VANCOUVER, B.C. – On a chilly Thursday night at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium, Bryce Alderson had plenty to celebrate.
Earlier on Thursday, the 17-year-old midfielder signed his first professional contract, following that up by helping the Vancouver Whitecaps U-18 side to a 4-2 victory against the Santa Cruz Breakers Academy in the USSF Development Academy league.
“It’s definitely a special day when you sign your first contract,” Alderson told MLSsoccer.com following the match. “For me, signing the first one in Vancouver with this club has been fantastic. I couldn’t be happier. They’ve treated me really well since I’ve got here, so for me to start my professional career here is fantastic.”
Showing typical composure, the Kitchener, Ontario, native bossed Thursday night's game in the center of the park, constantly looking for the ball and switching play with his cultured left foot.
“He has a lot of pace in the game,” residency program technical director and head coach Richard Grootscholten said. “The next step in my opinion is also to control the tempo a little bit more. Sometimes slow it down, sometimes speed it up.
“In the last [few] weeks more has been coming in the final third; he’s scored some,” Grootscholten continued. “We train a lot on his mobility – he’s not a tough, big guy, so he has to be quick and speedy, and that’s what he can do more of – more movement.”
The Dutchman also provided some insight into the areas Canada’s 2010 U-17 Player of the Year will need to improve before he fully hits his potential.
“In midfield, where it’s crowded, he needs sometimes to do it with less touches, instead of two or three,” Grootscholten said. “In his position, it doesn’t matter how old you are, more leadership, more demanding, more decision making but there are a lot of good things.
“He will absolutely be a professional on a high level in my opinion. He can play in the coming years in our first team, no discussion about it.”
The aim now is to translate those performances at youth international and residency level to the professional game.
“For me, this year is all about learning,” Alderson said. “Taking every training session seriously, trying to get minutes too and prove to the coaches during training and during reserve games – and if I get any MLS minutes – that I belong there and I can play. It’s a big year for me to prove myself and prove that I belong and that I deserve to get minutes.”
Alderson’s contract is a Generation Adidas deal, meaning his salary won’t count against the cap until he becomes a full-time regular and “graduates” from the program.
“It will be fantastic to see him as one of the players from our residency program to step up,” Grootscholten said. “He will be an example for other players I hope, and I’m sure some other players will make that step up in the coming years as well.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.