Whitecaps’ Bryce Alderson hopes grit will get him in the game
Heralded national youth midfielder still looking for first minutes in Major League Soccer
Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson (right) gives midfielder Bryce Alderson direction during the team’s practice at BC Place Stadium on Thursday.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
VANCOUVER — If there's such a thing as Canadian soccer pedigree, Bryce Alderson has it.
The 20-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps central midfielder signed a professional contract with the club when he was 17 years old.
He's a two-time U-17 Canadian player of the year and captained the Canadian team at the 2011 U-17 World Cup in Mexico — a career highlight so far.
He has played on countless Canadian national youth teams and trained with English Championship side Queens Park Rangers in the off-season last year.
But Alderson has yet to experience one minute of Major League Soccer play in his young career, a niggling blight on his resume that he plans to correct as soon as possible.
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"It's a very big year for me," the blonde Kitchener, Ont. native said Thursday after a Caps training session at BC Place Stadium. "People will say it's a make-or-break year and in many respects, I think it is in the sense that I need to play games and showcase myself and prove I can play at this level."
Alderson was a big get for the Whitecaps when they lured him to their residency program in 2010 and he was only available because he lived just outside Toronto FC's territory of protected players.
He signed a Generation adidas contract with the Caps in late 2011 but a knee issue curtailed his development in 2012, when he made six MLS reserve league appearances and five appearances with the Whitecaps' residency team.
Alderson was loaned to USL PRO side Charleston Battery last year and while he wasn't a big fan of the South Carolina heat, he came back with an appreciation for what it takes to play consistently at a high level.
"I realized how much is required on and off the field and I think I got a bit of grit into my game," he said.
Now he's keen to apply that grit and experience to a real live MLS game and that might not be far away.
Alderson was named to the 18-man roster for the March 16 game against Chivas USA in Los Angeles but did not come off the bench. He travelled with the team to New England last week as the 19th man but again, his services weren't required.
Alderson is probably a good bet to make the 18-man squad for the home game against Houston on Saturday as starting midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker nurses a concussion and gashes to his face suffered in a strange walking accident last weekend.
"Obviously that's a big step — being part of the 18," Alderson said. "The next step is to get on the field and get some minutes."
He admits it hasn't been easy waiting for the chance to make his MLS debut but knows he has to work hard and stay patient because that chance will surely come.
"When you grow up always being one of the better players in your age group and playing consistently with youth national teams, it's very difficult to be in an environment where you're not starting," Alderson said. "I think it's something all young players struggle with."
He said Caps coaches want him to work on "the all-around things" in his game.
"I don't think there are any glaring issues for me," Alderson said. "I need to read the play quickly and move the ball as quickly as possible. I need to have that kind of grit on the defensive side to put the work in to win the ball back."
He feels he has always had a good relationship with Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson but stressed coaches never owe players any favours.
"He'll pick the team based on what he sees in training and what he thinks is best for the team. It's up to the players to put things in his mind and make it a tough decision for him."
Robinson knows Alderson joined the Whitecaps organization with high expectations that haven't quite materialized yet.
"I think everyone in Canada had built him up and he lost his way a little bit, for whatever reason," he said. "I want to give him a chance. This is a big year for him and he needs to show what he can do. All I can promise him is that he will get a chance at some stage and it will be down to him to take it."
Robinson said Alderson has great technical skills that could fit in very well with the type of possession-oriented, attacking team he's building in Vancouver.
"I'm building a team that wants to pass and move the ball and play and Bryce fits into that category very well," he said. "If he continues to progress the way I think he will, he will have a big future here."
SIDE KICKS: A sheepish-looking Nigel Reo-Coker attended Thursday's training session in street clothes but did not address the media over his bizarre falling-over-a-bike-rack incident last Sunday that caused a concussion and some ugly gashes to his face. Robinson confirmed Reo-Coker won't play Saturday against Houston but hopes to have the 29-year-old central midfielder available for the April 5 game against Colorado.
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