VANCOUVER, B.C. — A fresh start.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping to get that next season with the arrival of new coach Martin Rennie after a tough first season in Major League Soccer, and their latest trialist is hoping for the same in his professional career.
Johnny Dunleavy left Ireland for England at age 16 to try and make the breakthrough with Wolverhampton Wanderers, then playing in the English second tier.
After being, in his description, “blighted by injuries” during his last two seasons with Wolves, the defender is now seeking a new challenge this side of the pond after the club, now playing in the Premier League, found him surplus to requirements.
“At the end of last year, I left Wolves,” Dunleavy told MLSsoccer.com after training on Thursday. “It was something that I was interested in, to play abroad and see more of the world, so my agent got in touch with the Whitecaps and sorted out the trial. Hopefully it will all go well and I’ll stay as long as possible.”
Despite being more than 4,000 miles away from home, soccer, football, whatever you call it, doesn’t seem to be as different over this way as the twice-capped Ireland U-21 international thought it might have been.
“I found [training] very similar, to be honest,” Dunleavy said. “The warm-ups are the same, a lot of the training games are the same. The way the teams train with each other, it’s very hard, everyone’s competing for their position, it’s all very similar.
“[The standard] is excellent, to be honest. The lads here, everything is so sharp and so professionally done, and some of the players are comfortably as good as they’ve got in England. I don’t think they get recognized for how good they are, but when you come and see it for yourself, the standard’s really, really high.”
Dunleavy made his professional debut earlier this year while on loan with Barnet in England’s fourth tier, but his season ended abruptly after he suffered ligament damage during a training session. His trial with the Whitecaps runs until Sept. 7.
“Someone gave us a lead to him and he’s a free agent, so we’re having a look at him through the course of the week,” head coach Tom Soehn said. “We’ll take a full week to look at him before we make any decisions.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon