Back from loan, Bryce Alderson and Ben Fisk lean on each other in pursuit of ultimate goal
Their names start with the same letter, they have the same build and they were born in the same month of the same year – Alderson is three days older.
Both players also came through Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Residency system before kicking off their professional careers this past season on loan with Charleston Battery of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Pro Division.
And they both have the same goal: to be a regular starter for Whitecaps FC in Major League Soccer.
At this point, Alderson is a little closer to achieving that goal, as he is signed to an MLS contract with the first team while Fisk is still considered a member of the club’s U-23 side. But that doesn’t make a difference to either of them.
“In my opinion, we are both in the same position,” Alderson told whitecapsfc.com. “Training with the first team every day, being in that environment and looking to break through … for me I don’t see a difference between the situation the two of us are in.”
“For any player, the most important and toughest time of your career is in between the age when you’ve graduated from the youth system and you’re trying to find your way in the professional game,” Fisk told whitecapsfc.com. “I think we’re at similar points in our careers and it’s been good to be able to help each other through it.”
The two players met about three years ago when they joined Whitecaps FC’s Residency program as 16 year-olds. Fisk, a Vancouver native, had already been involved with the club’s youth system while Alderson joined the club from Ontario.
Initially, they stuck to their familiar crowds, but that changed with time.
“With every team we’ve played on and the more time we spend together, we just become closer and closer,” Alderson said. “He’s definitely one of the best friends that I’ve made through football.”
Both players are back in Vancouver this week after representing Canada at the Francophone Games in Nice, France. Whitecaps FC striker Caleb Clarke, who is currently on loan with FC Augsburg’s reserve side in Regionalliga Bayern, as well as former Residency players Yassin Essa and Daniel Stanese also appeared for the Canadian U-21 side.
Canada played four matches – a 0-0 friendly with Cameroon, a 4-1 loss to France, a 1-0 win over Rwanda, and a 3-1 loss to Congo.
“I thought it was one of the best camps we’ve had as a team together,” Fisk said. “Unfortunately, the results didn’t really go our way, but I thought it was a great camp to build on and I was happy with how I was playing personally.”
The Vancouver native started three of the four matches with the Canadians and played his first full match since undergoing knee surgery at the beginning of May.
“I feel 100 per cent now,” said the soft-spoken midfielder. “It’s nice to feel that. It’s been a while.”
Fisk only played 284 minutes in nine appearances with the Battery this season as a result of the nagging injury. In those games, he still managed to score two goals and three assists.
“Before the injuries, I had earned a starting spot … I was really happy with how it was going,” Fisk recalled. “After the surgery, when I went back down, it was the last few games of the season so it was hard to feel like part of the team again.”
“It was pretty frustrating,” he continued. “I missed a couple months but I’m grateful to be back on the pitch playing again.”
Alderson, meanwhile, had one assist in 15 appearances.
It was a learning experience for both players, but having each other’s company helped ease the transition.
“It definitely would have been a different experience had we been there alone,” said Fisk, adding that Alderson is one of his favourite midfielders to play alongside. “I think it made it a lot easier for both of us.”
“I was definitely fortunate to have him there and hopefully he feels the same way that I did,” Alderson added. “We kind of helped each other through it.”
The brain trust at Whitecaps FC have been following their progress closely. Head coach Martin Rennie said Fisk and Alderson had “decent seasons” and the experience at Charleston will benefit them down the road.
“It helps them realize the standard of play in the USL, what it would take to play at that level consistently and be a standout player at that level,” Rennie told reporters after a training session earlier this week.
Neither player is eligible to play in MLS this season, but they will both be vying for a spot when training camp rolls around in 2014.
“Football is obviously an individual sport when you’re trying to develop and improve,” Alderson said. “We’re both just looking to make that next step but if we make it together then it would be even more special.”