VANCOUVER — For the third time this season, the Vancouver Whitecaps have signed a Canadian national team player to boost their roster.
Attacking midfielder Junior Hoilett is the latest addition, with the Brampton, Ont. native agreeing to a deal that runs through the end of the 2023 season. The signing was announced on Thursday, one day ahead of Major League Soccer's roster freeze on Friday.
Hoilett, who previously played in the English Premier League with Cardiff City FC, Blackburn Rovers and Queens Park Rangers, was most recently with Reading FC who were relegated to the third tier of English soccer at the end of the last season.
"We both came to the agreement that it is probably the best for him to come here to show what he can really give to us, how important he can be both on and off the pitch," said Whitecaps FC sporting director Axel Schuster.
Hoilett's deal is until the end of the season, and Schuster said both the player and management will evaluate then about the possibility of an extension.
He's the joint all-time leader in assists for the Canadian national team with 16 and has scored 15 goals for his country.
The 33-year-old Hoilett appeared in all three of Canada's games at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
"It's good to have this kind of problem," said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini about where Hoilett would fit in the starting lineup. "He's an option to start immediately."
He joins fellow international teammates Sam Adekugbe and Richie Laryea, who both signed for Vancouver in August.
That push to sign Canadian players comes from a desire to develop local talent as well as help Canadian talent get showcased, said Schuster.
"If we go into the market and we have a need, we always look first at Canadian options," said Schuster. "We want to continue developing Canadian players, like we have with Ali (Ahmed) and I think also Ryan Raposo has done really, really good steps in his development … we will continue to do this with new prospects."
Schuster also confirmed that designated player signing Sergio Cordova is in Turkey for talks with a club about a permanent transfer.
The 25-year-old was an off-season acquisition after a spell on loan at Real Salt Lake.
The Whitecaps doled out a US$2.2M transfer fee as well as a US$1.05M salary for the Venezuelan. Vancouver also sent their 2024 MLS SuperDraft first-round pick and $300,000 in GAM to acquire him.
Cordova has recorded four goals and one assist in 26 games and 15 starts across all competitions.
"I would say as long as it's not over the line there's no guarantee it will get over the line, but the conversations over the past 24 hours have trended in the right direction," said Schuster.
Cordova struggled to make an impact first by getting injured at the start of the season and then appearing to struggle at times with the pressing style the Whitecaps play.
"I was very happy when we signed Sergio, and I think he has the quality to be a successful striker for us," said Sartini. "Two things happened: he wasn't ready physically when he came and it was probably our mistake to push him too hard and he got injured … he couldn't be the real Sergio for the first three months with this team."
The second issue has been the emergence of a dynamic attacking partnership between Scottish playmaker Ryan Gauld and striker Brian White, who have become the focus of the Whitecaps' attacking play.
Sartini said he had reassured Cordova he was still important to the team, but Cordova wished to try to seek more playing time elsewhere.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2023
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press