Young striker dreams big with Caps - The Province

Has the happy habit of scoring just in time

It's hard to say if anyone on the current Whitecaps roster might cross over and play for a new Major League Soccer franchise in 2011.

But assuming the Whitecaps are successful in their bid for an MLS expansion team, it's a safe bet that players such as Randy Edwini-Bonsu will be prime candidates to wear Cap colours in three years' time.

Edwini-Bonsu has been one of the top players in the Whitecaps residency program since it started last September.

He's a key reason the team is off to Ontario for Saturday's United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League semifinal against the Thunder Bay Chili.

In playoff action, the 18-year-old striker scored with seconds left in extra time to send a game against San Fernando Valley Quakes into overtime and then scored the winner in a 3-1 verdict. Next day, he scored twice and added an assist in a 4-1 victory over Tacoma.

Residency managing director and coach Thomas Niendorf -- who assisted England star Owen Hargreaves' move from Calgary to German giant Bayern Munich as a 16-year-old -- said the aim is to provide an option for promising players to stay in Canada.

"Randy is a great example of what this program can do," said Niendorf. "He was already in France for one year, but he wasn't ready for it. We initiated a program where he needed to get better at some things. It took some time for him to really appreciate us, and once he did, he really started to put the necessary effort and understood he needed to think the game better. He had his ups and downs, but he's now arrived at a performance level that definitely gives him a chance to look at a career opportunity in Europe."

Although two German clubs have expressed interest in Edwini-Bonsu for their Under-23 programs, there's a chance he could play with the Whitecaps' USL First Division club. He'll join the senior team in mid-August, following the PDL season. The Caps could use another player to put the ball in the net.

Edwini-Bonsu, who moved to Canada with his family from Ghana in 2002, said the residency program was night and day from his experience with FC Metz reserves.

"Over there, they expect you to know things at a certain age, but in Canada, we miss that development," said the striker, who has 15 caps with Canada's Under-19s.

"The experience [here] has been great, training twice a day and learning how to prepare mentally. It makes you a better player."

Edwini-Bonsu, who didn't play organized soccer until he arrived in Edmonton as a 12-year-old, looks forward to a shot with the senior Caps, but the immediate goal is to continue the squad's roll in the PDL playoffs. The group of 17- and 18-year-olds have been playing opponents four and five years older.

The Residency team was 11-4-1 in the regular season, while Thunder Bay was 13-2-1. © The Vancouver Province 2008