Two areas that Vancouver Whitecaps FC have targeted for improvement are depth at centre back and goals from set pieces.
With one fell swoop, they may have just found help in both those areas.
On Thursday the club confirmed the signing of 6-foot-5 Costa Rican centre back Kendall Waston. Just what kind of impact the 26-year-old has is yet to be seen, but the attributes he brings are clear.
“He’s a monster, isn’t he?” remarked head coach Carl Robinson. “He’s very physical, he’s big, he’s strong, he defends, he’s aggressive, and he scores some goals.”
Big only begins to tell the story. Waston enters MLS as one of the tallest players in the league, only Columbus Crew striker Adam Bedell is listed taller among outfield players at 6-foot-6. And judging by the amount of header goals in the Costa Rican’s highlight reel, he uses that height to his full advantage.
“I think it’s been a problem for us since we’ve come into Major League Soccer that we haven’t been that great on set pieces,” noted Robinson. “You’ve got to try to identify areas where you can improve the team throughout, and that’s an area where I identified.”
"Because of my height, I like to go up for the corners, and for the free kicks I have a good header," noted Waston. "In Costa Rica last season, I scored eight goals. Hopefully, first, I can have an opportunity with the starters and, after, help the team with some goals because now the games are so close and we know that in any match, a Whitecaps goal from a header would be good."
But it’s not only the addition of Waston that brings reason for optimism when it comes to set-piece and header goals. It’s also the fact that those opportunities are bound to come his way.
“I think we’ve got someone who can put it on a sixpence now in Pedro,” said Robinson of Morales, who is second in MLS with eight assists.
Waston comes focused on progressing his career, “a huge opportunity for growth” as he states in a letter he wrote to fans of his former club CD Saprissa. Among his personal goals is a regular spot on the Costa Rican national team, the squad that was the surprise story of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He’s made two appearances for Los Ticos and was on the preliminary roster for the World Cup, but just missed out on the final roster.
“Kendall’s time will come,” said Robinson of his newest acquisition’s international aspirations. “This is a step for him that we hope will be a productive step. You talk about Major League Soccer growing. There’s a lot of South and Central Americans that see this as a very good platform to play in.”
Prior to making the decision to come to Vancouver, he spoke to several of his fellow Ticos currently playing in MLS.
"I spoke to Álvaro Saborío and he told me congratulations, the same as Giancarlo [Gonzalez] and [Jairo] Arrieta and Waylon [Francis]," said Waston. "I’m feeling awesome coming here and hopefully, our team can win and go to the playoffs.”