Tyrell Burgess: Making grade on field and off - The Province

Hard worker aims to be in 2011 MLS grad class

By Marc Weber

Not long after joining the Vancouver Whitecaps on a two-year deal plus a club option, Tyrell Burgess took time off to return to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

He wanted to walk in his graduation ceremony.

"It was a big deal to me because it's something I spent four years working toward," said Burgess, a 23-year-old winger from Bermuda whom Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson spotted at a team combine in Pennsylvania last December.

"I definitely wanted to do it, and the coaches and management were really supportive."

When it comes to his soccer education, Burgess is on the fast track these days.

A combination of hard work in practice and a rash of injuries befalling Whitecap wingers has opened the door for Burgess.

He's started the last two games and will get the call again tonight on the left side of the midfield as the Whitecaps (5-6-3) visit the Carolina RailHawks (8-4-3).

"It's been a great opportunity," said Burgess, whose degree is in sport and recreation management. "Needing to adjust to the physicality of the league, that was the first thing I noticed. And adjusting to how Teitur wants to play.

"It was a big change for me coming from college, but the guys -- even the injured guys who have been starting ahead of me -- have been helping me out a lot, motivating me and telling me my chance is going to come."

Without options to excel at home, Burgess left Bermuda at age 16 to attend a boarding school in Massachusetts, where he set school records in the long jump and triple jump. He never made the big leap to NCAA Division 1 soccer, however.

Poor grades limited his options and he attended Div. III Rhode Island College in Providence before transferring to Div. II Lynn University, where he earned All-Sunshine State Conference First Team honours as a senior.

"After high school, my options went from real high to real low based on my academics," said Burgess, who speaks with a mish-mash accent that's as much "Bawstin" as it is Bermuda. "But I knew a Division III school would be a stepping stone for me. I was using it as a platform to try and go bigger and I had to work harder in school."

USL-1, he hopes, is another stepping stone on the path to Major League Soccer. Young, fast, with plenty of potential, Burgess is a prime candidate for Vancouver's graduating class of 2011.

As Thordarson has said of all his young players -- especially his wingers, such as Ansu Toure and Vicente Arze, who are used to playing creative, independent-minded roles -- Burgess needs to get better defensively.

"They have all played in a free role situation before and I don't know any teams in the world on top levels who can have players who can choose to defend when they want," the coach said.

"We knew Tyrell had everything we were looking for, but from there, when is he prepared for the next level? That's something you never know. It has taken him some time but he's started to show us what we can expect."

mweber@theprovince.com

- - -

NEXT GAME

Whitecaps at Carolina RailHawks

When: Today, 5 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports World Canada

More on the web: Get the latest on the Whitecaps lineup situation at theprovince.com/blogs. Click on Back of the Net.

© Copyright (c) The Province