Over the past years, many players have come through the 'Caps second team, Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2). Notable alumni include Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, who started his professional career with WFC2 back in 2016 as a 15-year-old. Fellow Canada men's national team star Sam Adekugbe also spent time playing with WFC2, as did some of the Canadian Premier League's (CPL) top players like Marco Bustos, Marco Carducci, Terran Campbell, and current MLS player Kadin Chung.
Now, WFC2 turn their heads to a new era with MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season having kicked off.
The team is led by experienced head coach Nick Dasovic, a coach who has worked with Canada’s U-20 side and the ‘Caps Academy, so it’s fair to say he has the knowledge and knack to help young players progress into professionals.
With numerous years of coaching experience across North America, such as stints with MLS sides Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes, Dasovic feels that MLS NEXT Pro is the perfect way for players to kickstart their careers.
“I think having this second team means a lot, guys are already getting the chance to come down and go up," said Dasovic. "So it’s needed and it’s something that’s going to hopefully be around for a long time for these guys to have the opportunity to play,”
The gaffer’s main objective is to give younger players a chance to learn what being in a professional environment is like. What does that mean? What does it mean flying, recovering, how do you sleep at night and how do you prepare yourself for a game? But all of that comes alongside the primary target for the players every time they step onto the pitch.
“First off, the objective is to win as many games as we can, it’s a professional environment. That's our goal, it’s to win.
“We play in a certain way where we put the kids in a little bit more stress, that we try to build them up. But if it’s a stress that they can build up to the MLS NEXT Pro level, then as they're ready to go to MLS, they’ll be ready for those environments. We’re putting them in these situations to help them learn, help them grow and make mistakes, which is going to happen.”
A former professional on the field, Dasovic’s career started on trial with Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb as an 18-year-old, where he went on to spend several early years. He eventually returned home to Canada and played across multiple clubs, including Montréal Impact, and locally with Vancouver 86ers.
Dasovic then played for Scottish club St Johnstone, making over 100 appearances for the club, before finally hanging up the boots as a ‘Caps player. Born in Vancouver, he also represented Canada, earning 63 appearances for the men’s national team. It was a long 19-year career, where he even admits he had his own doubts when he started.
“A lot of tough times, a lot of questions asked about myself. ‘Can you do it?’ and things like that. So it really pushed me and built the character in me where I became stronger and resolute, but it also helped me pave the way of who I was as a person. So it was a great journey.”
For Dasovic, he and his team train at the National Soccer Development Centre at the same time as the first team, meaning there is constant communication between WFC2 and Whitecaps FC head coach Vanni Sartini.
“Vanni is always around us. He's one of the most humble guys you’re ever going to meet, he comes across that way on TV and what you see is what you get. He's always got a minute to help you out, he’s always ready to ask a question. I think we’re very blessed to have someone like him in the club.”
Expect Dasovic's WFC2 side to have the same playing principles as Sartini’s team, as the younger players are going to come out on the field hungry to play each game trying to prove themselves.
“We’re going to try to high press, be very aggressive. We’re going to try and build up, play football, and win games.”