A Throwback Signing: Junior Hoilett

I tweeted that if the Whitecaps signed Junior Hoilett after selling Sergio Cordova I would “do January 6th on the Whitecaps’ offices.” Now I have no choice but to fly back to Canada, put on the head of the Spike costume, break into the building, and livestream myself smoking a cigar in Axel Schuster’s chair. 

Ok, but seriously, why don’t I like this movie? Well, for one thing, Hoilett is 33. Past a player’s best years, especially so for wingers whose peak and decline come sooner in the age curve than other positions. He has not been over 0.3 G+A/90 since the 18/19 season. Granted, he played as a wing-back for much of last season, but even before then his production was clearly on the decline. To me, this feels a lot like the type of signing the Whitecaps would have made before they had a scouting department. It’s a guy they know who happened to be available. 

Now, to be fair, I think, in the era of 5 subs, there is more of a place for veteran players to play supporting roles. It’s possible to have a player who you never intend to play for a full 90 minutes but who can make contributions off the bench. LAFC used this role to great effect last season, with Gareth Bale. Recently the LA Galaxy has had some similar success with Billy Sharp. With the Whitecaps being in “win now” mode, this type of profile makes a certain amount of sense. Somebody who can come on for the last 15 minutes to rescue a point or snatch a win could make all the difference. But Hoilett is no Gareth Bale and I’m not convinced he’s even on Billy Sharp’s level. Billy Sharp was still flirting with 0.5 goals per game in the championship. Furthermore, isn’t coming off the bench to make an impact what you have Simon Becher and Levonte Johnson for? 

Look, it’s only a contract until the end of the season. Is this going to screw everything up? No. But I also don’t really see how it moves anything forward. This signing is getting a lot of praise for showing how far the Whitecaps have come. But, to me, this has shades of Marvin Emnes! Though, I at least suspect Hoilett will manage to get on the field at some point. 

Having levied these criticisms, it only seems fair that I discuss some potential alternatives for what the ‘Caps could have done with this open spot. We know they had Jean Pyerre, at one time a highly thought prospect whose career was derailed by a cancer diagnosis, on trial. Word on the street is that the reason that didn’t work out was mainly because they didn’t feel Pyerre fit their current system. But I don’t see how that couldn’t also be applied to Hoilett. The Whitecaps don’t play with wingers and there are already several players you could slot in at wing-back, even if it’s not necessarily their best position. Another possible route would be to give some chances to WFC2 players. Now, do I think there’s anyone on WFC2 who’s clearly ready to make the jump to MLS? Not really. But I still think I would rather see someone like Kam Habibullah (currently doing some trialing in Europe) or Antoine Coupland get a sniff of MLS action. If you were specifically looking for someone to come in and play the Robert Earnshaw role, I think I would rather see someone who had still been playing in a top-5 league or who still had a little bit more juice at a slightly lower level. True, the Whitecaps were limited to free agent signings so there were only so many options. But I think even when you have limited options you should still be looking to find a way to push things forward. 

I think I should also outline some conditions in which I would consider myself to be proven wrong about this signing. I’m assuming Hoilett won’t be ready to play against TFC. That leaves 7 regular season games. If you assume those represent 7 20 minute cameos, it’s 140 minutes for Hoilett to make an impact. If he can manage more than one goal contribution and look dangerous throughout, I think it’s fair to say the signing will have been a success. 

In Conclusion: Is this signing that big of a deal? No. Would I have done it? Also no.

6 thoughts on “A Throwback Signing: Junior Hoilett

  1. This is precisely how I see him playing a big role. They’re better than they’ve historically (hysterically?) been, but playing with poise and maturity at the end of a game – whether ahead or behind – has never been a strong suit for the ‘Caps. Hoilett’s ability on the dribble, to retain possession and make a smart pass is going to be a tonic from minute 70 on. He’ll give the top talents chances and the younger players a reliable role model.

    I’d back him to stick around for 23/24 in a similar role as it all winds down. He had four months of free agency to attract attention in Europe. If the Whitecaps have some playoff success and he feels wanted and comfortable, I could imagine this being a good fit.

  2. Even in the national team when Junior comes in there is some positive influence. This is a low risk, high reward move for a free agent player that wants to be here and already has some chemistry with players here. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t make that. No one in the second team can step in and make the difference someone like Junior would. And no matter how good they might be, no one in their right minds would give kids and inexperienced players significant playing time with the West so tight in the standings.

    As much as I typically like to make fun and downplay signings, this is actually an excellent one and I’m pretty sure 95% of the fanbase would agree.

  3. To add to TR M and saltyBugR3’s comments Jr. is 33, you make him sound like he is 37. He has not played a a winger for a while now, I don’t know why you would pigeonhole him in that role. While he might score a goal or 2 I don’t see that as his role. I think they bought him, as saltyBugR3 said, to mentor the young guys but also to keep the team organized in final 20-30 minutes to lock down a result. While the Whitecaps are better than they have been in a long time in holding on to a lead I think more help in that area will get us farther in the playoffs.

  4. comparing Junior to marvin emnes is a low blow IMO– hoilett is much more than that level- having a vastly experienced player coming in periodically is valuable- but maybe its more than that

    he could be a sage in the locker room and with younger players in the crunch times coming- Junior is a steady hand

    and it might also be that he will be involved in some type of coaching for 2024 if he and the Caps see a fit

    and maybe its about giving a different look as a winger who crosses a sweet ball

    i think its a smart move by Axel

  5. I disagree. Jr still has gas in the tank and I think he’ll be a great help bringing Ali, Ryan and other young players along. Stats in other leagues are an okay measure but from div 3 in England to MLS is an upgrade for him. We’ll see how he does but I think we can get 2 good years out of him if he stays past the end of this season.

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