Whitecaps pip Euro clubs for latest Honduran rising star
His representative says that European clubs were in hot pursuit, but in the end, the Vancouver Whitecaps won the race for Honduran defender Johnny Leverón.
The 23-year-old's stock skyrocketed during the 2012 London Olympics, where he started against the likes of Spain and Brazil, and it took a couple of months to get the MLS deal done, but Leverón is glad the wait is over.
"The truth is that I'm very happy and very content to be with Vancouver finally after speaking to them for a while and wanting to be here the whole time," Leverón told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, his first practice day with his new club. "I hope to be able to work to the maximum to be ready as soon as possible and produce for the team as soon as possible.
"I'm happy because I know I'm coming to a great team."
The Whitecaps have been interested ever since assistant coach Paul Ritchie spotted Leverón during CONCACAF Olympic qualifying in March of last year. The MLS side kept tabs on the defender at his Honduran club team, Motagua, as well as during the Olympics, and pounced with his contact at Motagua set to expire at the end of 2012.
"To be a good possession team, you have to be good coming out of the back and it's hard to find left-footed center backs who can hit a diagonal ball and play balls into strikers and midfielders and Leverón is one we think can do that," Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com. "And he's also a solid defender and he's young. He's got a lot of experience for a younger player."
How much experience? How's this for a résumé by Leverón: He's a veteran of the 2007 U-17 World Cup, 2009 U-20 World Cup and 22 caps for the Honduran senior national team to go with his Olympic adventure.
And Leverón adds to a growing list of elite Hondurans entering the league. He says that the likes of Roger Espinoza, Mario Martínez, Víctor Bernárdez and Boniek García have spoken plenty about MLS.
"About the effort being made [in MLS]," Leverón said. "It's a very competitive league and it's working to be the best league every year. And there is a commitment being made by the league and it's our commitment as players to contribute to the spectacle."
But Leverón, who is yet to step foot in Vancouver, will need to wait before he's able to contribute to the Whitecaps cause. He only arrived in Charleston, S.C., on Monday afternoon and after one practice with the Whitecaps on Tuesday, he won't be featuring for the club in Matchday 2 of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Wednesday against Houston. He will also likely need time to get into game shape after admitting that he spent the last two months working out on his own after his departure from Motagua.
Leverón will be competing for playing time with under-contract centerbacks Jay DeMerit, Andy O'Brien, Brad Rusin and Carlyle Mitchell. Whether or not he succeeds in earning a starting spot in 2013, the club is looking at Leverón as a long-term proposition.
"As a coach you have to plan for the future," Rennie said. "Managing in the short term is easy enough. But managing both together is hard. … With some of the signings we've made, we're trying to manage now, but also in the future and Leverón can help us with that."