The Vancouver Whitecaps 2023 SuperDraft Review
ANALYSIS- The MLS 2023 SuperDraft took place in St. Louis on Wednesday, with all 29 teams in the league targeting the NCAA’s most promising players of the past year. Over three rounds, the Vancouver Whitecaps selected four players in different positions to try to potentially strengthen the roster.
With three of the four picks ranked in the top 10 men’s national college players according to TopDrawerTalent.com, Vancouver’s recruiting appears to have been solid this time around, although it mostly stays under the radar. Let’s dive deeper into each player, their profile and how they might fit into the Caps schedule from 2023 onwards.
The Vancouver Whitecaps 2023 SuperDraft Outline
JC Ngando – Midfielder – UNC Greensboro
As an athletic, creative midfielder looking to pass players in a Koné-esque manner, it’s unsurprising that the ‘Caps spent $225,000 in GAM to earn Ngando the Houston Dynamo’s fifth pick.
While he’s a fantastic ball progressor, perhaps his best trait is his keen vision. He recorded 16 G/A in 19 games for Greenboro last season, including 13 assists, making him the top assist provider in Division I and fifth in the men’s national rankings. That brings his combined tally with Greensboro to nine goals and 22 assists in two years.
Born in Cameroon, young Jean-Claude Ngando moved to France at the age of seven and started playing for Amiens B in 2017 before joining Paris FC B in 2020. However, his dream of concluding a professional contract did not come true afterwards. But the determined adidas generation player kept his head down and kept working. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he reassessed his options and decided to move to the United States, a move he says he was one of them “The best decisions [of my life]”.
He’s coming to a team that doesn’t lack midfielders. With the likes of Andrés Cubas, Alessandro Schöpf, Russell Teibert and of course Whitecaps MVP Ryan Gauld, Ngando might find it difficult to fit into the team.
Considering head coach Vanni Sartini hasn’t been able to find a set formation or stable style of play, Ngando may be forced to adapt to other positions and roles if he wants to get some minutes. Thankfully, his technical and physical abilities allow him to play either as a 10, box-to-box or even just behind the forward, so he may well be a perfect fit for this developing Whitecaps side after all.
Finished No. 5 overall in MLS 2023 #SuperDraft, @WhitecapsFC Choose midfielder JC Ngando. pic.twitter.com/pnnFqpbO3Y
– Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 21, 2022
Levonte Johnson – forward – Syracuse
The first of two Canadians on this list, Levonte Johnson, was voted 29thth in the first round the last pick of the round. A native of Brampton, Ontario, he joins an elite roster of Canadian talent hailing not only from Flower City but from Syracuse College itself.
The 5’10-inch forward recorded 11 goals and six assists in 23 games last season and helped the Oranges win their second College Cup. He ranks sixth in the national men’s rankings and is also a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top collegiate football player of the year.
He’s an adaptable player who has bounced around not only in the US and moving schools across the country, but internationally as well, with spells in England.
What should excite fans about Johnson is that he’s a player of great moments: of the 11 goals he scored last season, eight were game-winners. Most notable was his game-winner in a 3-2 semi-final win over Creighton, who secured a spot in the final. He also saved his penalty in the crucial penalty shoot-out of the final and once again demonstrated his collective strength under pressure.
A versatile forward who works hard and isn’t afraid to show up when needed, the Brampton native could be very useful for a Whitecaps side that doesn’t have a real number nine, but he’ll need to impress his coaches first before being properly signed can join the team. He can look to the journey of last year’s VWFC top pick Simon Becher, who just got promoted to the first team after winning with WFC 2, as a way to fulfill his dream of turning pro.
Nothing beats a Draft Day moment 🧡
Good luck to Levonte Johnson and the rest of our conscripts and for starting their professional journey 👏#DareToDream pic.twitter.com/fdsOAM4QFl
— Syracuse Men’s Soccer (@CuseMSOC) December 23, 2022
Daniel Nimick – Defenseman – Western Michigan
Daniel Nimick was ranked last on the list in the top 10 of the men’s national rankings at No. 42nd in the second round. A double-cap with Canada and England, he was particularly impressive for the Broncos last season, scoring eight goals and providing one assist from defense.
Always physical, he’s a nuisance for defenders when he’s in the box for set pieces but has also been known to hit set pieces himself. Strong and intelligent at the back, he was named MAC’s Player of the Year and was also named to the All-American Second Team.
A native of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland, he spent his youth in England playing academies for Harrogate Town and even Leeds United before coming to western Michigan.
With his talent for both defending and scoring goals, he could prove useful for the Whitecaps in the future, especially as a homegrown player. In a team that’s always looking to bolster their defense, time will tell if Nimick will be able to break through and become part of the long-term plan for the Caps.
⚽️ Player of the Year ⚽️
Congratulations to Western Michigan’s Daniel Nimick on being named MAC Player of the Year!
🗒: https://t.co/SH1svwKjhM | #MAction pic.twitter.com/3PBzDhJela
— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 10, 2022
Buster Sjoberg – defender – Syracuse
As the second Syracuse project to be signed, Sjoberg was selected as 71St in the third round. The Sweden international from Uppsala started 17 of 19 games and was an integral part of the Orange Championship before suffering limited playing time due to a lower body injury.
With his outstanding 6’5″ he can be a handful in the penalty area in set pieces, but often sticks to what he knows in the background. Versatile and no-nonsense, he could prove to be an underrated pick given his late draft entry.
But with his international status a potential stop-block for him to be included in the first-team, Sjoberg needs to generate excitement through solid performances to potentially make the leap to pro status in years to come.
Vancouver grabs another orange 🍊
Senior Defender Buster Sjoberg Gets Vancouver Whitecaps FC Third Round Pick!#DareToDream pic.twitter.com/TJP0KcQoeC
— Syracuse Men’s Soccer (@CuseMSOC) December 22, 2022
Overall grade: B
READ MORE: The 2023 MLS SuperDraft Storylines and Overview
While capturing three of the top 10 players in the men’s national rankings is a major coup, the fact that the Whitecaps have given away various talented Canadians such as Moïse Bambito, Stephen Afrifa and Malcolm Johnston for a few caps to those international will take places may leave many somewhat confused. This is especially true given that Axel Schuster once proclaimed that Whitecaps would become the “athletic Bilbao of Canada”, a selection tactic that may seem a little wayward towards that goal.
Still, with the talent they’ve drafted alongside the talent they already have on the team, the Whitecaps could prove to be one of the most underrated SuperDrafts of the year.
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