'Caps trialist Elmasri takes road less traveled to MLS

Vancouver trialist Omar Elmasri

Photo Credit: 
USF Athletics

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The road to Major League Soccer isn’t always a straight one, even if you’re a former US Under-18 international.

Omar Elmasri looked to be on the brink of making a breakthrough to MLS in 2008 after a successful season with the Chivas USA U-18 team, but then he caught the eye of Mexican side Tigres UANL. As a dual American-Mexican citizen, he jumped at the opportunity of trying to make it in the Primera División by signing a contract in 2009.

Now, though, MLS is very much on the 20-year-old’s radar. The center back, who can also play as a right fullback, joined up with the ‘Caps for a second trial last week. The extended trial period runs until Dec. 31.

“I was playing with the [Tigres] reserves, and after the season I wanted to leave,” Elmasri said after training on Wednesday. “It’s kind of dangerous out there, and the situation is kind of bad — [Tigres] were helpful [in helping me move on].”

While the Mexican dream didn’t quite materialize for Elmasri, the style of play and the experience he picked up will put him in good stead as the Whitecaps have been trying to implement a possession-focused brand of soccer under head coach Tom Soehn.

“Playing in Mexico, it really made me adopt their style of play,” Elmasri explained. “You see the ball, and look one way, and if it’s not open, you bring it back and go the other way. You keep doing that until you find an opening or a passing lane.

“We never forced the ball. When I was in college my coaches always were saying, ‘Lump the ball up the field, just lump it!’ I don’t really like to play like that. I like to keep moving the ball until you see an open guy. I don’t like to play direct.”

The California native was originally set for a loan deal with the Whitecaps Premier Development League squad, but the papers didn’t go through before the transfer deadline. The defender will be available for the club’s Reserve League squad though, so he could see action as soon as soon as this Saturday against the reserve side of his old club, Chivas USA.

“He’s hard in the tackle and he reads the game pretty well,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “He’s a good young player. He’s got some work ahead of him, but his effort and commitment are there and the more we can add to this squad the better.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon