Five games into the 2013 season, Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert already has as many starts as he had all year in 2012.
That number would be one.
After back-to-back 2-1 road losses to the Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA, head coach Martin Rennie elected to make three changes to his starting lineup for this past Saturday's game with the San Jose Earthquakes, and Teibert was one of the beneficiaries.
The 20-year-old Niagara Falls, Ontario, native played 68 minutes in the 1-1 draw in a central midfield role and used the ball intelligently with his cultured left foot.
While largely playing as a left winger with the Whitecaps during his time with the residency program, he was converted into a left fullback under interim head coach Tom Soehn in 2011.
Going into this season, it seems as if Rennie has decided Teibert’s best position might be centrally rather than as a wide player.
“I’ve been reinventing myself,” Teibert told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following Saturday’s match. “I’ve been working a lot off the field and doing a lot of work on the side. I’ve changed my game a lot.”
As he makes that transition to a new position, the young Canadian international is taking full advantage of playing alongside Nigel Reo-Coker, who has played centrally in the English Premier League.
“He’s a mentor on and off the field,” Teibert said of Reo-Coker on the post-match radio broadcast. “You learn so many lessons from him – how he carries himself as a pro off the field, and how he comes into training – how he’s the first one there and usually the last one to leave. He’s a great pro and a great mentor that I definitely look up to.”
The admiration goes both ways, with the Englishman reiterating his belief that Teibert can one day play at the highest levels of the game.
“I look at Russell as my brother,” Reo-Coker said. “That kid is a fantastic kid. I spend a lot of time with him on and off the field. The enthusiasm he has, the ability he has, is fantastic. I’d put my career on it – Russell could go and play in Europe. He’s that good. I believe in him that much.
“His ability is fantastic and I try and help him – he’s always looking to improve his game. He’s a great footballer and when he comes into the midfield he brings a new dimension to us. He’s got the ability to dribble and get past players and make openings happen.
“I think the more he plays, the better he’s going to become, the more he’s going to learn about the art of playing in central midfield.”