Whitecaps have high hopes for young Adekugbe
Deal with 18-year-old fullback from Calgary is imminent
The Vancouver Whitecaps are set to add another young Canadian to their MLS roster as a deal with residency-program fullback Sam Adekugbe is imminent.
Adekugbe, an 18-year-old from Calgary, fills an immediate need for depth on the left side of defence behind Jordan Harvey.
The Caps have been short at the position since trading Alain Rochat to D.C. United in early June, a move that freed up cap space to sign Danish goalkeeper David Ousted.
But the big-picture view of the Adekugbe deal is two-fold: The club has high hopes for the young defender; and there’s a sense of urgency to lock up their top teenage talent and reassure them that their professional debut is well within their grasp.
Central attacking midfielders Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos, both 17, have also trained on occasion with the first team, while academy centre back Jackson Farmer is involved this week at UBC.
Froese, who could well be part of Canada’s upcoming senior national team camp in Spain, is believed to be working toward an MLS deal for January.
Manchester-born Adekugbe has steadily progressed since joining the Caps residency program in September 2011.
He fits the mould of a modern fullback: athletic, fast and forward-thinking with an accurate cross. The physical side of his game, and his one-on-one defending, remains a major focus.
“Sam’s got every attribute to be a quality defender in any position,” Caps assistant coach Paul Ritchie, a former professional centre back in Scotland and England, said in July.
Coach Martin Rennie, meanwhile, praised Adekugbe for his work ethic and professionalism.
“Sam seems really determined to be the best player he can,” Rennie said in July.
The Caps have 29 players signed to MLS deals but three players are currently out on loan — Bryce Alderson to the Charleston Battery of USL-Pro, Richmond native Caleb Clarke to FC Augsburg in Germany, and Corey Hertzog to FC Edmonton of the NASL.
Vancouver can fill those roster spots with other signings before the MLS roster freeze on Sept. 13.
Alderson and Clarke, along with first-team starter Russell Teibert, are previous Caps academy players signed under MLS’s “homegrown” rule, which allows clubs to pay young players more than the league minimum of around $35,000.
Adekugbe, Froese and Farmer are recently back from the prestigious COTIF U-20 tournament in Spain, where they were part of a Canadian U-18 team that finished fourth.
Camilo on mend
Caps leading scorer Camilo barely broke a sweat at Tuesday’s practice but coach Martin Rennie said he expects to have his Brazilian forward back for the Chivas game on Sunday at B.C. Place.
Camilo, who has 14 goals, missed the Caps’ 1-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday with a tight groin.
The Caps will definitely be without midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker on Sunday due to yellow card accumulation. Rennie said he’s still deciding on how to account for that hole in the lineup.
“Obviously that’s a loss for us,” Rennie said. “He’s a very key player, certainly a driving force for us, but we’ve played without him before.
“We’ve got a couple of different ways we can go. We can change a couple of players in the system we play, or we can slightly alter the system, and that’s what we need to decide.”
Players absent from Tuesday’s training included those who played in Monday’s 2-2 reserve league tie at Seattle, a game that featured backup goalkeeper Joe Cannon subbing on at centre forward due to an injury.
Defender Jay DeMerit also has a couple of days off practice after his wedding in the Whistler wilderness. DeMerit, who hopes to return soon from a torn Achilles, married Olympic ski-cross gold medallist Ashleigh McIvor on Sunday.
Midfielder Russell Teibert will be available for the Caps on the weekend before leaving for Canada’s senior men’s camp in Spain under new coach Benito Floro.
Surrey native and one-time Whitecaps forward Alen Marcina was named interim coach of the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions on Tuesday. The club is off to an 0-4 start in the fall season. Marcina was already an assistant with the Scorpions, whose roster includes a host of former Whitecaps: Blake Wagner, Lyle Martin, Greg Janicki and Vancouverite Kevin Harmse.
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