VANCOUVER, B.C. — Mustapha Jarju made his Vancouver Whitecaps debut on his 25th birthday in a 2-1 loss against Manchester City on Monday in the Herbalife World Football Challenge, and it sounds like his new team liked what they saw.
“It was important to get Mustapha a feel for the guys around him,” Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn told reporters after the match. “They have to understand that between the three of them, if they can start linking up — Camilo, Eric [Hassli] and Mustapha — they can be a real handful.”
The Gambian international’s movement and off-the-ball runs were a big reason why the Whitecaps held 55 percent of possession in the first half.
“He was great switching the ball,” goalkeeper Jay Nolly said of Jarju. “When he got on the ball, he didn’t lose it. We missed a few through balls for him, but him and Eric, they’re trying to get on the same page. You can see the qualities in him — he’s got a lot of pace, he’s good on the ball. I think he’s going to be a huge asset for us.”
The Whitecaps themselves haven’t seen much of the lanky striker so far, so it was the first chance to see how Jarju did outside of a practice situation.
“He had a great first half, a great first game,” Omar Salgado said. “He doesn’t really know anyone here yet and he needs to get accustomed to the way we play, so what he could do he did great, and hopefully he can score a lot of goals for us.”
Goals, of course, have been at a premium for the ‘Caps this season, with only 19 goals in 20 matches played, so the hope is that the striker, who has plied his trade in Belgium for the past few seasons, can carry that form over to this side of the pond.
“He’s good and he brings a different dimension to the team,” Bilal Duckett said. “He’s another quality player — a player we can look to get goals out of. He’s coming out of his offseason now, so it will be interesting to see him in a week or two week’s time.”
The addition of Jarju adds another threat to the Whitecaps attack, and the hope is that with defenders having to concentrate on him, other attackers will get the chance to open up opposing defenses.
“He was much better than what we’ve seen in training,” Wes Knight said. “We haven’t really gotten to see what he can do in space, and he was deceptive and quick today. It’s going to be a fearsome attack up there with Camilo, [Shea] Salinas, Hassli and Jarju.”