By Reagen Sulewski
Cochrane’s Ethan Gage has taken one step closer to his international soccer dreams.
The 18-year-old defensive midfielder with the Vancouver Whitecaps was loaned to Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga for a two-week trial period, where he’s practicing with the squad’s U-23 side. While admitting that there’s still a bit of work for him to do, Gage said this is the start of something he’s wanted for years.
“My goal ever since I turned 14 was to play professional soccer in Europe in the highest league I can, so I’ve been slowly working my way over here,” he said. “I’m getting chances here and there, this is one of the chances to get over here and stay here.”
Gage has a small leg up on adjusting to the German style of play, as his coach while he was with the Whitecaps’ residency team was from Germany and taught him a lot of the ins and outs of that style, based on ball control and efficient use of the field.
“I’m kind of used to it, I enjoy it, passing a lot and keeping the ball on the ground,” Gage said. “I’ve been trained in that style before, I’m not a natural or anything but I’ve been exposed.”
There’s been a small amount of culture shock for Gage after arriving in Frankfurt on Aug. 19 — not speaking any German, ordering in restaurants and shopping has proved a little tricky — but overall he’s found it welcoming to be in a soccer-mad environment.
“It’s true, Europe is all about soccer, so to come to a country that’s all about soccer. Sometimes I’d have a ball and dribbling it around in Vancouver and people would kind of look at you, where as here, no one would think twice,” Gage said.
It's been a busy summer for the young player, which also included a trip to Trinidad & Tobago for U-20 World Cup CONCACAF qualifying. Although Canada ultimately came up short, Gage earned valuable international experience against top teams like Mexico.
“To see all these other countries and how good they are, it’s just a good eye-opener," said Gage.
Gage could have another chance to play for the U-20 squad in two years.
"Hopefully I’ll make the team first, but if I’m going to be on the team, I’ll have been on it and know what it’s all about,” he said.
The biggest adjustment on the field in Germany for Gage has been the faster speed of play, with less time to react with the ball before moving it along.
However, Gage is taking that challenge as a given and is aiming at planting the seed with European clubs that he belongs.
“Coming over here I have to show them that I can compete with them, and at least be better than a few of them. I have to distinguish myself and let them know I fit in,” Gage said.