Playing in warm conditions and against quality opposition, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency made the most of an important two-week trip to Mexico this month.
In its fourth year of existence, the club's full-time player development program has seen many changes in 2010. Prior to the Mexico trip, Richard Grootscholten was formally announced as the Residency's new technical director and head coach. The Dutchman's squad also includes as many as 14 new faces since the start of the program's 2010-11 season back in September.
In what was the first chance for those new faces to get to know each other, the Residency squad trained and played friendly matches at some first-class facilities in Guadalajara, Mexico. Included in the squad's schedule were six matches against youth sides from some of Mexico's top professional clubs like Estudiantes Tecos and Atlas de Guadalajara. The young 'Caps acquitted themselves well, winning half of the friendly games they played during the trip.
Grootscholten felt the change of scenery was highly beneficial for both himself and the players. "This trip to Mexico helped me learn about the players and know them much better," said the former Sparta Rotterdam technical director. "That was good for me and for the group as well, as they got to learn about my approach to things. Being in Mexico, it was good for the players to get away from the cold weather in Vancouver and train in a warmer climate."
The Residency program's main aim is the development of young players for the highest levels of soccer. Grootscholten was pleased his young squad took a step forward in their development while in Mexico. "We improved the performances of the players and played them in different positions to what they are used to," he said. "There is definitely a lot of potential in the squad, but they all need to develop some important aspects of their game. We will be working on those aspects with them over the next couple of years."
The remainder of 2010 will see the Residency team train until mid-December before breaking for the holiday season. Once the New Year begins, there are hopes that the squad will be able to participate in the U-19 Super Group of Dallas Cup XXXII, with the 'Caps having played in the tournament the past three years. Next summer, many of the players will earn their first taste of action in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League.
All of those experiences will play an important role in the production of future Whitecaps FC players for Major League Soccer. "Every day, the players must work to try and develop themselves individually," stated Grootscholten. "This needs to happen in every training session and in every game that we play. That's the most important thing."
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