Pedro Morales extension with Whitecaps latest sign Canadian MLS teams are finally getting it

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Israel Fehr
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Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps (Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

It took a few years, but Canada's Major League Soccer teams have finally figured out the designated player game.

The Vancouver Whitecaps announced Tuesday they had finalized a multi-year contract extension with captain Pedro Morales, the latest sign that the three Canadian MLS club have found stability with their DP slots.

Morales arrived in Vancouver at the start of the 2014 season from La Liga side Malaga and found success immediately. The 29-year-old attacking midfielder ended the year with 10 goals and 12 assists and was named MLS newcomer of the year as the 'Caps qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs.

"Since Pedro joined our team at the beginning of last season, he has been nothing short of a top player and professional," Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson said in a team release. "Pedro is instrumental to the success of this club and a true leader for our young group of players."

With Morales and the Whitecaps' two other DP's Matias Laba and Octavio Rivero leading the charge, the 'Caps are pushing for top spot in the Western Conference this season. They're one point back of the Los Angeles Galaxy for first place and have one game in hand.

Before bringing in Morales though, Vancouver's history with designated players was far from glorious.

Swiss striker Eric Hassli was the team's lone DP when they made the jump to MLS in 2011. While he was a cut above than the rest of the roster that finished tied for the worst record in the league that year, he wouldn't make the cut for the 2015 Whitecaps. And who could forget Mustapha Jarju's brief but memorable stint with the club. The mysterious Gambian striker played 10 games for Vancouver in the second half of their first MLS season, failed to score a single goal, and did not return to the 'Caps the following year.

The next season, new head coach Martin Rennie signed Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, two past-their-prime stars from his native Scotland. Vancouver reached the playoffs that year, but the moves didn't pan out in the long-run. Robson didn't rejoin the club for the 2013 season and Rennie was ultimately fired after failing to get back to the postseason. Miller stayed with the Whitecaps halfway through the 2014 season, but diminishing returns led to a diminished role and eventually led to his exit.

It's not just the 'Caps that are getting a hang of how to deal wth DP's either.

Sebastian Giovinco has dazzled in his first season with Toronto FC and along with fellow newcomer Jozy Altidore and captain Michael Bradley, TFC's current crop of DP's are doing their best to lift the Reds to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. That's how to make past DP failures like Jermain Defoe, Mista, and Julian de Guzman a distant memory.

The Impact have been more hit than miss so far when it comes to adding DP's, though since their MLS debut in 2012 they've had just three suit for the team. Only defensive midfielder Hernan Bernardello had a short and forgettable stay in Montreal. Marco Di Vaio put forth an MVP-calibre season in 2013, the middle year of three solid seasons with the Impact before retiring at the end of 2014.

Their DP positions are being put to good use this year as well. Ignacio Piatti has proven to be a difference-maker since arriving late last season, and now Montreal's high-profile DP signing yet, longtime Chelsea star Didier Drogba, is set to make his debut Saturday.

For the first time ever, the designated player situations in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are all swell. It's been a long time coming, and the three teams feel like it won't be much longer before they reap the rewards for their recent DP choices and start being consistent MLS Cup contenders.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Yahoo Canada Sports. Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter.