VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency teams have concluded their respective 2013 United States Development Academy (USSDA) regular season campaigns. However, this is not the end of their journeys this season.
Both teams are in Frisco, Texas from June 24 to 28. The U-18s will continue their quest for a USSDA championship as part of the Academy Playoffs, while the U-16s will wrap-up their season in the USSDA Showcase.
Here’s a look back at what they've done so far this season and what lies ahead for the Residency teams.
U-18s ready for playoffs
The ‘Caps had a lot to build upon after an auspicious inaugural campaign in the USSDA in 2012. The boys not only captured the Northwest Division title last year, but they managed to reach the championship game of USSDA Academy Finals Week before coming up short versus FC Dallas. One of two finalists among nearly 80 teams in their very first year in the league was quite impressive, to say the least.
This year, the Blue and White successfully defended their Northwest Division crown with a record of 19W-6L-3D, finishing with 60 points and a goal differential of plus 49. They once again qualified for the playoffs, which run from June 24 to 28 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The draw for the tournament has yet to be determined.
Head coach Gordon Forrest is extremely pleased with the way that his team has fared this season, especially against other MLS academy teams that compete in the USSDA.
“The highlights for me are when we go against real tough competition in other youth academies in MLS. We had some really good performances against the likes of Seattle, LA Galaxy, Portland, Columbus and Kansas City, etc,” said Forrest.
“The players performed well over the course of these games and others. There were some fantastic goals scored and we had lots of positive play going forward.”
One player that performed notably well for the U-18s was striker Brody Huitema, who netted 26 goals in 22 appearances. Huitema led the USSDA in goals scored (26) and goals per game (1.18). Two other players scored over 10 goals for Vancouver: Yassin Essa had 18 and Spencer DeBoice had 11.
After a brief rest and recovery phase, Forrest had his team back on the training pitch to prepare for their playoff opener on June 24. Forrest will need strong results from his boys in the group stage in order to make a return to Finals Week, hosted in Houston on July 14. Only the winners of each of the eight playoff groups will advance to Finals Week.
“We’ll prepare as hard as we can for every opposition that we come against the way we’ve been doing all season, so the players will do their best to represent the club.”
On Monday, Whitecaps FC U-18 were drawn into the same group as fellow MLS academies Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire, along with Pennsylvania Classics (PA Classics). The ‘Caps are the top seed in the group based on regular season points, and they’re the only team out of the four to finish at the top of their division; Chicago and Pennsylvania qualified for the playoffs through the wildcard spots.
Vancouver will open the playoffs on June 24 versus Chicago Fire U-18 (14W-7L-6D), the following day they take on Houston Dynamo U-18 (15W-5L-7D), before wrapping up group play against PA Classics (14W-4L-7D) on June 27.
2013 USSDA Playoffs SCHEDULE
Monday, June 24 at 5:00 p.m. PT – Chicago Fire U-17/18
Tuesday, June 25 at 5:15 p.m. PT – Houston Dynamo U-17/18
Thursday, June 27 at 7:00 a.m. PT – PA Classics U-17/18
CLUB PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
U-16s end season at Showcase
The U-16s also finished at the top of the Northwest Division in 2012. This year, however, seven players were promoted to the U-18 team, meaning that a younger group was played with an eye towards the future. Ultimately, the young 'Caps finished the season with a 8W-17L-3D record, good for sixth in the division.
This allowed an opportunity for a plethora of Pre-Residency players to step into a larger role at a younger age. However, with that, Neely admitted that the younger boys, some of whom are playing two years out of their age bracket, had trouble dealing with the physicality over the course of 90 minutes.
“They played fantastic football, they’ve been in games for a half and up to three quarters of games before the physical opposition of the opponent takes over,” said Neely.
“There’s been positive development though, and this program will be ready for next year’s opposition.”
Despite a rocky season overall, the ‘Caps had stretches where they really displayed their potential for the future. From October 20 to November 18, they went on an impressive four-game winning streak. They were also on the verge of finishing the season on another four-game winning streak before dropping their final game of the season to Crossfire Premier.
Midfielder Marco Bustos had nine goals in 26 appearances to lead the U-16’s, fellow midfielder Dario Zanatta was right behind him with 8 goals scored in 27 appearances.
Despite not qualifying for the playoffs, the ‘Caps will head to the USSDA showcase where Neely is more focused on the exposure of his players rather than the results they get from the tournament.
“Everything’s a building process,” said Neely. “The U-16’s objective is just to perform as well as they can to set themselves up for the future.”
“They’d like to be seen and identified by top colleges around, so it’s probably more important for them to get good performances rather than results.”