VANCOUVER, B.C. — It’s been a tough start for Mustapha Jarju in Major League Soccer.
Brought in by the Vancouver Whitecaps as the league’s first African Designated Player, there were high expectations for the Gambian, and those still remain.
Saturday’s 2-0 loss to FC Dallas marked his 10th appearance for the Whitecaps, and he looked fairly harmless for his 57 minutes of action as his club finished the season winless on the road.
Following Saturday’s match, interim head coach Tom Soehn chose to focus on the team’s failings rather than on Jarju or any other individual’s performance.
“Collectively, I look at the group and I don’t think too many had a good day, including [Jarju],” Soehn told TEAM 1410 radio after Saturday’s match. “I thought he could have held the ball a little better for us.”
Still, writing off Jarju this early would be foolish.
After all, he scored 18 goals in 33 games in the Belgian second tier last season, and vitally scored four goals in six games when it mattered most in the playoffs to qualify for that country’s top tier, the Jupiler Pro League.
So why hasn’t it worked out in Vancouver yet?
Well, for one, he has yet to play a full game, although he came close after logging 85 minutes in the team’s 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 27. And, for a position which generally demands continuity for success, Jarju has only started consecutive matches once, in his second and third matches for the club on July 20 and July 30.
Adapting to a new league, a new continent, and learning how to deal with the added responsibility DP status brings will take time. But he will need a run of games to get into the groove, and until that happens, presumably next season, fans won’t see the best of the man they call “Toubabo.”
Rennie, RailHawks eliminated
Martin Rennie, Vancouver’s incoming head coach next season, saw his Carolina RailHawks eliminated from the North American Soccer League playoffs on Saturday. This will give him a chance to take in the Whitecaps’ final league match against the Colorado Rapids this weekend if he so wishes.
Davide Chiumiento, one of the early assist leaders this season, has fallen off the radar as the season has progressed. But now he’s seen himself fall out of the squad altogether, as Soehn left him out for the second consecutive match this weekend.
“He’s still valuable and he has to find ways now to work in the idea of working hard and doing both sides of the ball and competing,” Soehn told MLSsoccer.com last week. “You want from everybody, and this is not just Davide, you want everybody to earn their spot during the week [at training]. That’s the accountability and buying into the idea that when you do those little things, results come with it.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.