Whitecaps Residency developing Canada's future stars
VANCOUVER, B.C. — While the Vancouver Whitecaps have struggled to find their feet at times in their first MLS season, the club’s future stars have helped Canada’s Under-17 program to one of its best years ever.
The Whitecaps Residency program played a big part, and with an expansion scheduled for next month, that contribution to the national setup is set to grow.
Five young Whitecaps helped Canada earn a second-place finish at this year’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship, and that performance meant an appearance at the U-17 World Cup for the first time in 16 years. Once again, the ‘Caps were well represented, with six Residency players named to the squad.
“[Residency programs have] been the missing piece in our development,” Canada Under-17 national team head coach Sean Fleming told MLSsoccer.com by phone last week. “When kids were 15, 16, it was difficult to see where they were going to go, but now they’ve got an opportunity to go to a top-notch academy with great coaching and an ideal environment where they’re going to be challenged by other great players.”
Perhaps the most recognizable Whitecaps Residency player is central midfielder Bryce Alderson (pictured above), who captains the U-17 national team. His tackling, passing and poise stood out during those tournaments, and Fleming explained that giving Alderson the captain’s armband was an obvious choice.
“He was the captain from Day 1,” Fleming said. “I remember our first camp in April in Nebraska, when we were playing Creighton University, and he was very, very sick in the game. But that just showed his character, he didn’t want to come off, and there’s no way he should have been playing. Eventually we did take him off, but from that day on he showed what a great leader he is.”
Another Whitecaps Residency player who played a prominent role for the U-17 national side this year was central defender Daniel Stanese. The New York-born Canadian’s tackling and reading of the game played a big part in ensuring the Canucks didn’t concede a goal in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship until the team’s eventual loss in the final to the United States.
“He played every minute during [the CONCACAF Championship] and had a great tournament, and then he did the same in the World Cup,” Fleming said. “He’s steady, he’s got good feet and he’s got a presence in the back. He’s one that really takes responsibility for his own performance and [that of the] others. He’s another one with a bright future, and has great potential.”
Things are set to get even better for young players and the Canadian national program — the Whitecaps will be expanding their Residency program in September to include the U-14, U-16 and U-18 categories, in addition to the U-17 and U-19 teams.
The program’s expansion — announced back in April — means the number of players in Residency will grow from the current 25 to more than 80 players.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon