VANCOUVER, B.C – There are staples to every MLS offseason: New signings, a plethora of drafts, and bigger hopes and expectations.
In Vancouver, you can add another regular offseason occurrence: the Whitecaps trying to sign an impact striker.
Forwards have come and gone in alarming fashion in Vancouver these past few seasons, with the Whitecaps struggling to find a successful replacement for 2013 MLS Golden Boot winner Camilo Sanvezzo after his unceremonious departure from the league.
That search is on once again for the 'Caps in 2017, and with less than a month until the new campaign gets underway, it's one that still hasn't borne fruit.
"We haven't managed to find a 15-to-20-goal striker since Camilo left," Robinson told MLSsoccer.com. "He managed to catch fire and score 22 goals, win top goalscorer, and then left. Since that moment we've managed to find guys that have scored around double figures.
"Of course we're always looking for a center forward that can score 25 goals, but they're very few and far between and obviously they cost a little bit of money."
Recent hopes were on Uruguayan Designated Player Octavio Rivero, but he left last summer after a season-and-a-half of struggles. Fellow strikers Blas Perez and Masato Kudo followed in the offseason, and it has left Vancouver thin on the ground in top quality forwards.
Peruvian attacker Yordy Reyna has been brought in from Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, but is expected to play an attacking midfielder role or as a second striker. He has not been brought in to be the man to carry the 'Caps goalscoring. The quest for that player is still ongoing.
"We know we need a No. 9, and that's something that we're hard at work trying to do," Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi told a town hall meeting this week. "If what you're looking for as the solution is to just write a big check, I'm not sure if that's the answer to the issue. We will have a competitive team on the field."
Both Rivero and Kudo, along with Kenny Miller before them, came to Vancouver with excellent goalscoring records. Rivero has gone back to Chile and has been doing well with Colo Colo, while Miller returned to Rangers in Scotland and has been banging the goals in and playing some of his best soccer in recent years.
So if it wasn't the wrong players being brought in to Vancouver, just why couldn't they produce the goalscoring goods for the Whitecaps in MLS?
"You know what, that's a great question and I have no answer," Robinson admitted. "If we weren't creating chances, I would say to you, 'Maybe we got the wrong personnel.' Kenny scored around eight or 10 goals here and [had] done very well. He goes back to Rangers and scores more goals on less chances, so I can't put my finger on it."
The goals were there for Vancouver last season. The Whitecaps netted 45 goals, the exact same number as they did they year before in their best-ever MLS season to date. The problem for the 'Caps was that there just wasn't enough of them to offset some horrendous defensive play over the year.
Pedro Morales led the way with nine tallies, but six of those were from the penalty spot. Christian Bolanos and Kekuta Manneh came next with five goals apiece. It was goals "by committee" according to Robinson, and while he chases a DP striker to elevate his squad, he has faith in those that remain in his current strikers department.
"The players we've got in the squad at the moment [can score]," Robinson added. "We've got Erik Hurtado, who I believe can get up to double figures. We've got Giles Barnes, who if you look at his background and history in Houston, has scored seven, nine, 11, around that area.
"I think Giles can hit 10 as well, and we brought Kyle Greig in as a sleeper really, because Kyle's scored a lot of goals in the USL. His movement's excellent and sometimes the sleepers surprise you."
Robinson said the club is "working day and night" to try and secure a new DP striker before the season starts. There is a couple of players that interest the 'Caps coach, and with the distractions of the European transfer windows now over, he's hopeful he can get a deal done soon.
"We're constantly looking," Robinson said. "What people tend to forget is there's other factors and not just us wanting to sign a certain player. It's other clubs, it's contracts, it's agents. All these things come into play.
"Are we looking at a No. 9? We're always looking at a No. 9. When will that happen? I can't tell you that."