MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Vancouver Whitecaps patient in signing of "difference-making" Andres Cubas

A cost-benefit analysis MLS clubs negotiate all the time when surveying the transfer market comes to timing.

Do we wait for our top target to be available or is it more valuable to find another player immediately?

Vancouver Whitecaps FC, just as they did when their search for an attacker ended with Ryan Gauld last summer, waited for their guy. On Thursday, they got him, officially announcing the acquisition of Paraguay international Andres Cubas from French club Nimes for around $3 million.

“We could have filled this position earlier with just another signing, but we were really high on him as a difference-maker in his position like Ryan Gauld was at his," CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster told media at a virtual press conference. "He’s at an age where he’s happy to come here for many years. It’s not a player we signed with the expectation to sell him again to someone who gives us more dollars. He should be one of our main guys for years to help us grow and win something.”

Cubas, 25, is the club's third Designated Player and signed through June 2026 with a club option to extend through the end of the year. The defensive midfielder is a classic ball-winner, someone who can cover ground and regain possession in front of the backline.

“It was a position of need and he’s the profile we were looking for," Schuster said. "We identified him in December last year. He’s someone who is very good in tackles and (shielding) the defense. He was one of the guys who had the highest successful tackles in all leagues he played, including Ligue 1 last year.”

Cubas is a product of Argentina's Boca Juniors and had been a regular starter for Nimes in Ligue 1 in 2020-21 before they were relegated. He made 21 appearances in Ligue 2 this year before departing France for Vancouver.

“We would have signed him in December, but his club were competing to not get relegated or maybe get promoted," Schuster said. "It wasn’t possible to convince them to let the player go. … We wanted to fix it with a player that we’re 100% convinced that is not just a little bit of an improvement, but someone who can really make a difference.”

The Whitecaps have to wait a little bit longer for Cubas to join, though they're hopeful his visa process won't take as long as previous signings and that he'll be able to debut in "weeks" rather than "months." But that process is difficult to predict, so Schuster didn't want to create any false expectations for when he may be available. Vancouver started the process last week when he came for his medical.

The deal comes at a time of need for the struggling Whitecaps, sitting bottom of the Western Conference with just four points after eight matches and a league-worst negative-11 goal difference.

“I don’t want the guys to think that Cubas will now be the savior of the season," Schuster said.

Vancouver have reasons for optimism, at least. It's still early and, despite the poor performances, a number of key players haven't had much of a chance to make an impact. Brian White has only started half the games, Gauld has been dealing with knocks, while Caio Alexandre is yet to debut this year at all with injuries.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re not trying to make something nicer than it really is, but expected goals against us went down last season when Vanni [Sartini] was coach," Schuster said. "Right now, it’s a clear message to the team that we need to wake up and focus on the basics of the game. What has been hurting us lately is that we don’t compete well. Last year, we were a team really strong at the basics and a team no one wanted to play. A lot of effort, mentality, spirit and discipline. We’re lacking that in the last few games.”

They may not be done making additions, either. The Primary Transfer Window remains open in MLS until May 4.

“We’re open about where we can improve the depth of our squad," Schuster said. "… We have allocation money, we’re in talks with other MLS clubs. I cannot say we definitely will do something, but the odds that something happens is higher than the other way around.”