Have the 'Caps landed a diamond in the rough?
VANCOUVER, BC – As someone who has spent eight seasons in Major League Soccer, it’s no surprise that Mehdi Ballouchy has made a few friends along the way.
It just so happens that he’ll be reunited with three of them in Vancouver.
WATCH: Highlights from Ballouchy's eight seasons in MLS
The 30-year-old midfielder, who signed with Whitecaps FC on Monday after getting selected in the MLS Re-Entry Draft last month, played with head coach Carl Robinson in New York, left back Jorday Harvey in Colorado, and most recently, with new ‘Caps right back Steven Beitashour in San Jose.
And apparently he left a good impression.
Though Ballouchy isn’t a household name in MLS, those who have played with him believe he’ll be an important addition to the club – both on and off the pitch.
“He’s a great player,” Beitashour told whitecapsfc.com. “He’s definitely a unique player, a true playmaker. It’s unfortunate the last few years he’s had some pretty serious injuries, but I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll get back to 100 per cent and when he does, he’s going to be the same old Mehdi.”
The last few years haven’t been easy for Ballouchy, who was a MLS Rookie of the Year finalist in 2006. The Casablanca, Morroco native suffered a left knee ligament tear in September 2012 and then a torn right anterior-cruciate ligament a few months after his return the following year.
In total, he played just 384 minutes in 11 appearances over the last two seasons.
“Obviously he’s been injured for a period of time now, but he’s great in the locker room, he’s a character guy, and he’s a leader,” Robinson told reporters on Monday. “Technically, he’s fantastic on the ball, he can play a wide range of positions in midfield and forward areas. When Mehdi is fit, which is hopefully in a few weeks, then he’ll be a big addition for us.”
Robinson and Ballouchy played together back in 2011 with New York Red Bulls. At the time, Robinson was serving the dual-role as both a player and assistant coach. The two would often talk about the game and how they thought it should be played – a vision they hope to establish in Vancouver.
“We’re both students of the game,” said Ballouchy, who has recorded 16 goals and 25 assists in 190 MLS appearances. “He’s always been somebody who helped me along the way. He’s appreciated the play … he wants to pass the ball and move and I think I can help.”
So does Harvey, who played with Ballouchy for over two seasons with Colorado Rapids.
“I’m looking forward to this year because I think the team chemistry will be one of the best I’ve had in my career,” Harvey told whitecapsfc.com. “And with a guy like Mehdi coming in, I think that will only help.”
When Ballouchy first came to Colorado, Harvey said he was surprised with how fluid the former Santa Clara University star was with the ball at his feet – a sentiment echoed by Beitashour.
“I’m telling you, when this guy is healthy, you can’t get the ball from him.”
Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.