Vancouver Whitecaps defender Johnny Leveron looking to establish himself as big-game player

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Some players don’t show their best until the stakes are raised.

Vancouver Whitecaps defender Johnny Leverón is looking more and more like a player who fits that mold, having looked more impressive in his MLS debut last weekend for the in a 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake than he had in a pair of Amway Canadian Championship matches and a handful of Reserve League appearances to that point.

Though the Whitecaps found themselves on the wrong end of the result, the Honduran international was one of the better performers in a flat performance by the team as a whole.

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Head coach Martin Rennie reckons the 23-year-old is the sort of player who often plays up to the level of his opponents, and given the club hosts defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy this weekend (7 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Live), that could help the defender’s cause as Rennie mulls over whether to reinstate Brad Rusin, who looks set to return from injury.

“It seems like it,” Rennie told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday when asked if Leverón was a player who showed better in competitive situations than training environments. “From what I saw [in Salt Lake]. Some players do really well in training, and you’ve got to be careful as a coach not to just pick your team on that.

“Because once you get guys into games, you can really see how good they are, and I think he stepped up a lot when it came time for the big game.”

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As a gifted technical player, Leverón offers the team a bit more offense from the back, and when he sees gaps in opposing teams’ midfields, he’s happy to push up and offer teammates in advanced positions another passing option.

“It’s interesting as the competition steps up, he seems to step up,” Rennie said. “Some of you have probably seen him play in reserve games, and it just seemed like too easy for him, and maybe he was a little bit casual and a little bit lackadaisical, but when it came to the game against Salt Lake and also the games against Edmonton I thought he really defended well and showed why he’s got the caps he’s got for Honduras.

"He’s a really good addition for us and he’ll get better because he’s still learning the language, still continuing to get in better shape and getting used to his surroundings.”