Whitecaps Residency taking shape

With the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency already a month old, things are beginning to take shape with the program’s inaugural group of players.Under the guidance of managing director/head coach, Thomas Niendorf, the 18-player group have been through a routine of two training sessions a day in the morning and afternoon, with high school classes in between those sessions at Burnaby Central Secondary. The group have also played a number of friendly games since coming together, with the current focus being the team’s preparation for an important two-week trip to Germany and games against youth sides from top clubs in the Bundesliga like Bayern Munich, 1860 Munich, and VfB Stuttgart.Niendorf’s initial impressions of the inaugural group have been very positive. “The most encouraging experience for me is the players have already taken ownership of the program,” he told whitecapsfc.com. “They are proud to be part of it and they really understand the opportunity that has been given to them. They have made a very honest effort to recognize and accept the standards they have to work towards. Everybody has taken their own responsibility in the areas they need to improve on.”With the exception of Jamaican under-17 national team captain Dever Orgill, all of the current Residency players hail from across Canada, with seven members of the group hailing from British Columbia. Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec are all represented, with no less than a dozen of the players coming to the program from the Canadian U-17 national team squad.For midfielder Alex Semenets, the move to Vancouver from his southern Ontario home of Mississauga has taken some getting used to. “The weather is a little bit different, as it rains a lot here,” said the 17-year-old. “It was tough leaving my family and friends behind, but everyone in the team has left home in order to be focused just to play soccer. This is a great program, as it provides us with what we need, so things are good.”Increasing the exposure about the Residency program will be just as important for the Whitecaps as producing players through the process. Herbert Ashley, who is president of Jamaican club Progressive FC, was impressed by some of the things he saw during his short visit to Vancouver. “It’s a very good program,” he said. “It not only shows these players how to be professionals, but how to deal with different aspects of football. It is a learning stage for all these players and this is just the beginning. A lot has yet to be learned at a higher stage for this group.”Ashley traveled to Canada to help in the transition of youngster Orgill into the Residency program. He hopes the striker is the first of many youngsters to join the program from Jamaica. “I’ll be going back to my country and looking for more players with talent, so I can advise the Residency management here to take on more Jamaican players in this program,” he said.One of the Residency program’s objectives has been to create a European-style training atmosphere here on the Lower Mainland. North Vancouver youngster Greg Smith believes the program is beginning to establish that type of environment. “Having been to Europe, the program that we have set up here is very similar to what you see over there,” said the right fullback. “I went to Germany in the summer, and got to experience Bayern Munich. From that, I was able to bring that experience home and know what I had to work on as player. When we go back to Germany at the end of the month, we will hopefully provide good competition for the teams we play.”With the Whitecaps men’s team still to face David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy in a friendly at BC Place in November, the Residency players will have the chance to train alongside members of the first team in the coming weeks. “That’s going to be really good for us,” said Semenets. “We’ll have someone to look up to all the time. Playing with them is just going to make us better and more confident, as well as prepare us for our Germany trip.”

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