Steele's Irish eyes on Vancouver - The Province
BY MARC WEBER
Jonny Steele is now a Whitecap, but it's far from a case of 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'
The 23-year-old midfielder, who lost to Vancouver in the 2006 USL-1 title game while playing for Rochester, then in 2008 with Puerto Rico, has his sights set on Major League Soccer.
Vancouver makes the leap to North America's premier loop in 2011.
"They've been there whenever I've been there -- in the playoffs, in the finals -- so it shows they're a successful club," Steele, a native of Northern Ireland, said Wednesday after he and defender Greg Janicki of Michigan signed one-year deals with the club.
"Going to MLS next year, they have a bright future and I want to be a part of it."
Steele is driven, but also patient. There was interest from current MLS teams in the left-footed central player who jumped to America as an 18-year-old after time with English side Wolverhampton.
Real Salt Lake has his MLS discovery rights and, in between bites of a Philly cheesesteak, Steele admitted to trying to work something out with the expansion Philadelphia Union.
Steele has a three-year-old son in that city and spends his off-seasons there. But Vancouver, he said, was his best option.
"I've got to be happy to play good football," he said. "That [Philadelphia] never worked out, and the way I see it, I can go to Vancouver and build a relationship with the fans and the owners and the players for a year before they make the move."
Vancouver is getting a talented young player, but one with plenty of experience. Steele was USL-1 MVP in 2008 and an all-star in '09, the final year of his contact with Puerto Rico. He twice played in the CONCACAF Champions League, helping the Islanders to the semifinals in 2008-09.
Janicki, meanwhile, comes to Vancouver from MLS side D.C. United, where the 25-year-old was on a development deal.
For the Caps, it's a shift in strategy from last off-season, when they played the lottery on raw, promising athletes like Wes Knight (who worked out) and Tyrell Burgess (who didn't).
The Seattle Sounders took six players with them from USL-1 to MLS last season, though only two saw significant time. Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said he'd like to surpass Seattle's transition total, considering Vancouver joins in a year with the Portland Timbers, meaning a watered down expansion draft.
The signing of Steele combined with last month's addition of USL-1 all-star central midfielder Ricardo Sanchez from Minnesota, will also afford captain Martin Nash some well-deserved rest. Nash, who turns 34 on Sunday, was hampered by injuries down the stretch last year.
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