BURNABY, B.C. – Martin Rennie’s remolding of the Vancouver Whitecaps continued on Friday with the addition of Brazilian midfielder Tiago Ulisses, and this time, the team is getting younger.
The 23-year-old came up through the famed Corinthians youth system, but failed to make a first team appearance for the Brazilian giants.
From there, he moved on to second-division side Esporte Clube Noroeste to make his professional debut in 2011, and it wasn’t long before his talent was noticed by Brazilian Série A1 side Botafogo Futebol Clube. He played 15 matches for Botafogo this season before Vancouver snapped him up on Friday.
“A friend of mine coaches in Brazil and he knows him,” Vancouver head coach Rennie told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at Burnaby Lake Field on Friday. “We’ve had a few people who have seen him play. We’ve watched him a lot in terms of watching 90-minute games and things like that. He comes from a really good club and he’s done well in the last couple of years in Brazil. He wanted to get the chance to come out and we’re glad to give him that chance.”
When asked to describe the club’s latest acquisition, Rennie dropped the name of a famous Italian defensive midfielder.
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"We've tracked him for quite a long time," Rennie said. "He's a little bit different type of player to the ones we have in midfield. He's not Rino Gattuso, but he has a similar style. He's aggresive, wins the ball and moves it quite well, so we just want to get him into our environment and look forward to seeing how he does."
Rennie described Ulisses as a specialist defensive midfielder, which means he’ll likely be in direct competition with current starter Jun Marques Davidson – but the coach insists the spot is Davidson’s to lose.
“That part of the team is pretty settled,” Rennie said. “It’ll be a big challenge for [Ulisses] to get into the lineup. That’ll be up to him once he’s here every day, training, playing in games and all that kind of stuff. We’ll evaluate it, but Marques has been one of our best players this season, so he’s in a good position.”
After acquiring more senior players such as 33-year-old Barry Robson, 32-year-old Kenny Miller and 28-year-old Dane Richards recently, the acquisition of Ulisses signals the beginning of a shift in what sort of players the ‘Caps will be looking to sign going forward as the club keeps an eye to the future.
"We had to try and make the team better right away," Rennie said. "And now, obviously, we have good experience, but now the next signings will be generally younger players."
Ulisses will join up with his teammates in a couple of weeks pending the completion of visa paperwork.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.