Vancouver FC: Over Two Months In, How Does the Expansion Franchise Look?

Vancouver FC: Over Two Months In, How Does the Expansion Franchise Look?

[First of all, hi. My name is Thomas, I just recently joined 13th Man Sports on a free transfer from my Substack newsletter. I’m mostly going to be covering York United, but since they haven’t made any new signings for a little bit, I’m writing about one of the league’s relative enigmas: Vancouver FC.]

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The new kids on the Canadian Premier League block have become regulars in the news cycle. It seems like every couple of days now Vancouver FC is teasing new signings with the eyeballs and pen emojis, luring in CPL-experienced talent to, in their words, “join the dark side.”

Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi (photo via ESPN)

Their manager Afshin Ghotbi is rightfully a coach that has been talked up in the media. A chief of scouting for the USA, an assistant manager of the South Korean men’s national team, and finally, climbing to the top of the ladder in international football, becoming the manager of a national side, in this case his country, Iran. He was in charge from April 2009 to January 2011, but not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup did number his days.

Ghotbi has also coached clubs in South Korea, the United States, Iran (where in 2007-08 he and Piroozi FC won the league), Japan, Thailand, and China. His CV is packed with experience in all types of situations, but leading a new club and assembling a roster from nothing is a feat even Ghotbi hasn’t accomplished. Speaking on the ‘Footy First’ TSN 1050 radio show, “This project, building a team from ground zero was really intriguing and exciting to me, especially in the city of Vancouver.”

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For more context on that last bit, Ghotbi expressed Vancouver as a “bucket-list city” earlier in the interview.

The story of Vancouver FC’s inaugural campaign would ultimately be defined not by the big crest and branding announcement – albeit spoiled by some eagle-eyed (no pun intended) reporters who found the logo the CPL trademarked a week earlier – but by the dirty work of scouting and negotiations, 23 times before they take the field in early April.

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Vancouver was seemingly in a deep slumber on the news front before waking up and doing so with a bang. The first signing in club history was none other than Callum Irving, born and bred in the city, and having previously been the captain for the enemies across the Fraser River, Pacific FC, Irving will surely be the centrepiece of a budding rivalry.

Callum Irving, formerly of Pacific, now with Vancouver – Sheldon Mack

When Ghotbi spoke to the CPL website after his new ‘keeper put pen to paper, he was clear on how we would build VFC: “From the beginning, I explained to [club owner] Rob Friend that we need to build this team from the goalkeeper up. If you give me a top goalkeeper and two top central defenders, we will always be there in or around the playoff spots.”

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Up The North! is the newest addition to the FC13 rotation you have come to love. Join Simon Springer as he chats with some of the Canadian Premier League, and Canadian soccer's most interesting talents and personalities. On this episode, HFX Wanderers midfielder Aidan Daniels joins the show.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FC13Podcast, and our parent account, @13thManSports for all of your soccer needs! – FC13 Podcast is sponsored by Bet99, enter code 13thManSports1 to get started for all your CPL betting needs. (Never bet what you can't afford to lose)

So Afshin, how have you built those two defensive pillars in the spine of your team?

Well, he made his intention of building from the back clear when with the first overall pick in the CPL draft, he chose Anthony White, a League1BC champion, from U of T. Although he hasn’t been signed yet, it is very likely he will be since VFC is new and he has obvious talent.

Expansion franchise Vancouver FC opened the CPL U Sports draft by taking Anthony White, a defender from the University of Toronto, seen above, and Ameer Kinani, a forward from Toronto Metropolitan University. (University of Toronto)

Another tall, young centre-back was just recently announced. Rocco Romeo comes in from Valour FC after a great season where he was one of their best, scoring twice in the process but was also a reliable rock on the other side of the ball.

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Mission accomplished? Yes, well, no, but sort of. Ghotbi has secured those three key players on the pitch, and now whatever group he assembled can play with more “freedom and creativity.”

Along with the aforementioned additions in the final third, signings have included Elliot Simmons from Cavalry FC (a very good pick that is also defensively minded, I may add), Mamadou Kané from York United, Kahlil John-Wentworth from Simcoe County Rovers, Nathaniel St. Louis who plied his trade in the NCAA, and draft pick Ameer Kinani from TMU with the second selection.

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Although they appear to be picking up the pace a bit as the days go by, VFC currently doesn’t have enough players to form a starting XI and when they do, all we know is that they will play with a potential league-best defence and a willingness to try new things up front. Other than that, there is a level of anonymity not even Generation IX could pull off.

Someone might want to add a clock to those recently used emojis.


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