VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps have made a flurry of recent trades and signings, and head coach Marc Dos Santos says the process of re-shaping the roster is far from over.
The club added two goalies, a winger and a midfielder during Major League Soccer’s half-day trade window on Sunday, then announced Monday that last year’s leading scorer, Kei Kamara, will not return for the 2019 season.
The Whitecaps said the 34-year-old has opted out of free agency, choosing instead to be eligible for Tuesday’s expansion draft and the league’s re-entry draft on Friday.
"Kei was very important for the club last season," Dos Santos told reporters on Monday. "But we’re looking again at the big picture, we’re looking at the medium, long-term, what we want to be about. And sometimes it’s tough. Not all the decisions when you move on are easy decisions."
Kamara had 14 goals and six assists in 28 games for the ‘Caps last year, his only season with the team. He’s played in the MLS since 2006, with stints in Columbus, San Jose, Houston, Kansas City and New England.
The Whitecaps also released their list of protected players ahead of the expansion draft, which will see the new FC Cincinnati franchise pick athletes for their inaugural season in 2019.
The ‘Caps protected list includes two players the organization picked up in trades on Sunday (‘keeper Zac MacMath and winger Victor (PC) Giro), eight players currently under contract (forwards Anthony Blondell, Erik Hurtado and Yordy Reyna; midfielder Felipe Martins; and defenders Brett Levis, Doneil Henry, Jake Nerwinski and Kendall Waston), and winger Cristian Techera, who the club has extended an offer to.
Another seven players are automatically protected because they are home-grown athletes: forwards Theo Bair, Simon Colyn; midfielders Michael Baldisimo, David Norman Jr. and Russell Teibert; and goalies Maxime Crepeau and Sean Melvin.
Midfielder Andy Rose is also automatically protected because his contract with the Whitecaps does not begin until next season.
The organization announced Monday that it had agreed to a contract with Rose, a 28-year-old England native, through 2020 with a club option for 2021.
Dos Santos noted that just because a player is protected from the expansion draft does not mean he’ll suit up for the Whitecaps in 2019. The coach said he expects the club to use its option to buy out one player and is looking at possibilities.
At least one former Whitecaps is looking for an out. Waston, the team’s captain, publicly stated at the end of the season that he intends to seek a trade and does not want to play in Vancouver again next year.
Dos Santos said he’s spoken with Waston and does not expect him to return.
"At the end of the process with Kendall, we want the club to be in a good position. And I think that will happen," he said.
The Whitecaps have also lost the offensive efforts of teenage star Alphonso Davies, who was transferred to German soccer giant Bayern Munich in a record-breaking deal at the end of the season.
Dos Santos said the club is looking for someone who can put up points and he expects that talent to come from outside of the MLS because players already in the league aren’t easy to get.
"We have a profile of players that we want to bring," he said. "We’re looking at different — a lot of different — players from different countries. But now we’re trimming pretty much and we’re hoping we get the right ones here."
The Whitecaps will get an influx of cash from the Davies deal, but Dos Santos said he’s not looking to spend it all in one place.
"Are we looking at going in a direction of bringing in a player like (L.A. Galaxy’s Zlatan) Ibrahimovic or (Didier) Drogba when he arrived in Montreal? No. Today, no. We’re looking more at the team as a whole and that’s our concern," he said.
"We’re not looking to invest in one marquee player right now."