The Vancouver Whitecaps have added Uruguayan Joaquín Ardaiz, 20, to their roster. The club signed the 6-foot-1 striker from Swiss club FC Chiasso as a Young Designated Player on a year-long loan with an option to purchase.
“Joaquín is a young striker with a very high ceiling and has the physical and technical tools to succeed in MLS,” said Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos. “He’s at the early stages of his career, and we’re going to work with him to reach his full potential. We believe in his ability, and we’re looking forward to adding him to the team.”
At the end of the 2017 season, Ardaiz was ranked No. 36 in Goal.com‘s “NxGn” list of the 50 best teenagers in the world. Ardaiz was also named one of 100 finalists for the prestigious 2018 Tuttosport Golden Boy award, which the Italian-based paper hands out to the best U-21 player at a European club.
In 2017, Ardaiz joined Belgium-based club Royal Antwerp from Montevideo-based Danubio FC, which famously produced Uruguayan national team striker Edinson Cavani. Ardaiz made his professional debut for the club’s first team as a 17-year-old in February, 2016.
Playing 30 games in Uruguay for Danubio, Ardaiz scored four goals — enough to convince Royal Antwerp to sign him and bring him across the Atlantic.
Playing the 2017/18 season at Royal Antwerp, Ardaiz managed three goals and two assists in 13 Jupiler Pro League games. He then added another two goals and one assist in eight promotion/relegation playoff games that season.
What followed was a confusing set of transfers. Sent back to Uruguay, he signed for El Tanque Sisley in the summer of 2018. From there, he was immediately transferred to Swiss side FC Chiasso and then loaned to Italian club Frosinone Calcio.
It was a deal that caused some controversy in Uruguay, Switzerland and Italy. Ardaiz’s Uruguayan club, El Tanque Sisley, found itself in difficult financial waters and was ultimately removed from the top flight halfway through the 2018 season. Italian sports news outlet Calcio Mercato reported Ardaiz was moved due to Switzerland’s more favourable taxation rules.
Chiasso, however, still owned his economic rights. So when the Whitecaps showed interest in signing the player, Ardaiz had to be recalled from Frosinone, where he had made just one appearance and then loaned him out to the Whitecaps.
Altogether it suggests a complicated deal the Whitecaps completed to grab a highly-rated forward on the European market.
The Whitecaps’ use of the Young Designated Player rule allows the club to address other issues on the squad as well. Both Korean midfielder Hwang In-Beom and Ardaiz are signed as Young DPs and will only hit the salary cap for $350,000, whereas a Senior DP occupies $530,000 of cap space alone.
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In Ardaiz, the Whitecaps have added yet another project, although one that could reap high rewards. He struggled for playing time in Serie A this season, but his overall statistics are promising.
Playing for his country’s U-20 side, Ardaiz scored 0.81 goals per 90 minutes, for four goals in 20 games. His ability to come off the bench and make an impact is a valuable commodity the Whitecaps lacked at times last season. And with Dos Santos expected to sign another, more experienced striker, Ardaiz will be allowed to grow his game as a shadow player. Given the recent upheavals in Ardaiz’ life caused by various transfers, that role might be just what the young forward needs.