Vancouver FC’s first CPL campaign has just come to an end, with a 2-1 defeat at home to York United on the final day of the season. With their inaugural year now in the rear-view mirror, the question turns towards what this team can learn from all the experiences they have amassed, as well as where they still need to seek continued improvements in the off-season.
As they begin to look back over this season, they will see plenty of progression over the course of the year, especially right down the closing stretch, as their final six games saw them win four, including a huge away win at rivals Pacific FC. While Vancouver had already been eliminated at this point, they managed to get themselves off the bottom of the table, as Valour FC ended up three points behind Afshin Gohtbi’s side.
Plans have no doubt already started for next season, continuing upon the improved recruitment strategy and squad identity which was witnessed from the summer transfer window onward, seeing several players from the initial squad leave the team. In what follows, I’ll present three players from within the league who could be valuable additions to Vancouver FC’s roster in 2024. These players are, according to Transfermarkt data, currently on a deal expiring deal, so they’ll be looking for a new contract heading into the 2024 CPL season.
Goalkeeper Callum Irving was the club’s first signing, with the idea to provide experience and leadership at the back for Vancouver. While Irving has been solid, the season ended with the defensive line relying on 23-year-old Rocco Romeo taking the leadership role in amongst the back four. While Romeo and Anthony White have played well for Vancouver, adding a player like Paris Gee would provide experience and flexibility, especially with plenty of questions hovering around York United from an ownership point of view.
Gee has filled in at centre-back when needed for York, but can also play on either side in his natural full-back position. This would help get Kayden Chung back up into midfield next year for Vancouver, which would be an added benefit of improved defensive depth. Tyler Crawford fell down the pecking order under Afshin Gohtbi, with James Cameron moving the left back, so adding Gee could provide Cameron the opportunity to head back over to his more natural right side.
This would definitely be an opportunist move, as Gee is a fan favourite and key player at York United. However, heading back west could be a tempting proposition for the BC native, even though there will be no shortage of admirers throughout the league looking to acquire his services.
Simply put, the Vancouver FC midfield will need some work this off-season. Plenty of questions remain unanswered at this point: Will Chung be moved back into the midfield? Will Vasco Fry be back with VFC? What does the future hold for Renan Garcia?
One possible answer to these questions, especially if Garcia and/or Fry do not return, is to look at a player such as Aboubacar Sissoko. While Sissoko featured in 25 games this season for Forge FC, he only managed 1345 minutes of play. Should Forge miss out on a trophy, and consequently CONCACAF Champions Cup next year, this could be a good time to move for the midfielder, who could see his role reduced even further in Hamilton.
The 28-year-old still has a lot to offer for a CPL side. His workman-like performances, ability to get up and down the field, and to compete on both sides of the ball would make him an ideal candidate for Vancouver to add some midfield depth. Afshin Ghotbi has some talented attacking midfielders, so they need someone who can perform a physical role like Sissoko to help keep things balanced.
While Valour may have finished bottom of the table, their defence often impressed during the 2023 season. Samaké has struggled at times with injury, though when he has been on the pitch, he is a very strong central defender. He appeared 17 times for Valour this past season, and back in 2021 for Pacific, he was a mainstay of the defensive line, making 24 appearances and logging more than 2000 minutes.
As I said with Gee, it will be important to add depth to the backline for VFC, as Rocco Romeo and Anthony White continue to grow and develop. Pele Martine left Vancouver mid-season and was not replaced, so this winter will see some additions at the back, without a doubt. A player like Samaké could add competitive depth while not necessarily being relied upon to start week in and week out. Having just turned 27, there’s still plenty of reason to think Samaké can be a quality CPL defender if he can stay fit as he enters his 5th season in the league.
Where do you think Vancouver FC can look to improve their squad this off-season? Let us know!
(Image Credits: Canadian Premier League)