The 2012 season may be over for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but for some of the youngest members on the senior roster and some of their colleagues in the youth ranks, there won’t be much of a break.
Six players from the club are involved with Canada’s U-20 training camp in the United States and Costa Rica, which runs until the end of the month, including MLS roster players Bryce Alderson and Caleb Clarke.
Alderson, the former captain of the Canada squad which reached the finals of the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championships and the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup, is hoping this latest international experience can help him transition from the youth ranks to a more active role as a professional after after a year during which he failed to log a single minute in MLS play.
“It’s been a tough first year, and it’s been a big adjustment from being a youth player to a professional,” Alderson told MLSsoccer.com this week. “In part, I had a lot of transitions – not only on the field – but off the field in terms of schooling and living situation, etc. It wasn’t an easy year by any stretch, but obviously being involved with training with the first-team squad everyday was great.
“I wish I would have got some minutes, but I’m looking forward to next year, and hopefully that will be different.”
Alderson went on to say that he has had discussions with the coaching staff outlining what sort of a role he’d like to see himself playing next season. He’ll be 19 when the 2013 MLS season kicks off, and feels games will help him kick on to the next level.
“I know what I want my role to be with the team next year,” Alderson said. “I’ve made that clear with the coaches – I’d like to play a larger role, get some minutes, and contribute to the team.”
While Alderson’s ambition to make the breakthrough is admirable, head coach Martin Rennie is preaching patience for the Kitchener native and his 19-year-old first-team colleague Clarke, a message targeted at the players themselves but also in response to fans calling for an immediate injection of young Canadian talent.
“They are making good progress,” Rennie told MLSsoccer.com this week. “They’re only 18 and 19, and people forget. First of all, if you look all around the world, there aren’t many 18- or 19-year-olds playing in the first team of a big club or a club in a big league, and people probably don’t realize how good the MLS is and how high the standard is. It takes a little bit of time for players to be ready to play in that league, but I think those guys have the potential to do it.
“We’re working hard with them in the offseason to give them every opportunity to be in our first team as soon as possible and a lot of it will depend on how they come back in preseason – how fit and strong and ready they are, and how much they’ve improved over the past season and the offseason, and then we can evaluate it from there.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.