Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced today the signing of defender Nelson Akwari from former United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) club Charleston Battery. The experienced centre back has agreed to a one-year contract - plus an option - pending international clearance.
Akwari, 27, joins the Whitecaps after a successful stint with the Battery. The native of Houston, Texas, was one of seven players to appear in all 30 regular season matches for his club in 2009, with the defender's efforts earning him a spot in the USL-1 All-League First Team. Akwari also finished fourth in the league in minutes played with 2,655, having only missed one half of action during the year. His first season in Charleston was just as productive, as the 6-foot, 180-pound centre back started 29 regular season matches for 2,610 minutes of action, with the defender captaining the Battery to the final of the 2008 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. In his two seasons with the South Carolina outfit, Akwari made a total of 63 regular season and playoff appearances for 5,625 minutes of action, recording three assists in that time.
Before his spell with the Battery, Akwari played every minute of the 2007 season for USL Second Division club Charlotte Eagles, with the defender earning a spot in the USL-2 All-League First Team. Prior to his time with the North Carolina side, Akwari spent five seasons in Major League Soccer (MLS) with three different clubs. He played the 2002 season with New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now known as New York Red Bulls) before moving to Columbus Crew in 2003. The defender helped the Crew to the 2004 MLS Supporters' Shield title as regular season champions before moving to expansion club Real Salt Lake, where he appeared in the 2005 and 2006 campaigns for the Utah-based club. During his five years in MLS, Akwari started 59 of 78 regular season matches for 5,408 minutes of action.
A college standout at UCLA, Akwari had a distinguished youth international career with the United States, as he captained their U-17 and U-20 national teams, while he was also a member of their U-23 Olympic side. Those appearances included all six of his country's matches during the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup, as the Americans finished fourth in New Zealand. That same year, Akwari also appeared as a 17-year-old in the USA U-23 squad that finished third at the XIII Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The defender then appeared in all four USA matches at the 2001 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina.
The Whitecaps also announced today that they will not exercise the 2010 contract option on defender Shaun Pejic. Pejic joined the ‘Caps last August from English Conference National side York City FC and went on to play 15 matches for 1,244 minutes of action.
Whitecaps 2010 season tickets are now on sale. Season tickets include all men’s and women's team regular season and playoff home matches at Swangard Stadium, Nutrilite Canadian Championship home matches against Toronto FC and Montreal Impact, as well as priority listing for Vancouver MLS 2011 in BC Place. For more information on the 2010 season ticket packages, call 604.669.WAVE (9283) or click here.
ABOUT THE NASLThe North American Soccer League (NASL) was established in November 2009 and is comprised of the following active teams: Carolina RailHawks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC, Minnesota (name to be determined), Montreal Impact, Rochester Rhinos, AC St. Louis, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. For the 2010 season, the NASL's nine teams, together with three teams (Austin Aztex, Portland Timbers, and Puerto Rico Islanders) from the United Soccer Leagues, will play in a second division league established and administered by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The league will feature two conferences (NASL and USL) of six teams each, with three NASL teams (Minnesota, Rochester, and Tampa Bay) playing in the USL conference. In 2011, the NASL will be joined by teams in Atlanta and certain other cities to be named at a later date. The NASL and its member teams are committed to building on their long tradition of providing a high level of soccer to fans across the United States and Canada in 2010 and beyond.