In a move that has been nearly a year in the making, Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on Thursday that they’ve officially signed centre back Mouloud Akloul.
A highly rated defender, Akloul originally signed with the Whitecaps' USSF D-2 Pro League squad in April last year with the intention of moving up with the club to MLS. However, not long after arriving, Akloul injured himself in his debut - in which he scored a goal - and has played very little since.
“It’s bizarre, for a year I didn’t play much,” said Akloul. “I didn’t show everything that I had here last year with the injury, so I hope that this season I can show my qualities and play a lot of games.”
Akoul's first game for Whitecaps FC was one that few fans would soon forget.
Last April 24, the Frenchman debuted against Athletic Club of St. Louis. Praised as a composed centre back who could not only shut down opponents, but also initiate the attack for his own team from the back, Akloul looked very much the part in his first 15 minutes for the club.
In fact, the 6-foot-2 defender scored on a corner kick after 19 minutes. Unfortunately for Akloul, though, he also broke his ankle on the play - a strange twist of fate that kept him out of action for quite some time.
Though he had to sit out for much of the preseason, Akloul has been impressed with the quality of MLS and the growth of the sport in North America.
“In Europe, people think that Canada is just for hockey, but soccer is in the midst of growing and it’s great,” Akloul said. “Everyone has obviously heard of Thierry Henry, but even here in Vancouver, we have guys like Alain Rochat, Davide Chiumiento, and Eric Hassli. Those are great players.”
The former France U-17 international player is well travelled, having previously played for clubs in Algeria and Dubai, and that passion for travel brought him to Vancouver.
“I love to try knew scenery and my agent talked about Major League Soccer and the Vancouver Whitecaps,” Akloul said. “I knew nothing about the city, but I knew that the league had big players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Rafa Márquez. I knew that MLS was growing, so I said, ‘Why not.’”