Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency completed a successful weekend by finishing third in the INSEL-CUP junior international tournament in Germany.
Coming on the end of a two-week trip to the European nation, and two friendly wins versus Stuttgarter Kickers U-19's and VfL Neckarau U-19's, Thomas Niendorf's side made the most of the tournament – with games played in two 20-minute halves.
Their first contest was against host club SpVgg 03 Ilvesheim U-19's on Friday evening, with Whitecaps Residency well deserving to win their opening Group One contest 3-0. Alex Semenets gave Vancouver the lead after two minutes before Randy Edwini-Bonsu struck a pair of goals on 35 and 38 minutes in the second half.
Saturday proved to be a more frustrating day for the Residency team, as the squad had to settle for two goalless draws. The first 0-0 draw came in a midday clash with Skoda Xanthi U-19's, with goalkeeper Simon Thomas needing to make two very good saves in what was an even contest against the Greek club. The same scenario played out later that afternoon, as the Whitecaps also drew 0-0 with Germany's TSG 1899 Hoffenheim U-18's in their final Group One game, despite creating good chances to win the match.
With a win and two draws from the group stage, the Residency team met German club MSV Duisburg U-19's in the semifinal on Sunday afternoon. After a 0-0 extra-time draw, in which Thomas made two point-blank saves off Duisburg headed chances, the Whitecaps fell 4-2 in the penalty shootout.
Despite missing out on the final, Niendorf's side did well to claim third place with a 1-0 extra-time win over Germany's SV Sandhausen U-19's. Edwini-Bonsu struck Vancouver's winner in the final of extra time before claiming the tournament's Mort Valuable Player award.
Niendorf was pleased with his side's efforts over the past weekend. "First of all, I have to say that I'm really proud of the team," he told whitecapsfc.com. "They had a very good performance in the tournament, though it was disappointing to miss out on the final by losing a penalty shootout. What was most important for us again was that we can compete on the top level with these European youth teams. It gave us good exposure to see how we compare in the overall picture of Europe, and it gives the players even more of an appetite in reaching the levels to be considered for a professional career."
The Residency team have little time to reflect on their latest German trip, as the squad return to action on Sunday against Abbotsford Mariners in their inaugural game in the USL Premier Development League. Over the next two months, the team will play in the Northwest Division of the PDL's Western Conference. "It's the next competitive level," Niendorf said the PDL campaign. "We are stepping out of the junior level and into the men's level. These last two weeks in Germany, we used our time to work on team shape there, so there has been a shift from the individual development to the team development in order to have a competitive performance going into the PDL season."
Despite arriving back from Germany on Monday, Edmonton natives Edwini-Bonsu and defender Antonio Rago have returned home to be part of the Whitecaps men's squad for Tuesday's international friendly versus Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy at Commonwealth Stadium. Niendorf felt the pair have done well to be part of Teitur Thordarson's first team. "They are very deserving to be part of the Galaxy game," he said. "Randy was outstanding in Germany and deserved to be tournament MVP. Antonio also deserves his chance on Tuesday, and it is not because he is from Edmonton."