'Caps kids kicking it after rising through residency program

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC #3 Sam Adekugbe smiles during warm up before playing the New York FC in a regular season MLS soccer game at BC Place, Vancouver September 26 2015.
 
 

Vancouver Whitecaps FC #3 Sam Adekugbe smiles during warm up before playing the New York FC in a regular season MLS soccer game at BC Place, Vancouver September 26 2015.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

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PORTLAND, Ore. — No one should get overly excited about a 2-0 pre-season win over the Portland Timbers, particularly with the reigning Major League Soccer champions dressing an almost entirely second-choice lineup.

But there was still something reassuring Wednesday in watching all the Whitecaps’ “kids” romp around Providence Park with confidence and purpose and not looking out of place.

The Caps have talked often about wanting to ensure they create pathways for the young Canadians coming up through their residency program. But head coach Carl Robinson has always insisted that the opportunities have to be earned and not just handed to the youngsters.

It started with sixth-year midfielder Russell Teibert, who joined the first team as an 18-year-old. And 21-year-old fullback Sam Adekugbe looks poised to play significant minutes this season, perhaps even grab a full-time starting job.

On Wednesday, the Caps started three teenagers, including 15-year-old winger Alphonso Davies, who will be the youngest player in the USL in 2016, and brought two more fuzzy-cheeked youngsters in as second-half substitutes in 17-year-old Thomas Gardner and the trialist the club has identified only as Hudson.

Kianz Froese, 19, whom Robinson likes as a true box-to-box midfielder, had a strong game playing in front of the back four and linking up well in the middle of the pitch with Marco Bustos, 19, and captain Pedro Morales, who played just the first half.

Bustos, in particular, was composed on the ball and showed great vision with some quick flicks and decisive passes.

Bustos says the familiarity he has with the likes of Froese and Adekugbe definitely helps.

“We’ve been together for a long time and we all know each other’s movements,” said Bustos. “Coming from the residency we’re trying to show how great this residency program is. Hopefully, when the younger guys come up they can do the same.”

Younger guys like Davies, who played with a poise that belied his age, battling hard on the wing and making some nice runs.

“I really enjoyed playing tonight, it was a good experience for me,” said Davies, who was born in Liberia and grew up in Edmonton. “Playing against MLS players was really fun, but it was also hard work.”

Caps assistant coach Gordon Forrest said it was encouraging for the coaching staff to see the teenagers acquit themselves so well.

“I think everyone is well aware now that that’s the way the club wants to go. As a coaching team, when we look at developing young players, they’ve got to play in these kind of games and this kind of environment and crowd.

“(Froese and Bustos) both worked extremely hard in the off-season, both got themselves up to great levels of fitness, which helps their performance. Both those kids are enjoying their football.”

STRIKERS SCORE: Blas Perez, the Panamanian international Vancouver acquired from FC Dallas, stuck it to the Portland crowd, which booed him at every turn, by scoring off a corner kick in the 39th minute for his first goal as a Whitecap.

But the more encouraging tally was the second-half marker by second-year man Octavio Rivero. He struggled to find the back of the net after the first two months of last season, but made a powerful move across the top of the box and delivered a hard, left-footed strike just inside the post.

“He’s come back with a good outlook on things,” said Forrest. “He’s just trying to break things down, to be nice and simple — secure the ball, try to get some shots in and around the box. He’s had a good pre-season, but for him to get a goal tonight certainly adds to his confidence.”

WHO’S NO. 2?: Paolo Tornaghi, who spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons backing up David Ousted in the Whitecaps net but not seeing a minute of MLS action, played the first half on Wednesday.

The Caps declined his contract option after last season and he went unclaimed in the MLS re-entry draft. After not finding another place to play, he joined the Caps a few days ago on trial, hoping the club will re-sign him for 2016.

He wasn’t called on to make a save Wednesday. But Spencer Richey, the 23-year-old University of Washington product the Caps drafted 61st overall in 2015, did have to make a couple of tough second-half saves to preserve the shutout.

gkingston@postmedia.com

 
 
 
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Vancouver Whitecaps FC #3 Sam Adekugbe smiles during warm up before playing the New York FC in a regular season MLS soccer game at BC Place, Vancouver September 26 2015.
 

Vancouver Whitecaps FC #3 Sam Adekugbe smiles during warm up before playing the New York FC in a regular season MLS soccer game at BC Place, Vancouver September 26 2015.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC #3 Sam Adekugbe smiles during warm up before playing the New York FC in a regular season MLS soccer game at BC Place, Vancouver September 26 2015.
Kianz Froese, left, and Marco Bustos joke around during a Whitecaps residency practice in June 2014. ‘We’ve been together for a long time and we all know each other’s movements,’ says Bustos.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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