Young Trafford braces for Impact - The Vancouver Sun

Whitecaps defender has tenuous link to fabled home of Manchester United

John Atkinson
Special to The Sun

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Mason Trafford was born in August 1986 -- just a few months before Sir Alex Ferguson began his reign as manager of current European champions Manchester United.

Which is kind of ironic, given that the now 22-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps defender was witness to a post-game ear-bashing from his team's head coach Teitur Thordarson on Sunday, perhaps not wholly dissimilar to Ferguson's infamous "hairdryer treatment."

That came after the Whitecaps threw away a 3-1 lead to lose the Minnesota leg of their United Soccer League First Division playoff quarter-final 4-3; though they did hold on by the skin-of-their-teeth to take the overall spoils 5-4 -- and set up a two-game semifinal with their Canadian rivals, the Montreal Impact this week.

However, Trafford, who only linked up with the Vancouver club in June after a successful spell with the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), also has another, much-less tenuous link with the English soccer giants. Think their home. Old Trafford?

I kid you not.

"There is actually a link between my last name and Old Trafford," the Florida-born but North Vancouver-bred centre-half revealed.

"My [late, English] grandfather, [a Cambridge graduate and oil engineer] was into the whole genealogy and family tree thing.

"And he ended up figuring out that it was something to do with our family selling [Manchester United] the land on which they built the [Old Trafford] stadium.

"When I was about 12 years old I had a letter that I was going to write to [MUFC, explaining the link] -- though I don't actually think I ever sent it."

Well, Thordarson and his team are certainly glad the new Trafford forgot about the Old long enough to come knocking on the Whitecaps' door this past summer.

After diligently getting his head down and working hard, the former Handsworth Secondary pupil has made a swift and impressive first-team impact -- and was a starter in both legs of the Minnesota playoff.

"A few months ago I would never have thought I'd get a chance to play in one of these games, let alone be starting in [both] playoff games," Trafford said.

"It's [taken] a lot of hard work to get myself in this position, to be starting and contributing to the team. And it's really nice to finally do that, especially in a playoff game."

Trafford's childhood dream was to play soccer in Europe -- he intially linked up with the Whitecaps to sharpen up for a trip to England -- and that remains a burning ambition.

But right now he's glad Thordarson and his assistant Todd Wawrousek persuaded him to put that dream on hold and make a name for himself in his hometown.

"I would definitely love, at some point in my career, to go over [to Europe] and play; that's always been sort of my dream," Trafford said.

"But I'm in no rush. I'm only 22 and can still learn a lot [playing for the Whitecaps]. I'm really enjoying it here and would like to make a bigger name for myself."

Trafford is flying out to Montreal with his teammates today to prepare for the first leg of their playoff semifinal on Friday (5 p.m.).

Among those players will be Martin Nash, Eduardo Sebrango, Wesley Charles and Takashi Hirano, who were all named in the USL First Division's all-league teams for 2008.

Midfielder Nash made the all-league first team, while the latter trio were named in the second team.

The Whitecaps host Montreal in the semifinal second leg on Sunday (Swangard Stadium, 3:30 p.m.).

© The Vancouver Sun 2008