Vancouver Whitecaps Take a Page from History

Fig 1. Omar Salgado was taken first overall by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, from "2011 MLS SuperDraft" (Baltimore: Zimbio, 2011)

January 13, 2011

Talk about starting off on the right foot. In the 2011 MLS Draft, the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps chose not to take forward Darlington Nagbe who was considered by many to be the consensus number one choice. The Whitecaps instead selected young striker Omar Salgado, despite their immediate need at that position.

This situation had déjà vu written all over it for many Vancouver sports fans.

In 1999 the Vancouver Grizzlies basketball franchise held the second overall pick and decided to choose the dynamic Steve Francis even though he had publicly announced that, under no circumstances would he ever, play in Vancouver. In a city where the African-American presence is extremely limited, Francis did not play the race card and stated that the distance from his home in Maryland, endorsements and taxes were the reasons behind his thought.

The Grizzlies front office decided not to take his warning seriously and, when Francis stood by his threat, eventually were forced to trade the disgruntled Francis prior to the start of the 1999-2000 season for far less than his actual worth. General Manager Stu Jackson could have easily chosen a player that would have welcomed the idea of playing in Vancouver. Big mistake.

Like Francis, Darlington Nagbe expressed his desire to play in the United States. However, unlike the Grizzlies, President Bob Lenarduzzi and the Whitecaps decided to go a different route with the Mexican-American Salgado, who is ecstatic about the opportunity to play in Vancouver.

The Whitecaps understand that Salgado, at 17 years of age, will not be able to address their glaring need at striker at this point in time. The fact of that matter is that as an expansion franchise the Whitecaps most likely will not compete for an MLS title this upcoming season so they should be able to take their time with Salgado to develop him the right way. Lenarduzzi even emphasized that they will not be rushing their young striker’s development and said that “We want to make sure when Omar plays in our starting 11, we’re not doing it out of desperation but doing it on the basis of good timing.”

Winston Churchill once said that “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The Whitecaps obviously learned this history lesson and will not be repeating it anytime in the near future.

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