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Vancouver Whitecaps’ Kendall Waston: ‘I want to leave’

Sep 1, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Kendall Waston (4) drives with the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during a game at BC Place Stadium. Vancouver won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Some say it all started with a tweet. Last week, Kendall Waston posted a cryptic message on social media. 

The tweet shows Waston together with his son overlooking Vancouver.

“Sometimes a change is good, but sometimes it can be wonderful. #PursueYourHappiness,” it read.

Just one day later, the Vancouver Whitecaps were eliminated from Major League Soccer playoff contention after a 2-2 draw against expansion side Los Angeles FC

However, the story goes much further than a tweet.

“Nope. He’s under contract,”  Whitecaps’ President Bob Lenarduzzi said Tuesday in response to questions about whether Waston could be sold. “As far as I’m concerned, he continues to play, does his job, and then if something comes up, we’ll entertain it. As far as we’re concerned, he’s bound to us next season,” Lenarduzzi added.

Waston’s response?

“I want to leave,” the captain told the media Wednesday.

Waston has recently become a regular with the Costa Rican national team, and with the Whitecaps failing to make the playoffs, the ambitions of the club may not meet the aspirations of the player. 

Furthermore, there was the dismissal of head coach Carl Robinson. Robinson played a major role in Waston’s development from a relatively unknown player signed from the Costa Rican Liga de Fútbol de Primera División side Saprissa to one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer. 

“I’m not happy. It hurts, it hurts,” Waston said after Carl Robinson’s dismissal in September. “I’m not happy when they trade a teammate. I’m not happy when they move somebody that I care for that I love, you know.”

“At the end, coaches move, players move. The only person that’s going to stay here forever is the club. That is what this is about,” the captain concluded when he spoke to the media following the first training session after Robinson was fired.

This season, Kendall Waston had a Whoscored.com rating of 6.82, the fifth highest among all Whitecaps players.

Waston also leads all defensive players in minutes played (2,129), aerials won per game (2.7) and total clearances (138). He’s also the most accurate long passer on the team, hitting on 4.1 of his attempts. He also ranks third among defensive players, behind Aaron Maund and Doneil Henry, with 5.5 clearances per game. He is also third in blocks made per game, once again behind Maund and Henry. 

So on the surface, the Whitecaps appear to have two defenders ready to step in. But in reality, Waston has played almost twice as many minutes (2129) as Maund (900) and Henry (1170), and neither are under contract for next year (although the Whitecaps have club options for both defenders).

What cannot be measured by numbers is Waston’s leadership on the pitch. The 30-year-old has been the captain of the Whitecaps for the last two seasons. 

His departure would leave a big hole in the dressing room. And how will the fans react to Waston leaving?

Attendance numbers already have been visibly down at BC Place with the club failing to make the playoffs. Fans have been critical about the the Whitecaps ownership’s refusal to sign marquee players that would allow the club to stay competitive with the likes of expansion franchise LAFC, which has been more aggressive on the transfer market. 

The Whitecaps are also losing super talent Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich this winter, and it is doubtful whether the club can afford losing two of its stars in the same winter. 

Rumors in Costa Rica suggest Waston has been taking Mandarin lessons to prepare for a potential overseas move to the Chinese Super League. Whether such a move is truly on the table is, however, questionable given the strict foreign player limitations imposed on Chinese clubs

That, however, does not mean there is no market for Waston. Vancouver could probably earn a pretty penny by either selling the Costa Rican to a foreign club or trading him to another MLS club. 

The question is whether Vancouver can afford to lose another key player.

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