Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency teams head to California for a set of back-to-back matches in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) this weekend.
The U-16 and U-18 teams will take on Saratoga, California-based outfit De Anza Force on Saturday afternoon and then Santa Cruz Breakers Academy on Sunday.
The 18s open proceedings at 2.30 p.m. PT on Saturday against the Force, before the 16s take the field at 5 p.m. PT.
On Sunday, Whitecaps FC U-18 meet the Breakers at 10 a.m. PT)followed by the U-16 clash at 12.30 p.m. PT.
All matches will take place at Cabrillo College in Aptos, which is located east of Santa Cruz.
A number of players will be departing during the weekend for international duty with Canadian U-17 and U-18 national teams.
So far this season, the U-18 side have a record of 1W-3L-1D, but the ‘Caps are confident of putting together competitive efforts against the Force (4W-2L-1D) and Breakers (1W-4L-2D).
Gordon Forrest will take charge of his first official matches since arriving at Whitecaps FC and has enjoyed being able to get to know his troops at training this week.
“It’s been good to spend that quality amount of time with them and get to know the players as individuals, as well as their characters, and to get a feel for how they react and respond to different environments and situations,” Forrest told whitecapsfc.com.
“Now I’ll have the opportunity to learn quite a lot about them from these two games so it should be exciting.”
While playing twice in as many days will be tough, the challenge is something the coaching staff are looking forward to seeing their players take on.
“It’ll be a good test on and off the pitch,” Forrest said, alluding to the travel and short recovery time between games.
“For me, it’s a great opportunity to see them play against two different sets of opposition, so you can’t ask for anything more. Two games in two days is not easy, but for me it’s a positive because I’ll get to see a lot more from the players.
“Hopefully the things we’ve worked on in training will come alive during these games.”
Although Whitecaps FC have a 1W-3L-1D record, head coach Craig Dalrymple has been very pleased with the performances of his players in 2012.
He also praised them for maintaining a positive mindset in the face of stronger and more experienced opposition.
Now, the players will learn to adapt to playing in different formations.
“We’ve had a couple of good weeks of training since our last game against Seattle Sounders FC Academy,” Dalrymple said. “We’ve worked on a new formation of play, our principles of play are the same but the formation has changed."
“We’ve worked very hard on that. I think the boys are understanding the system better and we hope to see some rewards from the hard week of training at the weekend.”
Dalrymple said the tactical switch was part of the learning curve for the 'Caps Residency prospects.
“It’s part of our annual plan for the players,” he explained. “There are multiple systems that the first team adopt so we wanted to make sure the boys coming through the youth side of the program understand that when they do get an opportunity to go into the first team environment, they understand the systems of play that Martin Rennie and his staff are executing.”
Dalrymple admits that the focus is not so much on the opposition, but rather the development of his own players. However, he is well aware of the challenges De Anza Force (7W-0L-0D) and Santa Cruz (3W-3L-1D) will throw at his battle-hungry players.
“Despite the results this year, I think the boys have maintained a very positive outlook,” he said. “They see themselves developing individually, which is the most important thing, so the mentality of the group has always been strong and I think it will remain strong.
“As long as they achieve their personal goals, then they’ll keep their confidence levels up.”