VANCOUVER, BC – The 2015 MLS season has come to an end for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but for three players on the team there is still one more massive match to play at BC Place.
This Friday at 7 p.m. PT, Sam Adekugbe, Kianz Froese, and Russell Teibert will wear the Red and White and represent the Canadian men’s national team against Honduras in a crucial CONCACAF qualifying match for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Tickets remain available for Friday's match at ticketmaster.ca.
Their inclusion represents both a youth movement for the national team, and a nod to the work being done in the Whitecaps FC Residency program – home to a wealth of top young talent from across the country.
Teibert, now 22, was among the first Residency prospects to break through to the ‘Caps MLS team after initially joining the program from Niagara Falls. Adekugbe, 20, came to Vancouver from Calgary and was the first Homegrown defender signed to the club’s MLS roster. 19-year-old Froese – the youngest player on this Canadian roster – joined the Residency program from Winnipeg and took a big step forward this season, including his first MLS goal in a 2-1 road win at New York Red Bulls.
“Russell is my roommate with Canada and with the ‘Caps,” said Adekugbe. “I’ve played with Kianz since I was 16, so it’s good to have them. We’re all coming up together here in the national team. That shows the development going on at the Whitecaps FC Residency program.”
Now they get to represent their country at their home stadium, BC Place. It’s the first time in 11 years that the men’s national team has played in Vancouver. If the ‘Caps season showed them anything, it’s that Vancouver soccer fans are passionate about supporting their home team.
“It was a great atmosphere during the [playoff] game against Portland,” said Froese, who made his Canadian national team debut against Ghana last month. “There was a great ambience … I loved it.”
Facing a tough Honduran team, they’ll need that same energy at BC Place on Friday.
“Canadian fans show passion,” added Teibert, who already has one goal and one assist during this World Cup qualifying campaign. “They show support and they really do love soccer, so I think they’ll come in numbers and they’ll be loud.”
In order to keep the dream alive to get to the World Cup, Canada will need to finish in first or second place in Group A. In addition to Honduras, they will also face Mexico and El Salvador, playing each of their three opponents home and away for a total of six matches. Should they finish in the top two, they will move on to the final qualifying round known as “the Hex”, in 2017.
It won’t be easy, but after coming up through the Residency program and experiencing team success in MLS, winning is a mentality that all three players bring with them to every level.
“We need to play with passion and determination,” said Froese. “Since I was little it has always been a dream of mine to play at the World Cup.”