VANCOUVER, B.C. - Marc Dos Santos' offseason rebuild of the Vancouver Whitecaps continues apace, with Wednesday's announcement that 22-year-old South Korean midfielder Hwang In-beom was joining the club as a Young Designated Player.
Hwang has been hailed as one of the top up-and-coming talents in Asia and heads to Vancouver from K League 2 side Daejeon Citizen FC in a two-year deal, with club options for 2021 and 2022.
The talented midfielder has been on Dos Santos' radar even before arriving in Vancouver, and after watching his recent performances in the K League and then at the recent Asian Cup with Korea, the 'Caps coach knew this was a player he wanted on his team.
"Even prior to arriving, he was brought to our attention," Dos Santos told reporters. "We started to look at him, and then every day, every game that we were watching him, we were more and more convinced that this is a player that we have to do everything we can in our means to bring him to Vancouver."
The Whitecaps beat out interest from a number of European sides to land Hwang, in what can be seen as something of a statement signing by the team.
"It was a very long process," Dos Santos revealed. "There was competition from other clubs, so it's a big move by the Whitecaps, by the ownership group and everybody, to bring a player that is still very young and a player that still has margin to progress a lot.
"We beat some German clubs, so it shows that he understood the project that was explained to him. What we're about, what we want to do. Him seeing that he could go to MLS, go to Vancouver, and look at what happened with Alphonso [Davies], look what happened in Atlanta with [Miguel] Almiron. It's changing. The league is changing and players are seeing it as a huge opportunity."
Another big selling point to Hwang was a chat he had with South Korean legend Young-Pyo Lee, who spent two seasons in MLS with the Whitecaps.
"We did ask YP Lee to speak with the player," Dos Santos confirmed. "Selling what we're about and the club, and YP Lee just said 'look, I played here years ago and I still live here, so that's what I think of Vancouver'. So yeah, YP Lee was also one of the tools we used to talk with the player and explain what we're about here."
Exactly where Hwang will fit into this new look Whitecaps team remains to be seen. Dos Santos has indicated that a 4-3-3 set up is likely to be his formation of choice, but cautioned not to expect too much of his new signing straight away, as he takes time to settle into his new environment.
"We can't think that he's like a savior," Dos Santos added. "It's important not to think that he's coming here and he's going to score against everybody, because it's not true. He's a player that gives a lot of rhythm in the midfield. So he can play in the No. 6, in the No. 8 role. Even as a No. 10 if we play with a No. 10.
"He's just very comfortable with the ball. He's not afraid to be in possession. To give rhythm to the team. He has a very good last pass. That's the type of player that we're looking at in Hwang. Everything has to be linked to getting towards us getting to the goal and finishing, and he's going to be a player that will help us in the process of getting to the last third."