FRISCO, Texas – In their first Generation adidas Cup appearance as a club, Vancouver Whitecaps FC look like the team to beat in this year’s Premier Division, having won all four of their matches without conceding a goal. Their 6-foot-6 US youth national team goalkeeper Chituru Odunze is a big reason why.
Needing a win on Tuesday morning to stay in the driver’s seat for a berth in the semifinals of the Premier Division, Odunze bested both a talented Philadelphia Union attack and a pesky Frisco headwind, leading the Whitecaps to a 1-0 win. Odunze made several difficult saves look routine and even came up with a highlight-reel worthy stop in the game’s second half.
Odunze – who holds Canadian, English, and United States citizenship – grew up in London, England after he was born in North Carolina and spent time in the academies of Chelsea, Cardiff City and West Ham United, before moving to Canada, specifically Calgary. The goalkeeper joined the Whitecaps academy in January 2017 and spent time with Leicester City on trial earlier this year.
He was brought into the Canadian Under-15 national team camp in 2017 but before coming to the GA Cup, Odunze was summoned by new US Under-17 national team head coach Raphael Wicky to participate in a short training camp.
“[The last few weeks have] been kind of hectic but I am 16 traveling around the world to play the game I love its amazing” said Odunze. The camp provided Wicky with his first opportunity to work with the U-17 player pool ahead of the U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament. If named to that squad, Odunze would get the chance to help the US qualify for a record seventeenth World Cup at the U-17 age level.
“To represent my country would mean everything [in qualifying] would be amazing.”
Sitting atop Premier Division Group C alongside Columbus Crew SC, Vancouver likely needs a regulation win over Toluca FC in the final match of group play if they hope to reach the tournament’s semifinal round. The match against Toluca FC will be streamed Wednesday on Twitch at 1:30 pm ET. If they happen to advance, Vancouver would face Danish club FC Midtjylland in the semifinals.