VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps say they’re willing to spend. It just has to be on the right player.
Sitting tied atop Major League Soccer’s ultra-competitive Western Conference with 14 games left in the regular season and the transfer window open until Aug. 6, co-owner Jeff Mallett says the money is there if the club’s soccer brain trust can find a move that fits into Vancouver’s overall plan.
“It’s their call to bring forward what they think can make a difference,” Mallett said this week during a media roundtable discussion. “But you have to be totally (committed) to it, got to believe in it, really committed to it, really think it’s going to happen.
“It’s up to them — we (owners) actually have the easy part.”
Vancouver has three designated players in striker Octavio Rivero and midfielders Pedro Morales and Matias Laba, but other teams in MLS are going much deeper into their pockets, with Steven Gerrard signing on with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo joining New York City FC in big-money deals.
It’s unlikely Vancouver would go in a similar direction, but with the recent announcement that MLS teams will be allowed to use targeted allocation money to acquire more top-end talent, Mallett said the funds are there if required.
The Whitecaps like to trumpet their academy system and ability to bring homegrown talent into their senior squad — part of the roundtable with club executives was an update on construction of a new training facility at the University of British Columbia — and any new player would have to jive with that model.
“We’re realistic about what our market can bear,” said Mallett. “We don’t go in with a fixed (monetary) number. We go: ‘What’s the weakness in the club? What’s the best player they can bring in? Is there a business-economic impact on that? How will it flow down? Will it allow us to recruit better players?’ There’s a checklist of things that go on.”
Mallett watched his team lose 1-0 at home to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night, a frustrating result that dropped Vancouver to just 4-4-1 at B.C. Place Stadium this season. The Whitecaps, who have a surprising 6-4-1 away record so far in 2015, are tied for first in the West, but goals have been hard to come by and just two points separate the conference’s top six teams.
“At the end of the day, 14 (games) to go, we need to figure out how to win at home,” said Mallett. “It’s simple as that. We have to continue our road form, which is punching above our weight, and we have to figure out how to win at home.”
The next seven weeks are extremely busy for Vancouver, with the Amway Canadian Championship final against the Montreal Impact and CONCACAF Champions League group stage play crowding the calendar.
But success in MLS is what the club’s ownership is focused on.
“We’re sitting top of the West. We’d like to continue sitting top of the West … we’re looking forward to our first home playoff game, and more this year.
“MLS is important. We’re in the hunt, stay in the hunt.”
And to stay in that hunt, the Whitecaps are willing to open the wallet, but it has to make sense.
“It would seem good,” Mallett said of bringing in a big name over the next few weeks. “We’ll have a great press conference. It’ll be awesome, but if we’re sitting sixth in the first week of October … that’s not a good thing.”
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