'Caps eye Canadian defender in effort to spell veteran Lee

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps may have Lee Young-Pyo back for another year, but he still needs a capable deputy – and there’s a chance that man could be Canadian.

Toronto native Andres Fresenga (above right) is set for a January trial with the club after impressing Whitecaps staff with a strong showing during Canada’s ultimately unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the London Olympics.

As part of that U-23 squad, Fresenga made a string of strong performances at right back, highlighted by shutting down FC Dallas and US U-23 star Brek Shea in Canada’s 2-0 win in March.

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“We had watched the [Olympic qualifying] games and assumed he was unavailable,” Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi told MLSsoccer.com recently, in reference to the fact Fresenga is contracted to Uruguayan side Racing Club de Montevideo. “But he had connected with [Canadian Soccer Association technical director] Tony Fonseca, who in turn had talked to us about his interest in coming on trial.”

The 20-year-old is hoping for a chance to play in his home country, and has told Canadian soccer website RedNation Online that he anticipates a one-year loan deal if his trial is successful.

“With Y.P. [Lee] re-signing, we know that he’s going to be the primary starter in that position,” Lenarduzzi explained. “But, what we also want to do is make sure that we don’t play him as much as we did last year, especially with the travel, which was something …which took a toll on him.”

Lenarduzzi said given Lee’s desire to play less matches, especially on long road trips, in addition to the fact he’s said this is “99 percent” his last season means the Whitecaps need someone capable to back him up – and potentially replace him on a full-time basis in 2014.

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“You look for defensive strengths and you look for players who can get forward and attack as well, or at least be comfortable on the ball,” Lenarduzzi said. “And he’s shown that.”

It also helps that Fresenga would be playing with fellow young Canadians such as first-teamers Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert, which should give him a bit of a support network as he tries to make a push for a roster spot this month.

“If there’s players he’s familiar with, it would make the opportunity a better one from that perspective,” Lenarduzzi said. “There’s no doubt that it helps to have players that you know when you come into a situation like the one he’s coming into.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.