VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps have a few new arrows for the quiver.
The big news for the squad this week is the arrival of central defender Johnny Leverón (above) and attacker Paulo Jr. after finally getting their working visas processed.
The pair had been training with Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie’s old team, the NASL Carolina RailHawks, to stay fit before officially linking up with the squad for the first time since preseason on Wednesday.
Leverón’s arrival comes at an opportune time for the club, having lost captain Jay DeMerit on opening day to an Achilles rupture. The Honduran, who captained his country’s Olympic team in London last summer, is a left-footed central defender who will add a more technical option in the heart of the backline.
Still, Brad Rusin has done well in DeMerit's place in the club’s first two matches, so the 23-year-old may have to bide his time.
“With Andy [O’Brien] and Brad, we’ve got two guys who are playing very well just now,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Thursday. “But it’s important for us to have cover and competition and Johnny will bring that. He’s got a great pedigree. People, including us, think he can be a very good player if he fulfills his potential.”
Paulo Jr., meanwhile, is a player Rennie believes can play as a wide attacker or perhaps as a withdrawn striker depending on the formation deployed.
Over the last two seasons with Real Salt Lake, the Brazilian bagged four goals and added six assists despite starting just 17 matches. If he can continue that output when given a bigger role his signing will surely be seen as a coup.
The plus side for Rennie is that with the ‘Caps off to a perfect start with two wins from two matches played, he can take his time incorporating the duo into the side.
“With the players we’ve got playing well, it’s not as urgent,” Rennie said of pushing Leverón and Paulo Jr. into the first XI. “But obviously we’ve got a strong squad and it’s nice to have that.”
With Leverón’s arrival this week, that pushed Carlyle Mitchell further down the pecking order at center back, so the club has sent him on a season-long loan to NASL side FC Edmonton to get him minutes and further his development.
“Carlyle is really coming on,” Rennie said. “We were really impressed with him this preseason and we just feel that for him to get to the next stage of development he needs to play regularly. At the moment, if he’s the third or fourth choice center back then he’s not going to play too much.
“I think at Edmonton he’ll get meaningful games in a good league, hard competition, and he’ll get good coaching with Colin Miller and his staff there. We think that’s the next best thing for him.”
With Mitchell going on loan to Edmonton, the ‘Caps wanted to add a bit of depth in the position to fill out their squad – so they signed their Supplemental Draft pick Adam Clement on Thursday. The 22-year-old joins the Whitecaps after playing four seasons with Duquesne University.
“We’ve got a lot of games – reserve games and other games here, so we need players like Adam to play in those games,” Rennie said. “Right now, we think it’s better for Carlyle to be playing every week in a competitive environment, where with Adam if he’s playing sometimes and training, then we can get the best out of him.”