Vancouver Whitecaps FC Homegrown striker Caleb Clarke looks set to make his international debut Friday as Canada take on the Czech Republic in a friendly, and already head coach Benito Floro has taken a particular interest in the youngster.
After missing out on Floro's inaugural international camp last month due to injury, the 20-year-old Richmond, B.C. native is eager to make an impression after receiving the call for his country's matches against the Czech Republic (8 a.m. PT, Sportsnet One) and then against Slovenia on Nov. 19 (9 a.m. PT, Sportsnet One).
“I'm pretty confident I'll play tomorrow,” Clarke told MLSsoccer.com by phone Thursday from a hotel in Olomouc, Czech Republic. “I think the starting lineup has been pretty set, and I'm not sure that I'll be in it necessarily, but – it's my first cap, so I'm not expecting to start right away, but I definitely think I'll play. And hopefully I'll impress the coach, do well and do my thing.”
Clarke said Floro has taken an interest in him during training sessions this week and brought him aside to provide advice, much of which focuses on getting the player to take his natural athleticism to the next level with extra work in the gym.
“I appreciate that he's really interested in me, and I've got that feeling from him,” Clarke said of his one-on-one chats with Floro. “He thinks I'm doing well and wants me to continue improving small technical things. I'm still young, he wants me to get bigger, more powerful in the gym, stuff like that.
"It's been good advice, and I'm definitely going to take it for the future and work on it in the next few months.”
Floro spoke glowingly during a conference call with reporters on Thursday about wanting to help develop Clarke and get his career going sooner rather than later.
Clarke hardly has any professional experience as of yet, playing just 15 minutes with Whitecaps FC over two brief substitute appearances in 2012 and is currently out on loan with FC Augsburg's U-23 side.
“I knew about Caleb because people close to me showed me a match when he was very young,” Floro said. “I understand that a striker is always a striker. I think he’s a typical striker. At this moment, I think it’s necessary to form this player as soon as possible because he’s tall, he’s fast, has power and he plays well.
“Maybe he needs some technical gestures, but I need to form this player because I think he’s an excellent striker for us.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.