VANCOUVER, B.C. — Patience. It’s the best way to approach the development of young players, and that’s exactly the route the Vancouver Whitecaps are taking with Omar Salgado.
Selected first overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, the 17-year-old is young even by rookie standards. The majority of players selected in the draft are players who have spent time in the NCAA system and are generally four years older than Salgado.
“By being so young, he gets some grace there,” captain Jay DeMerit told MLSsoccer.com after training on Tuesday. “Anyone knows that when they were 17, to be thrown into that kind of jungle would make it very hard to hit the ground running right away, unless you were well beyond your years in maturity level, which Omar is not.
“He’s still working on his skill level and his athleticism — as well as his physical size, he’s still developing in a lot of different ways,” DeMerit continued. “That’s a positive, because as talented as he is now, he’s only going to get more talented, but then it comes down him and his attitude and the way that he looks at getting better.”
The ‘Caps have managed Salgado's time carefully this season, with the Under-20 US international starting only five league matches this season as part of his 13 league appearances.
“Omar gets to utilize every situation, whether it be training, or his [international call-ups], there’s a lot of development time for someone that age,” head coach Tom Soehn said. “He’s actually played more than he probably should have early. You want him to grow slowly and develop and he’s got some great guys to emulate here with Eric [Hassli] and now Mustapha [Jarju] and Camilo.
“We’re going to continue to push him to grow in the areas that he needs to, and still the upside for him is fantastic,” Soehn continued. “We’re excited where he’s at, but we’re going to be patient.”
As for the player himself, his desire to play is evident, not only in training and matches, but in what he says.
“Not playing every week is frustrating, and watching the games from the bench is frustrating,” Salgado admitted after training on Friday. “But I have to be patient. I do need to develop a lot more and mature into my body though and still have a lot of things to learn. I think I can make a difference in this league at this point. But yes, I still need to adapt to a lot of things.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon