Vancouver Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. The Vancouver Whitecaps are hanging on to several of their young players and continuing contract talks with two veterans, including Montero. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Steve Dipaola

Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are keeping much of their roster in tact next season, but are still working to secure the services of two veterans long term.

The ‘Caps announced Monday that the club has picked up options on seven young players, including forward Theo Bair, midfielders Michael Baldisimo and Patrick Metcalfe, centre back Derek Cornelius, right back Jake Nerwinski, and goalkeepers Isaac Boehmer and Thomas Hasal.

“We see for all of those players next steps and development in the future that makes us believe that they can be an important part of our MLS team, maybe not at the starting point of next season but in the long term,” sporting director Axel Schuster said on a video call Monday.

The ‘Caps opted not to pick up an option for veteran midfielder Andy Rose.

Schuster said both Rose and the club agreed the contract that the option would trigger wasn’t the best fit.

“We are now in an ongoing process to find a better deal or better construction of a contract for him in our club. But there’s no question that we would like to keep him,” Schuster said, noting that Rose has been key helping to develop the club’s young talent.

Discussions also continue with forward Fredy Montero, whose contract runs out at the end of December.

Schuster said he was in contact with Montero’s agent on Monday morning.

“I can tell you that our first idea of a new contract was not exactly the idea Fredy and his agent had. So that’s part of negotiations,” Schuster said. “Everyone is a little bit fighting for his position. But I can tell you that the communication is very open.”

Whitecaps staff are also working with David Milinkovic to try and find the winger a new team. If they can’t find the 26-year-old French winger a new home, he will remain with the club, Schuster said.

“He’s showed that he can help this team,” he said. “If it ends in another way, this is nothing that concerns us or would be a bad scenario for us.”

Milinkovic had a goal and four assists in 16 appearances for the Whitecaps last season.

Vancouver has opted not to exercise its option on academy product Georges Mukumbilwa, and ‘keeper Bryan Meredith has not been offered a new contract.

The Whitecaps finished the season with a 9-14-0 record, missing the playoffs for the third year in a row.

Schuster said he’s happy that the club isn’t overhauling the roster this off-season.

“We are confident with this squad that we are able to make next steps,” he said, adding that the ‘Caps are still looking to bring in a few key pieces.

“For this quality that we want to add, you are never alone in the market and it costs always a little bit more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press