As we’ve seen in previous years, every offseason brings a certain amount of turnover for every MLS club – and that’s no different here in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson has already stated that there could be four or five "exciting additions" prior to the 2015 MLS season. With that in mind, we present you Whitecaps FC Scouting Week. Starting today, whitecapsfc.com will release a different scouting-related piece of content daily until Friday, December 19.
VANCOUVER, BC – It’s no secret that Carl Robinson is looking to strengthen his squad this offseason.
The ‘Caps manager made that clear in a recent interview, in which he stated that there could be four or five additions could be on the way – an exciting prospect considering Robinson’s previous track record.
Those were two of Robinson’s most high profile acquisitions this past season. Not many had heard of them in these parts, but they were two of Vancouver’s most influential players.
So, how did the ‘Caps find them?
A lot of it has to do with Robinson’s network – along with that of assistant coach Martyn Pert and the rest of the technical staff. Robinson has over a decade of playing experience in the top two divisions in England, not to mention eight years of experience in Major League Soccer as a player and coach.
Suffice to say, he’s built a few relationships along the way.
That’s a massive part of being a head coach. It’s not all about the Xs and Os.
Case in point: Morales and Waston were both recommended to Robinson by a close friend. In Morales’ case, Robinson was actually asked to give his opinion on the Chilean to an agent.
That was even before he took over as head coach of Whitecaps FC.
“I gave a review of the player and said he was fantastic,” said Robinson, who made it clear from his first interview for the head-coaching gig in November that he wanted to bring in an attacking midfielder. “He would suit Major League Soccer down to the ground. Fast forward six weeks, after I had gotten the job, I followed that up with a phone call about whether he would be interested in coming.”
It turns out he was.
It also turns out that Malaga, Morales’ team at the time, were having some financial difficulties so Vancouver managed to acquire the Chilean playmaker on a free transfer.
But there was a lot of due diligence done before that point.
Robinson and his coaching staff could see that Morales had all the tools to succeed in MLS. They didn’t need any more convincing on that front. But they did want to make sure that he had the right character.
“They’ve got to be good people off the field as well as on the field,” Robinson said of the importance of character. “That’s very important for this club and for me. Also, they’ve got to have a hunger in their game. They’ve got to want to get better. They can’t just want to come here and have a holiday, or think this is a retirement place.”
That’s where character references come into play.
Of course, the ‘Caps brass talk to the player directly, but Robinson said the player will often “tell me everything I want to hear.” So they also talk current and former teammates as well as sporting directors.
For example, Pert sought the opinion of Gary Medel when the club was looking to potentially sign Morales.
Medel, who Pert coached at Cardiff City, played with Morales on the Chilean national team.
“Pedro played for Malaga and the national team so you kind of know about him already, but the character references certainly came from Gary,” Pert told whitecapsfc.com earlier this year. “I asked him about Pedro a lot and he spoke very highly of him.”
Robinson said that they’ll make sure to have a minimum of three character references per player.
They went through the same process with Waston.
The plan was to actually bring the Costa Rican into the fold this coming January, Robinson said, but that got fast-tracked when Jay DeMerit retired in July.
“I’d spoken to Kendall a number of times, and he’d shown his desire and want to come to Major League Soccer,” Robinson said. “Physically, athletically, he’s a scary proposition. He’s frightening, but his character really interested me.”
“He had a tough time and a learning time in Costa Rica and Saprissa, being on loan,” Robinson continued. “However, he’s got family and he wants to do well. The first thing he said is that he wants to play and support his family, as everyone does. It’s important that, with level-headed players on your squad, that they realize what the most important things in life are and that’s what struck me about him. Since he’s come in, he’s been a revelation.”
And Robinson is hoping to find a few more.
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