VANCOUVER, BC – Ever since Vancouver Whitecaps FC joined Major League Soccer, and even before that, the club has always placed a great emphasis on youth development.
This was evident in 2009 when the ‘Caps launched their full-time, fully-funded Residency program, which has remained a priority through the club’s early MLS years.
In 2011, Whitecaps FC Residency became the first Canadian club to compete in America’s premier youth academy league, the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA). Entrance into the USSDA was part of a major expansion of the Whitecaps FC Residency system that made it one of the most integrated soccer development programs in North America.
The hiring of Gordon Forrest as assistant coach and head of high performance on Thursday represents an exciting next step towards that goal and the evolution of Whitecaps FC’s youth development setup.
“I think everyone knows that we’ve got a fantastic group of young players here,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told whitecapsfc.com. “It’s important that we unlock the potential of these young players. Gordon is a big part of that.”
In his new role, Forrest will see an increased involvement in the day-to-day activities of the first team while continuing to oversee the technical side of the Residency program. Specifically, Forrest will work closely with the top young talent within the club – at the first team and Residency level.
In other words, he’ll play a major role in integrating the top Residency players into MLS – an integral role for a club unwavering in its commitment towards youth development and building from within.
Robinson and Forrest speak to whitecapsfc.com
“The resources, time and effort that everyone within the club put into that vision is great,” Forrest told whitecapsfc.com. “You can now see that there are a lot of young players that are in and around the first team and young players in and around the Residency that are starting to push through.”
“It will be good to be involved with the first team but have that prominent link with the Residency and the young players coming through from there.”
After spending nearly a decade working in player development for New Zealand Football and the Scottish Football Association, Forrest first joined Whitecaps FC in October 2012 as the U-18 head coach and manager of coaching development. The native of Dunfermline, Scotland later took on the role as head of high performance, in addition to his head coaching position.
From day one, Forrest said it’s been his goal to aid the development of Whitecaps FC’s younger generation and even though his main responsibility will now be to “assist [Robinson] in the first team environment,” that won’t change anytime soon.
“As a coach, you’re always looking to keep improving and keep developing and progressing as well,” he said. “Again, it’s a great opportunity but my main goal is working with the younger players and developing them.”
Whitecaps FC’s Residency program has had the intended result since it was founded in 2009, in terms of both results and development. The ‘Caps U-18 outfit qualified for USSDA Finals Week in each of their two seasons in the league, while the U-16s qualified in their first year.
Additionally, a number of players have graduated from the Residency program to the first team. There are currently four Homegrown players on Vancouver’s MLS roster: Sam Adekugbe, Bryce Alderson, Caleb Clarke, and Russell Teibert, who led the ‘Caps with nine assists this past season.
Adekugbe, who impressed in his MLS debut in Whitecaps FC’s 2013 season finale, Clarke, Teibert, as well as Residency midfielder Kianz Froese and defender Jackson Farmer have each been involved with Canada’s senior national team under head coach Benito Floro, while Alderson and several other Residency players have been involved at the younger age groups.
It’s a possibility that more ‘Caps players will be called up to the upcoming Canadian senior national team, which is set to get underway on January 12 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as Floro told whitecapsfc.com last month that the club’s top young players are “part of his plans moving forward.”
Clearly, they’re part of Robinson’s plans as well.
“Fans who watch the Residency games know that there’s fantastic talent there,” he said. “I’ll be trying a few of those guys out in preseason. They will be given their chances and I’m sure there will be an endless stream of them coming through once we get the first couple in.”
Whitecaps FC 2014 season tickets start at just $349, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps are also offering a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.