Richie Laryea’s arrival in Vancouver was one of the biggest Canadian stories in Major League Soccer this year.
After the expiration of his loan from Nottingham Forest at the end of June, there was plenty of debate over whether the Canadian men’s national team and Toronto FC right-back would return to Canada for the second half of the season. He did, just not to Toronto.
The Whitecaps’ double deadline-day signing of Laryea and Sam Adekugbe made everyone sit up and take notice. Will Laryea be returning to BC Place for 2024? It sounds like he’d be more than happy to do so.
“I’ve been enjoying the things over here,” Laryea told OneSoccer’s Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic. “Obviously, it’s a different side of Canada to what I’m used to, and it’s a different team, all different things to put into perspective, but it’s been really good.
“I’ve always said that the best way for me to operate is to go on a day-by-day basis, and that’s what I firmly believe in. But I’ve also enjoyed myself, and my family has enjoyed it, so this would definitely be a place that’d be good for us moving forward. But so many different factors will come into, as it’s not just myself making the decision, so I think taking it day-by-day is what I thrive on.”
Whitecaps’ CEO and Sporting Director Axel Schuster is already working on how to make that happen.
Schuster said a few weeks ago that the summer reports that an agreement was already in place for a winter permanent transfer were wide of the mark, as they simply ran out of time to get those details sorted before the transfer window shut.
But he has spoken openly about his desire to keep Laryea at the club, and the ‘Caps are reportedly willing to make Laryea a Designated Player for next season using the spot vacated by Sergio Córdova.
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As everyone expected, Laryea immediately became a core starter for Vanni Sartini’s side after joining in August. He started every single one of the Caps’ final 12 games of the regular season, contributing a goal and three assists during that time, and was also in the XI for both games of the ill-fated MLS Cup Playoffs series against LAFC.
“These are stepping stones that you want as a footballer, to go from having to fight just to play, into then being a guy that people rely on,” Laryea said. “I think I thrive off having that kind of pressure, I don’t shy away from it, and I enjoy it, as I want to be that type of player for my team and to be able to get the best output out of me.”
But, despite slotting straight into the Whitecaps team, Laryea admitted to Gangué-Ruzic that it was not easy making a cross-Canada move halfway through the season, going from a desperately poor TFC side to a competitive Whitecaps team.
“Yeah, it’s not something that people speak about or look at, but midseason transfers are tough on players and their families all around, definitely,” the Toronto native admitted. “I’ve been learning every single day. I’m 28 but I still want to challenge myself every single day, so this has been a good challenge, I’ve had to learn new tendencies and forget some old ones, as we worked towards a common goal.
“So, yeah, I feel like midseason changes are difficult, especially when I was on a different team in the same league on the different side of the country, but it’s been good, as I enjoy new challenges.”
It’s clear that Laryea would be happy to become a permanent Whitecap, and from the sounds of it, he’d be ready to deal with the pressure and the status of being a DP-level player alongside the likes of Ryan Gauld.
Whether or not it happens? We’ll find out in the coming weeks.