As the holiday season approaches, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency brought the 2010 portion of their current season to an end this week.
With several new players and a new head coach, the Residency program had another busy autumn spell. This included an important two-week trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, where the young 'Caps performed well against the youth sides of top Mexican professional clubs like Estudiantes Tecos and Atlas de Guadalajara last month.
After arriving in early November, Residency technical director and head coach Richard Grootscholten spent the first six weeks in his new role by getting acclimatized with his new squad and the soccer environment on Canada's west coast.
"I've tried to meet everyone and find out what the structure is at the club, as well as in British Columbia and Canada," the Dutchman told whitecapsfc.com. "I spent the first four weeks getting to know everyone involved with the program and the past two weeks planning the remaining parts of the current season."
With 14 new players coming into the full-time program in September, Grootscholten has faced the challenge of working with a complex 25-player group that ranges in age from 16 to 21 years.
"Because of the different ages we have in our group, there is a great difference in the qualities of the players," said the former Sparta Rotterdam technical director. "We have a lot of individual work that we need to do with these players in the New Year. I will be looking to show these players what it is like to be a professional player. We'll need to do that by showing them the level of Major League Soccer first-hand and introducing them to players who have played in MLS or at a professional level."
One person that the club's aspiring professionals are learning from is former Whitecaps FC captain Martin Nash. After hanging up his boots at the end of the 2010 season, the Victoria, BC, native became part of the Residency program's coaching staff as an on-field coach, player mentor, and talent scout.
"The players have not only responded to Martin as a coach, he has also been an example to the players, because he still has the skill level to train alongside them," said Grootscholten. "Martin can talk to them about the expectations at a first-team level, as well as things to anticipate in game situations with the first team."
Looking ahead to 2011, there are hopes that the Blue and White will be able to return to the Dallas Cup in April, with the Residency team having appeared in the last three U-19 Super Group tournaments. By next summer, many of the program's players will earn their first taste of action in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League.
"We have a lot of plans for the Residency program, and everyone here is excited to take things forward in the year ahead," concluded Grootscholten.