Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency team have left for Houston, Texas, and are set to begin their run at the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Finals Week this coming Sunday, July 14.
Whitecaps FC are competing in Group 1 and start with a tie against Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday before taking on fellow MLS academy side New York Red Bulls on Tuesday, July 16. The Blue and White complete the group stage on Thursday July 18 with a match against Albertson SC.
2012 USSDA Championship Final: FC Dallas 3-2 Whitecaps FC
The top finishing team in the group will compete in the Final to be held at Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, July 20, against the top finishing team from Group 2.
This will be Vancouver’s second consecutive appearance at Academy Finals Week and the team will be looking to go one step further than 2012 when they lost in the final 3-2 to an FC Dallas side containing United States U-20 stars Kellyn Acosta, Danny Garcia, and Jonathon Topp.
Despite an impressive regular season in which the team accumulated the joint highest number of points (69) and scored the most goals in USSDA, shockingly not a single player from the Whitecaps FC roster was named to the USSDA U-17-18 West Conference Starting XI.
Among the surprising omissions was 17-year-old striker Brody Huitema who scored a USSDA high of 28 goals in 25 matches, a goal more than USSDA’s U-18 Academy Player of the Year, Seattle Sounders FC’s Jordan Morris, despite being a year younger and having played three matches less than Morris.
Highlights: All Whitecaps FC goals from USSDA Playoffs
Huitema will get the chance to match up against Seattle’s Morris in the Finals Week opener before the Blue and White take on New York Red Bulls and Albertson SC later in the week.
Whitecaps FC High Performance Head Coach Gordon Forrest is relishing the prospect of taking on some of the best teams in USSDA, in particular the Cascadia rival Sounders.
“It’s the first game of the Finals and it’s a nice rivalry between the clubs so it’s an exciting first game,” commented Forrest. “We know a bit about each other but it’s going to be a different environment, different conditions so it’s who’s going to deal with those the best on the day.
Forrest has been preparing the team for the hot weather in Houston but with the other three sides all coming from the North of the United States, no one team has a distinct advantage in that respect.
“It’s going to be who can deal with the conditions the best,” Forrest said. “We’re quite positive that we’ve got a real good medical team that deal with the boys physically. Every little detail helps and we’ve continued with that preparation.”
Following a long season, Forrest is positive about the team’s chances at Finals Week especially with the experience some of the team garnered during last season’s run to the Final.
Supporters hand out awards to Whitecaps FC Residency boys
“Credit to the boys, they’ve focused on their performance, they’ve focused on the effort and it’s got them into these finals,” Forrest enthused. “We’ll keep pushing in that direction and we’ll deal in the manner of how you win games at certain times. It’s great for them preparing as young professional football players. There’s a few key players, the older ones, they know what it’s about and they want to try and go one better this year.”
Fans can follow ‘Caps Academy Finals matches live via twitter @WhitecapsMatch. You can also get into the conversation by using the hashtag #BackForMore.
Seattle Sounders FC
Familiar opponents from the ‘Caps Northwest Division, Seattle Sounders FC provide the first test for Whitecaps FC at Finals Week. For much of the regular season the two Cascadia rivals were vying for first place in the West Conference Northwest Division before Vancouver stole a march on Sounders FC in the last few weeks of the season to seal the title.
The sides were evenly matched in league play with Seattle winning 4-2 in the teams’ first meeting before Whitecaps FC gained revenge with a 1-0 home win in March.
Seattle will look to the aforementioned Morris to provide the goals whilst goalkeeper Connor Adkisson has also been named to the U-17-18 West Conference Starting XI.
Kickoff at Houston Amateur Sports Park Field 2 is at 6 p.m. PT on Sunday July 14.