Residency set for German test

Having spent the past six weeks training and playing on the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency are set to face some top youth teams in Germany next week.The elite youth player program, which has brought together some of the best young talent from across Canada to Vancouver, leaves Saturday for the important two-week trip. Their six-game schedule begins Monday, as Thomas Niendorf’s youngsters play the U-19 junior Bundesliga side of Bayern Munich before taking on 1860 Munich U-19’s on Tuesday. They then face Jahn Regensburg U-19’s on Thursday before heading to the southwest German state of Baden-Wurttemberg for a friendly with VfB Stuttgart U-19’s on Saturday. On October 30, the team will play a combined U-19/U-23 side from 1860 Munich.Facing the youth sides of some of Europe’s top professional clubs will provide a very stern test of the residency team’s abilities. “The most important aspect of our program is to clearly identify the standards for our players, in terms of what they have to work towards,” Niendorf told reporters during Thursday’s media day at SFU. “It’s one thing to speak to them about it and it’s another to experience it and take in the atmosphere of the professional clubs like Bayern Munich, 1860 Munich, and VfB Stuttgart. We’re going to visit their facilities and play on their training grounds, so the players will have the opportunity to play against those teams. At the same time, they will learn how things are set up for high-profile development academies in Germany - much like we are building here with the Whitecaps in Vancouver. I think we face a pretty even challenge when it comes to the age of the players we will be facing, but it will be up to us to adjust quickly to the higher speed of play and organization on the field over there.”Though the majority of the residency players have yet to experience playing soccer in Europe, midfielder Devin Gunenc knows the challenge his team faces after training with Bayern Munich this past August. “It’s mainly a learning experience and a great one as well,” said the North Vancouver native. “We’ve had a few games here, but some of the teams have not been up to the standard that we would like to play. Myself and a couple of my teammates were in Germany, so we got a taste of what it’s like over there. We saw that they play the ball very quickly and with a purpose, as they very rarely make a mistake. If there’s one thing that we can take out of the games we play, that would be to make every game count as if it was our last game. That’s the attitude they have over there and it would be great if we could bring that attitude into our training and games. We feel we have players in Canada that can compete with players in Europe, so this trip will be a good measuring stick to see if can keep up with them.”When the residency players are not playing games during their trip, Niendorf has set out a busy schedule of training, athletic testing, and sightseeing during their time in Germany. The final game of their two-week tour will be in the town that they will use as their base, as the Whitecaps face SC Zwiesel - a fifth-level amateur side who play their soccer in the Lower Bavaria Bezirksoberliga - on October 31. “Germany has a huge history in soccer, so it is a chance to give our players the exposure of what soccer means to the people there and the way they support their team,” Niendorf said. “Playing Zwiesel will give the players the chance to experience how a soccer organization that has been around for a few years works, as well as play in a small stadium against a men’s team who play a very decent level. It is also a bit of a thank you to the village where we are going to stay in during our trip.”Everyone at the Whitecaps wishes the residency team the very best of luck during their two-week trip to Germany.