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.