Saturday’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas was a sweet one for the Vancouver Whitecaps, capping a haul of five points in eight days in which they also earned road draws at Sporting KC and the New York Red Bulls – and gave their latest academy prospect an emotional MLS debut.
Theo Bair, 19, came off the bench for the final 19-plus minutes, wetting his feet in first-team action and even directing an inventive backheel on goal to draw a save out of FCD goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.
“It meant everything, I’ve worked really hard. This is what every player who comes out of the academy dreams of,” said Bair postgame. “I got my chance. I got my moment and it felt great. Hopefully many more to come.”
Bair traveled to Kansas City and New Jersey with the team over the past week. But a home debut gave his mother and sister, who were in the crowd at BC Place, a chance to witness it firsthand, adding further intensity to the big moment.
“My MLS debut is what I’ve looked forward to for the better part of four or five years," Bair said. "The fact that I actually touched the field, I wanted to cry myself. I won’t lie. But of course, you don’t do that right as about you’re getting on the field.
“I knew that my dad was watching back home and the idea of that made me really happy. And my mom,” he added, “I went and hugged her at the end. Lots of tears. Lots of tears.”
A native of Ottawa, Bair has been in the Whitecaps system since 2015 and the strapping striker looks to have a promising skillset for MLS play. ‘Caps coach Marc Dos Santos sounded cautiously optimistic about the teenager’s future.
“We have to be careful," Dos Santos said. "It happens a lot in Canada that a player comes in and he plays and now he has to play all the time and now he’s the next big forward. We have to relax a little bit because we do that a lot here.
“Theo has a lot to learn and a lot to grow," continued Dos Santos. "It was very positive today. He had to come in and help the team and he did it. He had a very good chance that he finished very well. It didn’t go in, but the technique would’ve been a great goal. We’re happy for him.”