Ready to play: 17-year-old Carducci to start as 'Caps go young for Canadian Championship semifinal

O'Brien on Carducci: "I like him, full stop ... he's ready to play"

Marco Carducci diving in training

Photo Credit: 
Farhan Devji/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

VANCOUVER, BC – A 17-year-old will start in goal for Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday, as coach Carl Robinson's youth revolution takes another step forward when the semifinals of the 2014 Amway Canadian Championship get underway.

The 'Caps head east to take on MLS rivals Toronto FC in Wednesday's first-leg matchup (4:30 p.m. PT, Sportsnet One), chasing their first championship in the modern era – as well as the coveted CONCACAF Champions League spot that awaits the winners – and the focus is heavily on youth.

Carducci speaks to media at YVR before departing for Toronto

"I will play young players," Robinson told reporters on Monday before flying out to Toronto. "I have a young squad in my first team anyway, so this gives me another chance to evaluate some of my other younger players in the squad.

"I've said from Day 1 that I will give them a chance. I think you've seen the young players on the pitch running through brick walls for me. That's credit to them and that's credit to the direction that we're trying to take this football club."

Whitecaps FC made it a priority to become a younger team this season, and the effects are already being seen in their MLS roster, where the average age is 24.6 years old.

That average is taken down further with Vancouver's initial Canadian Championship roster, which is strong on Homegrown talent and a hunger to break through.

One of Vancouver's men of the moment, Kekuta Manneh, leads a young squad out to impress and push for MLS places, amongst them six unsigned Residency players who are among eight Canadians named to the squad.

"The thought process and reasoning behind it is, because it's a Canadian Championship, I want to give my Canadian players opportunities," Robinson noted.

"How do young players learn? And that's the question I ask myself. When do they learn? We can say they're not ready yet. How do we know they're not ready? The only way that we learn if these young guys are ready is to give them the opportunity, and on Wednesday it's a great opportunity for them."

The player given perhaps the greatest opportunity is 17-year-old goalkeeper Marco Carducci, who Robinson confirmed would be starting the game.

A two-time Canadian U-17 Player of the Year, Carducci signed a homegrown MLS contract with the 'Caps in March and the feeling of many in Vancouver is that he has a bright future ahead

"I like him, full stop," said defender Andy O'Brien of the U-17 World Cup veteran. "Physically, he's built like a man. He's got a very quiet, confident personality. He's not arrogant and he's got all the attributes to do well. He's shown in a very short space of time how much the club think of him. He's ready to play. All he needs now is the opportunity."

Whitecaps FC 2014 season tickets start at just $349, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps are also offering 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.