Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced Nizar Khalfan and Gershon Koffie as their first two international player signings on Wednesday.
The duo became the sixth and seventh signings from last season’s USSF D-2 squad and the latest in an ever-growing pool of African MLS players, and Whitecaps manager Teitur Thordarson feels they have more than enough talent to excel in MLS next season.
Khalfan was discovered by the Whitecaps in 2009, when Thordarson’s squad spent its preseason training in Tanzania. Included in that trip was a match against the Tanzanian national team in which Thordarson first noticed Khalfan’s abilities.
“Nizar is a dynamic player with great energy,” Thordarson told WhitecapsFC.com. “He has all the tools. He is fast, technical, hard-working, has a good shot and a great attitude.”
Khalfan, 22, signed with the Whitecaps D-2 side midway through the 2009 season and has proven a versatile attacker. He spent a large portion of last season playing striker and has recently been lining up as a winger. Assistant coach Colin Miller thinks that we may yet see him star at a different position.
“I actually prefer to see him through the middle because he makes some terrific runs behind the defense,” Miller told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday.
Miller has seen Khalfan make great strides during his time with the club, and anticipates that he’ll be an important player this season.
“Obviously, when you come from another country, it’s a major learning curve, but he’s adapted very well to the way that we want him to play in our system,” explained Miller. “He’s a major asset to the club, and of course he’s still a very young player. He’ll be a very positive addition to this squad.”
Khalfan is one example that young talent can be found on the African continent. Ghanaian midfielder Koffie, discovered by Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn last summer, is another.
“The first time I saw Gershon was last year when he came in, and my first impression was that this kid has a major future ahead of him if he continues to learn and develop,” said Miller of the promising 19-year-old. “He’s so comfortable on the ball, he’s aggressive, he’s quick, his distribution is very consistent and he has shown an amazing learning curve. We’re very excited about the possibilities that Gershon brings.”
Koffie is a natural central midfielder. His tenacious play can sometimes lead to a lack of discipline, but Miller says his development has been helped immensely by playing with veteran Terry Dunfield.
“That in itself is helping a great deal,” stated Miller. “With Terry’s experience, the two of them are learning to play together.”