Haber happy to be home with Caps - The Province

After brief stint in Europe, one of 'fab five' back to play for Vancouver
Marc Weber, The Province

Marcus Haber was one of the fab five in the fall of 2006.

Five soccer players from the same club -- the Vancouver Selects -- who signed on with foreign professional teams in the same year. It was believed to be a Canadian first.

Four, including Haber, navigated their way to the Netherlands, and Haber was part of a trio that ended up with top-flight FC Groningen's under-19 side.

He wasn't offered a spot with their reserves this season, though, and on Wednesday the Vancouver Whitecaps announced the signing of the 20-year-old forward, along with 22-year-old right fullback Wes Knight of South Carolina.

Both had been on trial with the team.

"I'm really excited about the season and happy to be a part of the Whitecaps," said Haber, a member of Canada's U20 and U23 national teams who grew up in Dunbar.

"Obviously when you come back from something that doesn't work out it stings, but my first thought when I got back was to get in an environment where I can train and improve.

"I've got no regrets from being over in Holland -- it definitely had a positive effect on my game and it helped me as a person as well. Now I've got to look forward and try and improve myself as a player here."

Haber will be in a battle for playing time. Despite the departure of leading scorer Eduardo Sebrango to Montreal, the Whitecaps return championship hero Charles Gbeke and have brought in the Malaysian Super League's top marksman in St. Vincent international Marlon James.

Residency kids Randy Edwini-Bonsu of Edmonton and Dever Orgill of Jamaica are also making a strong case for minutes, and don't rule out head coach Teitur Thordarson seeking out another established scorer.

Thordarson raved Wednesday about Haber's potential, and his rare combination of assets.

"He has fantastic speed for being a big boy like he is (6-foot-3, 190 pounds)," the coach said.

"I have big belief in him ... that [he] can be developed into something great.

"Tactically he has to develop a lot, there are a lot of things to work on, but he has very interesting tools."

Of the fab five, only one remains abroad -- Vancouver's Brandon Bonifacio, who's now on loan to Dutch second division side FC Zwolle.

Haber's former U19 teammate with FC Groningen, midfielder Michael Nonni of West Vancouver, is also hoping to catch on with the Whitecaps and was playing Wednesday afternoon for the residency team against the University of B.C.

"He's one of my best friends and it would be great to play with him here," said Haber, who endured unsuccessful trials in England and Austria before landing with the Caps.

Another local lad recently back from Europe, New Westminster's Keegan Ayre, has survived the cuts so far. He, too, was playing in the residency game on Wednesday and there's a senior side game slated for Friday at 3 p.m. against Trinity Western University at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.

Thordarson said he'd make a decision on the remaining trial players likely by week's end.

mweber@theprovince.com

More on the web

There were some interesting new faces at practice Wednesday. Check out theprovince.com/blogs and click on Back of the Net to find out who's on trial.

© The Vancouver Province 2009