Johnny Leveron, Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver Whitecaps say defender Johnny Leveron's fitness still not up to par

VANCOUVER, B.C. – When the Vancouver Whitecaps signed Johnny Leverón this offseason, many observers were excited to see what kind of impact the 23-year-old captain of the Honduran Olympic team would have on the squad.

Visa issues delayed his arrival here, and he missed the first two matches as a result. And even with the immigration process now behind him, Whitecaps fans might have to wait a little longer to see him in action as he’s not quite physically ready to play, according to the club.

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“Johnny needs to get fitter,” Whitecaps assistant coach Carl Robinson told reporters on Tuesday following a 4-2 friendly win over FC Edmonton, before referencing a play in which Leverón gave away the ball for an Edmonton goal. “He’s a fantastic footballer, which we know. He’s got great ability on the ball, but fitness wise, he’s a long way behind the guys.

“That will need to improve over the next few weeks and it will, because I think when you’re not fit, you make wrong decisions. And I think you saw that with Johnny – he made the wrong decision at the end of the box. But he’s a very talented footballer – we’ll address that with him and get him in tip-top shape so he can play in Major League Soccer as soon as possible.”

Leverón’s ability to play soon could be important with captain Jay DeMerit sidelined for most, if not all, of the 2013 season with an Achilles tendon rupture, and Brad Rusin still hampered by a minor knee injury he suffered in a 2-1 loss against the Houston Dynamo last Saturday.

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While the club says Rusin will return to full training on Thursday – if he were unavailable, that would mean slotting Alain Rochat into central defense and inserting Jordan Harvey in at left fullback.

But, while Robinson was clear in that Leverón still has some ways to go to become match fit, he didn’t think the player’s poor level of fitness at this stage was anything to be concerned about long term.

“He left Motagua in November,” Robinson said. “He joined us in February in [our training camp], and he hasn’t trained for 10, 12 weeks. So he’s starting from square one. But we have high hopes for Johnny, and he has high hopes for himself as well.”

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