The Vancouver Whitecaps have signed Hwang In-beom as a young Designated Player. The acquisition shows the long-term planning of Marc dos Santos.
When the Vancouver Whitecaps hired former LAFC assistant coach Marc dos Santos earlier this offseason, there was a singular message preached: This is a long-term, rebuilding project and we believe in dos Santos’ ability to lead it.
‘We believe we can win a championship and we wanted someone to come in and feel the same way, and from the time was started talking, it was evident that that was what his objective,’ said Vancouver Whitecaps president, Bob Lenarduzzi.
Clearly, Lenarduzzi and the Whitecaps do not believe that they could win a championship this season. They would not have made the offseason moves that they have — trading away Kendall Watson immediately springs to mind — if they did. This is a long-term venture.
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And their most recent Designated Player signing, Hwang In-beom from South Korean club Daejon Citizen is further proof of that. The official move was announced on Wednesday, though it has been widely reported for some time, the delay being In-beom’s involvement in the Asian Cup for South Korea.
But it is clear that dos Santos is excited about his new toy. Speaking in a statement on Wednesday, dos Santos said:
"“Hwang is an exciting young talent who we identified early as one of our primary targets. He’s a creative midfielder who is incredibly gifted technically and was coveted by a number of clubs around the world. He fits into the style we want to play very well. We’re excited to work with Hwang and help him reach his full potential.”"
There are two clear points that immediately stood out to me when reading this: ‘an exciting young talent’; ‘fits into the style we want to play very well.’ Dos Santos and the Vancouver Whitecaps have identified In-beom as a young player who suits the way they want to play. That is the perfect DP signing
When Atlanta United signed Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, they looked for young talent who fitted their style of play. When the New York Red Bulls brought Tyler Adams into the first team, they developed a young star who was designed by them for their style of play. When LAFC signed Carlos Vela as the face of their franchise, he was in his prime and perfectly suited to how they wanted to play.
This is the same type of move as those. Whether In-beom will succeed as a prospect in MLS or not, I do not know. I would be surprised to hear of anyone having watched him extensively other than the Vancouver scouts. But dos Santos obviously believes he is capable. And dos Santos believes he is capable in the Vancouver style, a style that he will dictate and implement, a style that will define this new era of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The signing of In-beom is a long-term one. It shows planning, preparation, foresight and awareness. The Whitecaps are doing this the right way, irrespective of whether their assessment of In-beom is accurate or not. Now all they need is a centre-forward.