VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Vancouver Whitecaps Residency team wrapped up their season with a 3-0 win over the Washington Crossfire on Sunday, and members of the Whitecaps’ Major League Soccer roster were quick to point out the value of the Premier Development League side to the senior setup.
“It works in a lot of ways,” Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn told MLSsoccer.com after training on Monday. “It helps our young guys who are looking to move up to the first team, and it helps some of the guys returning from injury or looking to get fit get quality minutes.”
Three members of the team’s MLS roster — Long Tan, Philippe Davies and Alex Morfaw (pictured above) — played a part in Sunday’s victory. As it happened, the MLS players showed their quality, as Davies opened the scoring with a free kick before Tan followed up with a brace to secure the win.
The PDL matches provide a chance for those on the fringes of the first team to build match fitness and showcase their ability.
“There’s no way to emulate playing a game,” Soehn explained. “No matter how hard you train or how many runs you do, it’s not the same as the intensity of playing a game.”
Playing for the Residency team also gives young players, like 20-year-old midfielder Davies, a chance to take on more responsibility.
“When you come down to the PDL team, [Residency head coach Richard Grootscholten] expects you to be a leader on the field,” Davies said. “He put me in that role and it was new for me, but I enjoyed it.”
While getting match fitness and experience is valuable, Davies is focused on using the PDL team as a springboard to eventually playing in Major League Soccer.
“You’ve got to be strong mentally, because these aren’t the games you want to play,” Davies said. “You want to play in the big stadium, but you need to get fit and work hard.”
But the real benefits of the PDL team might not be seen until a few years down the line. The Whitecaps Residency regularly fielded younger teams than their opponents as they looked to develop their future stars, and with that came growing pains.
“Some game you play against guys who are older and they have more experience,” midfielder Morfaw explained. “We might play well for 30 minutes but then let up for five minutes and let in goals. We’ve seen that with the senior team as well, sometimes the problem is in the head, a lack of experience.”
But for Morfaw, the progress for the PDL team over the course of this season was clear to see, despite the team barely missing out on a playoff spot.
“The way [Grootscholten] and the staff are taking care of everything, it’s very professional,” Morfaw said. “He’s trying to bring the European mentality — I’m not saying the [North] American mentality is bad, but sometimes it’s good to mix and create something better. From the beginning of the season to our last game, everybody can see that there’s been a lot of improvement in the quality of the team’s play.”