VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping some time in Germany helps one of their young prospects make the jump from academy play to the professional ranks.
On Wednesday, the club announced that Caleb Clarke, a 20-year-old Vancouver-area native the club signed to an MLS deal last season, will spend the 2013-14 season with FC Augsburg’s U-23 side.
There, Clarke will play and train with the U-23 group, and also participate in practices with the Bundesliga outfit’s first team.
“We think Caleb can be an important player here at the club, but right now we have a lot of forwards who are playing and doing well,” Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie said after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Wednesday. “They’re mainly more experienced than he is and so we just feel that this is a good chance for him to go out and get experience.
“Hopefully he’ll do well, and we hope that he’ll be back and be a big player for the club in the future. We just think that there’s an important development phase when the players finish playing in the academy before they get into the first team and we’re doing our best to fill that gap.”
In a bid to bridge that void between the academy level against kids and playing against seasoned, professional men, the Whitecaps have turned in recent times to the loan system.
That has generally meant loans to North American outfits – the club has sent Ben Fisk, Bryce Alderson and Emmanuel Adjetey to the Charleston Battery this season, and third-string goalkeeper Simon Thomas, who now sees himself drop to fourth-choice with the arrival of David Ousted, has spent time with FC Edmonton.
That wasn’t an option for Clarke, however – sources tell MLSsoccer.com that the player’s family was unenthused about the idea of a loan to FC Edmonton, despite that club’s interest.
But regardless of the circumstances, Clarke should benefit from the foreign experience, according to Rennie.
“I think it’s sometimes good to move away from home,” Rennie said. “I think at a certain age it’s important to stand on your own two feet for a little while and experience a different culture and learn about soccer in a different environment.
“It’s a great challenge for him and I would hope in that time he will grow as we all do at that age and come back to be a player that really competes for a place in the team.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.