Edwini-Bonsu moves up to main team
BY MARC WEBER
The silver lining to Marlon James's most recent injury is that Whitecaps fans will get to see some minutes out of Randy Edwini-Bonsu -- if they don't blink.
"He scares everybody with his speed," said coach Teitur Thordarson, who watched the forward whiz by a Miami player and set up Charles Gbeke for the 2-0 goal in injury time Sunday. The unselfish assist was his first point as a Whitecap.
On Monday, he scored twice as the reserve team beat Seattle University 4-1 at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
Edwini-Bonsu has played just 27 minutes in five games for the senior side this season. On April 5, he injured his ankle in the residency team's opening game of the Dallas Cup, a showcase tournament for top youth clubs.
The initial assessment was that he'd be out three days. It was closer to three months.
The bone is still not healed fully, but Edwini-Bonsu said he's fit and back at full speed. Based on Sunday's glimpse, no one would doubt him.
"It's still a bit sore on turf, but on grass, it's perfect," he said. "I can't point and kick on my laces [on his right foot], but I can use my inside, and my left foot's a powerhouse now."
Anticipation was high for Edwini-Bonsu this season. The 19-year-old was a goal-scoring machine with the residency program. He scored nine times in 15 regular-season games in 2008 to make the All-Western Conference Team and added five more in three playoff games.
He filled the net at the 2008 Dallas Cup, then at the German INSEL-CUP -- a junior international tournament where he was named MVP -- and again on the residency team's December trip to Japan, scoring 11 goals in five games against top U19 sides.
Any coach would salivate at the thought of playing the darting teenager off towering target men like Gbeke or James.
When Edwini-Bonsu ran track in Edmonton -- where his family moved from Ghana in 2002 -- he clocked 11 seconds in the 100 metres. In the Whitecaps' 40-metre sprint test he registered four seconds flat.
But the true value of his speed, according to residency director Thomas Niendorf, is in that first split second.
"It's not even the first five metres," said Niendorf. "It's more, once he gets a first step on a defender, you cannot catch him any more. He has such tremendous acceleration in the next three-four metres.
"He is just so quick that once the ball is played into the gap ... I've not seen anyone faster in any of our games."
Edwini-Bonsu is the first forward option off the bench with leading scorer James out another two weeks with a groin strain and fellow residency forward Dever Orgill done for the season after knee surgery.
The 5-foot-5 striker was set to come on for Gbeke in the 80th minute of Sunday's win -- the fourth official was already holding up the number board for the switch -- but Gbeke scored and Thordarson made a defensive midfield substitution instead.
There's logic in leaving bigger bodies like Gbeke and Marcus Haber up front with a lead as they can hold the ball more and kill the clock. But as Edwini-Bonsu proved, there's also logic in a speedy substitute -- one who can bury a pressing team on the counter-attack.
"It's been a depressing season with the injury," said Edwini-Bonsu. "But now Marlon's down and guys expect me to step in and help out. I was happy that I was able to do my job and hopefully I'll get some more minutes."
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