VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Residency teams will escape the Vancouver cold for a couple of days this week, as they participate in the annual United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Winter Showcase in sunny Florida.
This will be the third straight year Whitecaps FC compete in the competition. The Premier Sports Complex in Bradenton will play host to the tournament, where both Whitecaps FC Residency outfits will squeeze in three matches from December 11 to December 15.
Highlights: U-18s defeat Timbers in final league match of 2013
Whitecaps FC’s U-18 side has put forth a strong 2013-14 USSDA season thus far, holding an 8W-2L-0D record. Head coach Gordon Forrest’s squad is riding into the tournament with consecutive wins over San Juan SC and Portland Timbers, though they haven’t played an official league match in over a month.
The ‘Caps open the tournament against fellow MLS academy Chicago Fire (7W-1L-4D) on December 11, before battling host city rivals IMG Academy (3W-10L-3D) the following day. They will wrap up the tournament on December 14 against another MLS youth side, Houston Dynamo (2W-2L-2D).
Each side will play a total of three matches, regardless of their results.
“We are looking forward to playing against the three teams and again come up with the challenge of two MLS academies – Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo,” Forrest told whitecapsfc.com. “Going away on these trips is good for us because it allows us to spend some quality time with the players … and the travel and preparation has been key for their development.”
Last season, the ‘Caps won two of their three matches at the showcase. Their only loss came in the tournament opener against CASL, where they surrendered two goals in the second half. Forrest said that loss taught the team a valuable lesson in not letting up and playing a full 90 minutes – something they have consistently done so far this season.
The 'Caps will look to midfielder Marco Bustos to continue his fine form at the showcase, where he potted two goals in last year's 4-1 triumph over Sporting Kansas City. Bustos is currently tied with Kianz Froese for the team lead with four goals on the season.
Highlights: U-16s defeat Timbers in final league match of 2013
The U-16s will also open the tournament against Chicago Fire (4W-5L-3D) on December 12, a day after Forrest’s side meet the Fire in the U-18 age group. The ‘Caps U-16s will then meet the youth squad of MLS rival Colorado Rapids (4W-4L-5D) the following day, before wrapping up the showcase against New Jersey outfit Players Development Academy (9W-1L-0D) on December 15.
“We are really looking forward to playing these upcoming tournament matches with all of the great teams, and the fact that there are two other MLS academy clubs involved makes it really exciting,” U-16 head coach Rich Fagan told whitecapsfc.com.
The U-16s have had a solid 2013-14 USSDA season as well, amassing a 5W-2L-3D record, while also remaining perfect in all three of their road matches. Fagan’s side will look to build upon last year’s perfect 3W-0L-0D showing at the competition, where they outscored their opponents by a 10-5 margin.
This year, they will be without leading goalscorer Dario Zanatta, as well as midfielder Francesco Saporito and defender Andre Baires, who are each away with the Canadian U-16 national team. The ‘Caps will have striker Aymar Sigue, however, who is second on the team with six goals.
Facing the whirlwind three-in-four schedule, Fagan said he’s confident the players will be able to cope with such a demanding workload and still perform at the highest level.
“This tournament is a great opportunity to showcase our team and especially for those players that are not necessarily looking to be MLS pros, because it is a perfect avenue for them to showcase their own skills.”