VANCOUVER, BC – It's been a season full of landmarks for 18-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps FC fullback Sam Adekugbe, and now that he's had a bit of a breather, it's all starting to sink in.
For the Whitecaps FC residency graduate, who became the club's first Homegrown defender by signing a professional deal in late August, it's been a bit of a whirlwind.
Indeed, the day he was unveiled as an official member of Vancouver’s 30-man MLS roster, the England-born left fulback received his first call-up to the Canadian men's national team for a training camp in Spain.
Two months later, and Adekugbe made his professional debut with an involved and confident performance against Colorado Rapids on October 27.
“It's definitely been a roller coaster year,” Adekugbe told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “I've been involved in a lot of different set-ups – I've been a part of the academy with the Whitecaps, the reserves, the first team, as well as the Canadian U-18 national team as well as the men's national team.”
“It's definitely been a learning experience and I've been playing in a lot of different environments. Ultimately, I think it's made me a better soccer player.”
New environments are nothing new for Adekugbe, who has had a sort of nomadic experience in his early years, being born in London before spending his childhood in Manchester and then Calgary, before his latest stop in Vancouver.
Modelling his game after Chelsea and England left fullback Ashley Cole, Adekugbe has many similar athletic gifts. He's capable of overlapping past the wingers and joining in the attack, and now it's about learning when to push up and when to be a tad more conservative – he's also working on strengthening the quality of his distribution on his weaker right foot.
But the raw ingredients are there and that's what motivated the 'Caps to give Adekugbe his debut in the final match of the club's 2013 season.
He's pacy – end-of-season fitness testing revealed he's capable of covering 30 metres in 3.94 seconds, which made him fifth fastest on the team over that distance, and within the “world-class” category, according to the club's strength and conditioning coach Mike Young.
Still, while the Manchester City fan (he insisted with a laugh he was a fan before the club's recent success) is hopeful about his future, there's a modesty about his answer when asked about his targets for his first full season in the league in 2014, as well as the understanding that he will have to prove himself to a new coach.
“With the new coach coming in, there will be a learning curve but if I'm able to keep doing what I've been doing, hopefully I can show the manager to put faith in me,” add Adekugbe.
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.