After traveling across the border for their past eight matches, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency teams play on home soil for the first time in 2012 on Saturday, as they face off against Strikers FC Development Academy at Surrey’s Newton Athletic Park in United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Northwest Division action.
This will be only the third opportunity for the young ‘Caps host USSDA matches in Canada, with both the U-18 and U-16 squads sweeping their previous home matches at Simon Fraser University on October 15 and at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium on November 17.
The U-18 Residency squad (9W-4L-2D) will play first on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. PT versus Strikers FC U-17/18, followed by the U-16 Residency squad (8W-4L-3D) opposing Strikers FC U-15/16 at 2:00 p.m. PT.
“Every week we focus on how we like to play,” said Richard Grootscholten, Whitecaps FC Residency technical director and head coach. “Each match should be a step up, individually and as a unit. We like to win of course, but the way we play is the focus.”
The U-18 residency squad will look to rebound following some unfamiliar struggles in recent matches. After going unbeaten in their first nine matches, the ‘Caps have won only once in their past six affairs. The Blue and White most recently traveled to Northern California for a pair of encounters with Cal Odyssey and San Jose Earthquakes. Two red cards in a 2-2 draw in the first match left the ‘Caps shorthanded the next day as they fought hard but fell to the Earthquakes 4-3.
Grootscholten will have a full squad to choose from as goalkeeper Callum Irving, midfielder Bryce Alderson, and striker Caleb Clarke have all returned from training camp with the MLS side in Casa Grande. Following Saturday’s match, all three players will rejoin the first team as they travel to Vancouver Island for a preseason match versus the University of Victoria Vikes.
The U-16 Residency squad have been gaining momentum, winning three of their past four matches against some strong teams in the USSDA West Conference. Their strong form was on full display in their last road trip, as they defeated Cal Odyssey 3-0 and tipped San Jose Earthquakes 5-0.
The ‘Caps have been greatly boosted by the strong play of striker Brody Huitema, as the Coquitlam Metro-Ford product has already recorded 12 goals in 14 matches this season.
With mixed results from his young squads in recent weeks, Grootscholten is looking to take advantage of the opportunity to play without the distractions of traveling on the road. “We’re really looking forward to playing at home. We’ve had a lot of travel, so this is important to us all. I know that there will be fans coming out and we’ll make sure that we prepare well.”
Head coach Bart Choufour leads the youngest 'Caps Residency squads into action this weekend as they travel to San Jose, California, for a pre-academy tournament. The older U-14 group and the younger U-14 group will each play matches against their respective counterparts, starting with LA Galaxy on Saturday, Portland Timbers on Sunday, and hosts San Jose Earthquakes on Monday.
Check back on whitecapsfc.com for U-18 and U-16 match reports on Saturday, and a full U-14 tournament recap on Tuesday.