Future of Whitecaps’ Ali Adnan uncertain after deal ends

Seattle Sounders' Handwalla Bwana, left, takes a shot past Vancouver Whitecaps' Ali Adnan. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

VANCOUER, B.C. — Days after his current deal ended, questions continue to loom over the future of the first Iraqi-born player in Major League Soccer.

Left back Ali Adnan came to the Vancouver Whitecaps in March on loan from Italian club Udinese and immediately had an impact on the field.

"He has attributes that are very different from the other left backs in MLS," said Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos. "He joins the attack very well, could even grow in the defensive part as a player. But I think until now, he’s come in and been very committed to the team."

The deal that sent Adnan to Vancouver lasted through the end of June, but the Whitecaps have been actively trying to work out a deal with Udinese that would see the 25-year-old Baghdad native stay in Vancouver long term.

Adnan was at the ‘Caps training facility on Tuesday, riding a workout bike and generously doling out hugs to players and staff.

But Dos Santos said his presence doesn’t mean the athlete is staying or that he’ll play another game with the club.

The player and the team have done everything they can do and are now simply waiting for other parties in the negotiations to make their decisions, the coach said.

"It’s been annoying now for me for one month. When it’s confirmed, whether on the right side or not, we’re going to talk," Dos Santos said, promising to have a definite answer on Adnan’s future before the Whitecaps play Los Angeles F.C. on Saturday.

If he does go, Adnan will surely be missed on Vancouver’s back end, where the six-foot-one, 180-pound defender has provided physicality and grit all season.

In 16 games for the ‘Caps, he has a goal and two assists — and the performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"I think he’s been the gap that we’ve needed to fill," said centre back Derek Corneilus. "He’s been excellent since he’s come in. He’s a guy that a lot of the guys get a long with, so it makes it easy to play with him."

Adnan is an asset to the team both on and off the field, said Andy Rose.

"Obviously he’s shown himself in the last few months to be a fantastic player, a top, top left back in this league," the midfielder said, adding that his teammate is a "bit of a jokester."

"Obviously it’s a very different culture than what he’s been used to throughout his career, so credit to him. He’s come and I think he’s played just about every single minute of every game since he’s been here which isn’t easy coming off not even having a pre-season."

The left back position is just one that the Whitecaps are looking to fill as the summer transfer window opens next weekend.

It’s important for clubs and scouting departments to be busy behind the scenes ahead of the signing period, Dos Santos said.

"As a club, in the history of our club, we haven’t figured out that part well enough," said the first-year coach. "But at least we know and are very aware that’s a weakness that we have to become better at and we have to fix."

The Whitecaps are currently looking to fill four positions, and while it’s unlikely all that work will be done this month, the coming transfer window will be important not just for the rest of this season, but to the team’s future, Dos Santos added.

"There’s one or two spots where we feel that we need to become better as individuals there," he said.

"We need at least another piece to bring us more solutions."

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