Tier below elite Bundesliga at Energie Cottbus
By Marc Weber
Adam Straith knew he had relegation to thank for his latest promotion. That didn't take away from the thrill of picture day last week when he stood shoulder to shoulder with the FC Energie Cottbus first team.
"Last year I was here trying to get on the under-19 squad, and now I'm with the first team," said Straith, the 18-year-old Victoria native whom the Whitecaps sold Tuesday to the German Bundesliga 2 club.
"It's all happened very quickly and it's really exciting to be a part of it. It's not the First Bundesliga, but the winning concept is there, and, realistically for me, I get a better chance."
Straith's enjoyed a rapid rise through Cottbus's ranks. He impressed on a U19 trial just over a year ago and the Whitecaps loaned their residency defender to the Brandenburg-based club.
By December, he had moved up to the U23 squad, and with Cottbus relegated from the country's top league after last season, another door opened for the 6-foot-2 Straith.
"It's a new beginning for the club, they've signed a new coach and they're really trying to start fresh and have a new outlook on young players," said the Whitecaps' first residency transfer. "It's obviously good for me."
Straith just had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, but figures to be the third or fourth centreback option once he's fit. He's moved out of the club's dormitory and into an apartment with fellow Canadians Kyle Porter — also a Whitecaps residency player — and Eddy Sidra. Both are part of Cottbus's U23 squad.
Another Canadian, veteran keeper Lars Hirschfeld, is on the first team. Hirschfeld used to play in Edmonton for Thomas Niendorf, the Whitecaps' residency director who made Straith one of his first signings and his first captain in the summer of 2007.
"There are some players who speak English, but it's good to have a Canadian who understands the jokes a lot more," Straith said of Hirschfeld.
"It's also nice to have someone to talk hockey with, that's something I miss being over here. I give him stick for being an Oilers fan."
Straith is soaking up all the knowledge he can from guys like Hirschfeld, who's played in the Champions League. Even more important than playing time this year, said Straith, is the experience of being around a professional European team in season.
Recently, he was talking to fellow centreback Igor Mitreski of Macedonia, who'd faced Spanish star Fernando Torres in a friendly this month.
"He was telling me about how Torres was and what he had to do to try and defend him," said Straith. "How good is that for me?
"This is something I've been wanting, been shooting for my whole life. To be picked up by a club after a successful first year is amazing, and the fact they put money down for me gives me the confidence to play."
© Copyright (c) The Province