'Caps director of recruitment Nikos Overheul answers fan questions

Nikos Overheul

What's Vancouver Whitecaps FC's recruitment strategy for prospective players? How will the club approach Major League Soccer's new U-22 player initiative? And how about that search for a new Designated Player? 

New Whitecaps FC director of recruitment Nikos Overheul, who officially joined the club last week, answers those questions and more.

"The U-22 initiative is something the club wants to make real use of this year and beyond. In terms of strategy, we try to thread the needle between immediate impact and room for growth. It's not just about potential. We want these young guys to at least help us a little bit this year. That said, if you bring over young players, you know they're not going to be the finished product. There might be an adjustment period too, coming from a different country and league. We're very aware of all of this and we accept these things. Basically, our goal is to create a young and talented squad that can grow into something special over the next few years and the U-22 initiative will be an important part of that strategy."

"We take the MLS SuperDraft very seriously, as evidenced by the fact we've already signed our two first round 2021 draft picks. We put a lot of resources in preparing for that draft and that will continue in the coming years. Steve Meadley and Dave Dir are very experienced in this particular aspect and they will lead that process for us."

"That depends on who we're selling to, to be honest! In a general sense, we're already developing a reputation as a club that is very willing to give playing time to younger guys and that was an important selling point for Deiber Caicedo. Alphonso Davies' transfer to Bayern also helps, of course. We are demonstrably a team that can sell to the very highest levels. This is becoming true of MLS as a whole too. Every young player wants to play for their national team and to go to a top club in the world. In Vancouver, we've created a situation where those things can become a reality for players if they work hard enough."

"I had the good fortune of working closely with Phil Giles, one of Brentford's Directors of Football. From him I learned how to design a good process and the importance of long-term thinking. There's value in doing things differently for sure, but there aren't really any magic bullets. Analytics certainly aren't. A lot of what makes a club successful is doing the little things well and doing them every day.  The trick is to tilt the odds ever so slightly in your favour and over time that will lead to sustainable success. Along the ways there will be ups and downs, but those can't dominate your thinking."

"The city of Vancouver is definitely a strong bargaining chip, for players and staff. It was definitely important to me! Obviously it depends on what the players want from their life, but there were definitely guys for whom the chance to raise their child in a city like Vancouver was a real benefit. Some players really like North American culture and Vancouver is obviously one of the better options if you want to move to this continent. The turf at BC Place is not a concern for the vast majority of players. Quite a lot of leagues have teams that play on turf after all, so most guys are used to it."

"The Designated Player attacking midfielder (or second striker/playmaker) has obviously been the main focus of this window. We are committed to bringing one in. Everyone at the club is aware of how important that position is for the team and we want to get it right. 

Beyond that Designated Player, we are happy with the direction of our current squad. That doesn't mean we won't make other moves - we will - but those will be to add additional quality to the roster. If a good opportunity presents itself, we'll try and take advantage of that. The club had a lot of turnover leading up to the 2019 and 2020 seasons; we now have a solid foundation and want to have more stability moving forward."

"Yeah, I buy a lot of hot sauces. They are a frequent topic of conversation in our club. Marc Dos Santos might be responsible for 20% of the world's consumption of sriracha. (He asked me to mention this explicitly, possibly in search of a sponsorship opportunity). Probably my favourite is Cinnamon Ghost Punch by Hell's Kitchen. It's great in chili!"

"This is a great question, because it allows me to pander to our fans and I don't even have to lie to do it. Some of my favourite bands happen to be from Vancouver. I really like The New Pornographers and Destroyer. 'Twin Cinema' is probably in the top 5 of albums I’ve listened to most in my life. 

I prefer working in silence. Occasionally when I write I'll have some repetitive instrumental music playing. 'Hallogallo' by NEU! has been a particularly favourite in that context."

"The emoji I use more than anything else is the single thumb up, which is very efficient communication. That one's my favourite or the celebration emoji, which I mostly use when Axel gives me good news about potential signings."