VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps’ decision to trade left back Alain Rochat to D.C. United on Thursday surprised many who follow the team, and observers throughout the league.
After all, for a minimal return of a second-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, and a conditional pick in 2016, the Whitecaps traded away one of the league’s best in his position.
Or at least that’s the narrative floating around social media among fans and some pundits.
The reality is quite different. Rochat, as talented as he remains, was underperforming – certainly away from home.
This season, the Swiss-Canadian failed to match the high standards he set for himself in Vancouver’s first two years in MLS, finding himself culpable for a number of goals conceded.
His performances became so poor on the road, in fact, head coach Martin Rennie started to play Jordan Harvey at left back in away situations in recent weeks, and pushed Rochat into midfield where he could do less damage off the ball.
Following the trade’s announcement on Thursday, Rennie, perhaps hoping to avoid saying something negative about his former player, wasn’t in a particularly talkative mood about the transaction, dodging questions about the thinking behind the trade and its timing.
He did, however, express confidence his team has the personnel to move on.
“Whenever you make a move, there’s lot of factors,” Rennie told reporters following a training session at the University of British Columbia. “We’ve got quite a number of players who can play left back and quite a number of players who can play a similar role in midfield.”
Harvey specifically looks to benefit the most from this move, having been the player to replace Rochat in road games or whenever his teammate has been otherwise unavailable.
“I’ve got confidence in him,” Rennie said of Harvey. “I think he’s proven himself to be an MLS starter … Jordan’s the man in possession right now.”
Rennie did hint, however, that the move could be a precursor to further moves in the weeks to come.
“It gives us flexibility,” Rennie said of freeing up a roster spot and some salary. “It gives us an opportunity to consider other options if that makes sense at the right time. The way it works in MLS, there is a salary cap. There’s lots of juggling of numbers and salaries and so on, and when you do make a move, it does open up opportunities to make other [moves] if you want to.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.