Good Friday morning Caps fans and happy August — hope you all are ready for the weekend.
August came in with a bang, with the Caps busier than ever before on transfer deadline day. This effort was rewarded richly, as they closed a rumored deal to seal Sam Adekugbe’s return to Vancouver from Turkey and, in a surprise move, nabbed Richie Laryea on loan from Nottingham Forest, with The Athletic reporting that they will look to make the move permanent in the winter transfer window (perhaps with Laryea on a DP deal).
That’s not even touching a few deals for young players who could contribute to the Whitecaps 2 side, including a Gambian youth international, Dembo Saidykhan, who was on the U20 World Cup side earlier this year.
But make no mistake, the two senior team additions will be the big headlines here. Laryea has been Toronto FC’s best player this season, before his loan ended and he returned to his parent club. Given that right back has been an issue for the Caps — and that the side need someone who can replace the positional flexibility of Julian Gressel — this is a savvy move that has the added benefit of trolling Toronto FC. A win-win!
In seriousness, Laryea is elite at getting the ball into dangerous areas and putting a good pass in when he gets there — mirroring some of Gressel’s better qualities as the Caps attempt to replace his top-of-the-line output. He isn’t going to light the world on fire defensively but that’s why you play three guys at the back and have Andres Cubas.
Adekugbe will be a good balance on the left side and is an upgrade over the hodgepodge of guys the Caps have trotted out at leftback this season (Ali Ahmed is of course a different profile but, when fit, one imagines he will slot into the starting XI as a central midfielder anyway).
I think we can have a pretty substantive debate over whether Laryea is worth a DP deal moving forward (the Caps seem to be using him as a way of ginning up interest in the club in light of the 2026 World Cup) and, while I’m not sure he is in a world where there are three DP slots, that world might well be changing by the time next season rolls around.
And I don’t think you’ll find many arguments that, in the context of the 2023 season, both of these moves are home runs. The Caps have struggled to find consistent wingback play this season and in the new system that Vanni Sartini has gravitated towards, you would think both Laryea and Adekugbe are very, very good fits. Both are national team players, perhaps piquing the interest of some neutral fans and, hopefully, this will not leave the team up against it in the Canadian Championship next season.
With these two moves, this is certainly the best MLS side the Caps have ever fielded in terms of raw talent. Whether that means it will be good enough to make a run in the playoffs remains to be seen, given that other teams (Real Salt Lake, most notably) have made some very good signings as well. But if Vancouver were to shore up their weakness heading into the stretch run, this was probably the most effective way they could do so and credit should deservedly flow to Axel Schuster for getting these over the finish line.
Shameless Self Promotion
Lest we forget about the Friday night showdown between the Caps and Mexican giant Tigres — our match preview has what you need to know.
Best of the Rest
Axel Schuster also inked Ranko Veselinovic to a contract extension, another strong move that will help keep the Caps’ centerback leader around until 2026
Deiber Caicedo is headed out to Colombian side Junior FC on loan, a move that seemingly is intended to help him get back in form after his injury and/or restore his transfer value
And Vasco Fry is headed to Vancouver FC on loan for some CPL seasoning, completing the transfer maneuvering
Julian Gressel has a new playmate in Columbus, as the Crew added Diego Rossi as a new attacking piece as they lose Lucas Zelarayan to Saudi Arabia
Bruce Arena has been placed on administrative leave by the league for a mysterious reason