Part of approach has been to Sit Back and Listen
BY MARC WEBER
When Marcus Haber was in high school, he sold his first hip-hop demo tape out of the back of his mom's Toyota Matrix.
He called it Sit Back and Listen.
Now a rookie forward with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Haber's doing exactly what he commanded his first audience to do at Lord Byng Secondary.
"I'm just trying to learn from the players around me, from the coaching staff. I'm always eager to learn," said Haber, a 20-year-old who spent the past two seasons with FC Groningen's under-19 side in the Netherlands.
This has been a frustrating season for the Whitecaps. The defending USL-1 champions are not even in a playoff position, let alone battling for first place with the likes of Puerto Rico, whom they host Saturday at Swangard Stadium.
Yet it's offered up a tremendous opportunity for Haber, whose quiet, sponge-like approach belies his hip hop persona and 6-foot-3 physique, but has been welcomed by coaches and veteran teammates.
"I like Marcus a lot," said forward Charles Gbeke. "He's just a good kid and he listens. He wants to learn."
Haber wasn't the sexiest story in training camp, where fellow B.C. youths Keegan Ayre -- the son of former NASL Whitecap Garry -- and Jacob Lensky -- a 20-year-old retiree from Dutch giant Feyenoord -- made headlines.
And he wasn't the most intriguing young striker on the Whitecaps as opening day approached. Residency players Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Dever Orgill shared that honour.
But with injuries to Edwini-Bonsu and big offseason signing Marlon James -- who's back in the gameday roster -- Haber has been invaluable.
He's played in all 15 league games, started 13 times and scored four goals. He's twice made the USL-1 Team of the Week and, if he keeps up this pace, has to be considered for rookie of the year -- though teammate Wes Knight might have something to say about that.
"I think the best thing so far is he has been open to learning -- he does exactly what we ask of him," said head coach Teitur Thordarson, who raves about Haber's progress between the boxes and now wants to see him improve his finishing and decision making inside the opponent's penalty area.
"He's been a huge positive thing for us. Without him, we would have been in trouble."
Bigger trouble, the coach means.
Haber called this opportunity to learn at an accelerated pace "a blessing," though he'd just as soon take his place on the bench if it meant winning more games.
His mood is decidedly brighter than when he joined the Whitecaps in January, fresh off his European rejection. That has as much to do with being back home as it does with playing a starting role. In Haber's latest lyrical effort, "City Life," he rhymes about his love of Vancouver.
On the field, though, you won't find him talking much, let alone rhyming.
"My music is something completely different to me, something that's outside football," Haber said. "I'm not a crazy, loud dude on the field, that's just not really my style.
"I like to listen."
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