Vancouver Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster says a “very special personal situation” is behind a massive trade that sends the club’s star goalie Maxime Crepeau to division rival Los Angeles. Angeles F.C.

He didn’t say what the situation was, but Crepeau was not in Vancouver as the club started pre-season training this week and the Whitecaps said he was out for ‘personal reasons’ .

“It was important enough, serious enough that we understood that we had to work with him on a solution,” Schuster said Thursday after the news of the trade was announced.

“He had to leave Vancouver to solve this problem.”

In a statement, Crepeau thanked the club for working with him to find a solution.

“Thank you all for the wonderful messages you shared with me, as this is personally the hardest decision I have had to make in my professional career,” he said.

The deal will see LAFC send the Whitecaps US$1 million in general allocation between 2022 and 2025 depending on Crepeau’s roster status. Vancouver also receives a first-round pick in the 2025 MLS SuperDraft and an additional general allocation if certain performance metrics are met. If Crepeau is transferred overseas, the Whitecaps will also retain a “significant” percentage of the transfer fee.

“We are thrilled to add a quality goalie like Maxime to our roster,” LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington said in a statement. “We consider Maxime to be one of the best goalkeepers in MLS. Like us, we know he is determined to win, and his leadership and experience will contribute to our success on the pitch.

The trade has been growing quite rapidly in recent days, Schuster said.

“We got to a point (in the negotiations) where we think the value of Max has been recognized and that now leaves us in the situation where we have a chance to do other things that we intended to do. “, did he declare.

Crepeau has been among the Caps’ best players since arriving in Vancouver from the Montreal Impact in December 2018

The 27-year-old from Greenfield Park, Que., played 26 games for the Whitecaps in 2021, stopping 75.8% of shots he faced and earning six clean sheets as the club clinched their first playoff spot in four years. He was named the club’s Player of the Year.

“Over the past year, he has obviously been a key factor in our success. We had a few games where he saved us,” Schuster said, noting that the goalkeeper was a calm, analytical presence through the ups and downs of a difficult campaign.

“We know how close the race was at the end, we know every point counts at the end. There are a lot of moments that I remember where he had a huge impact to get to those points that we brought them to the finish line playoffs.

Crépeau was held to four appearances the previous season after fracturing his left thumb in the MLS is Back tournament. A four-hour surgery was required to remove the broken pieces and insert wires to hold the bones together, but the keeper remained with the team as they finished the Portland, Oregon-based campaign due to restrictions pandemic borders.

Crepeau has also become a reliable keeper for the Canadian men’s team, making 14 appearances, including 13 starts, and recording three clean sheets.

He is expected to make the national team next week when Canada take on Honduras in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

The move to California could see Crepeau reunite with former Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos, who is rumored to be taking up a position at LAFC. The duo have known each other since Crepeau was 12 years old and part of the Montreal Impact academy.

Dos Santos was let go as Vancouver coach in August midway through his third season with the team.

With Crepeau gone, the Whitecaps plan to rely on another Canadian goaltender this season.

Thomas Hasal, 22, has acted as Crepeau’s backup for the past three seasons and took the starting spot when Crepeau broke his thumb in 2020.

A native of Cambridge, Ont., the six-foot-four, 190-pound goaltender has posted two clean sheets in 16 MLS appearances.

The ‘Caps have “tremendous confidence” in Hasal and aren’t worried about him taking over as No. 1, Schuster said.

“We feel very good with Thomas,” he said. “Thomas has a lot more experience and games played than when Max arrived at this club.”

Vancouver also has veteran USA goalkeeper Evan Newton on its roster, having acquired him in January 2021 from the United Soccer League’s Indy Eleven.

The club are also exploring options to acquire another goalkeeper, Schuster said.

Schuster acknowledged negotiating Crepeau created challenges, but said the move was best for the future.

“We think we did the right thing in the long run,” he said. “In the short term, that certainly creates problems for us. But we also like to be challenged.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 19, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press