ORLANDO, Fla. – With all the big names in the arsenal of attacking talents at the Vancouver Whitecaps, his doesn’t stand out just yet.
But based on what he showed against the Houston Dynamo last Sunday at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, it’s only a matter of time before second-year player Michael Nanchoff makes his mark in the ‘Caps midfield.
“I think he’s got tons of talent and he dug deep today and played 75 minutes when I thought maybe he’d only play 45 or 50,” said Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie after the match.
Highlights: VAN 1, HOU 0
Nanchoff played wide left and was arguably Vancouver’s best player on the day. The Ohio native proved dangerous every time he touched the ball with impressive dribbling skills, quickness, vision and an ability to improvise that caused havoc for the Dynamo.
But the 23-year-old could have only dreamed of a performance like that last year, when a groin injury from his college days at the University of Akron forced him into a secondary role in Vancouver despite being the No. 8 pick in the SuperDraft. He logged just one start and only a smattering of minutes.
“Physically it was a tough one last year,” Nanchoff told MLSsoccer.com. “It was tough coming in being drafted with a horrible groin issue and I’m thankful they were able to fix it without any surgery. A serious injury like that it takes time to heal, get your bearings and get to 100 percent. … It motivated me for this year and now I’m enjoying my soccer to the fullest and loving it.”
Said Rennie: “He’s fit and he’s healthy, he‘s playing, he’s training every day and I think he’s getting his confidence back. He knows we believe in him, we like him, we think he’s good and that makes him feel a lot more confidence.”
Things are looking up for Nanchoff, who finds a very familiar face on the sidelines this year. Rennie, who is in his first year in Vancouver, managed USL side Cleveland City Stars for two years in the same city where he watched Nanchoff play for club side Cleveland Internationals.
“I remember I really liked the system he implemented [at Cleveland],” Nanchoff recalls about the matches he watched. “He wanted his team to play. That suits my style well.”
If it’s truly the match that Nanchoff claims it is, his expectations for 2012 may not be that far-fetched.
“I hope for a realistic chance to earn a spot in the starting XI and maintain a spot there – left mid, center mid or right mid," Nanchoff says. "And I want to stay healthy and help this team push for a playoff spot.”