Poised for breakout season, Alphonso Davies using pressure as motivation

Vancouver Whitecaps winger Alphonso Davies walks off the field clapping — 3/4/18

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Alphonso Davies is no inexperienced rookie any more.

Yes, he's still is only 17 but the Vancouver Whitecaps winger is now in his third season in MLS. And with 35 MLS appearances and more than 1400 minutes of playing time already under his belt, along with impactful outings in the CONCACAF Champions League and the Canadian Championship, the teenager could be poised for a breakout year in 2018.

The season certainly got off to a promising start for Davies, who scored his first MLS goal and added an assist in Vancouver’s 2-1 win over Montreal on Sunday.

With the goal, he became the 11th youngest goalscorer in MLS history — and enjoyed the moment as any 17-year-old would.

"I'm feeling great," Davies told MLSsoccer.com last week. "I'm feeling comfortable. When I played my first season with the club, I was nervous and didn't know what to expect in the league. Second season was me just trying to figure out what I have to do now.

"Third season, going in to it, I know the basics. Being able to move the ball quick, make runs, play with the team. I got adapted to the league a little bit more. I've developed, I wouldn't say rapidly, but I'm still working up there."

The Whitecaps added a number of attacking pieces this offseason, but Davies has stood out in the club's preseason matches, forming a good relationship with veteran Kei Kamara, who was the recipient of his assist Sunday. The teenager also scored a wonderful solo goal in the preseason against the Las Vegas Lights.

Before this season, Davies had seen his use limited in MLS play, starting in less than a third of his appearances. As the 2018 campaign progresses, the question now for Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson is how his minutes will be managed.

"I just like seeing him on the field," Robinson said. "[He's] able to play multiple positions. I've played him right wing, I've played him left wing, I've him played inside of three midfield players, I've played him as a number 10, I've played him as a left back. It's a great education for the young boy, it really is."

There's no doubting that Davies has learned a lot in his short time with the club, but this feels like a key season in his development. Turning those regular minutes into regular starts and taking his game to that next level is what he’s eyeing — no matter where it might been the field.

"Now I think if they put me anywhere, I'll be able to play that position," Davies said. "I prefer being on the wing a little bit more because you get space out there. You can go at players. In the middle, it's crowded. You have to make your own space and I don't think I have that ability to do that, so I'll leave that with the midfielders."

The attention heaped on Davies these past couple of years has certainly been intense. But he's always remained grounded, and despite the speculation about his future, he simply doesn't let the pressure get to him.

"I just try and put it to the back of my mind," Davies said. "I don't really try and focus on it too much. As I was told, and as I've seen, players tend to take that pressure and try to do too much and that's when players start to go downhill.

"But for me, where I come from, I try and use that as motivation. Keep my head down, because not everyone gets the opportunity to play professional football. So I have to make the best out of it that I can."