Since the program’s inception in 2007, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency has been an integral component of the club’s overall structure.
Over the years, the program has graduated several players to the professional ranks, captured a PDL conference title, and shown well in different tournaments around the world.
The ‘Caps Residency program took another big step this year, becoming the first Canadian club to compete in America’s premier youth academy system: the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA).
And so far, they have yet to disappoint.
It hasn’t been easy, but with just one game remaining in the regular season, the U-18 and U-16 squads have both qualified for the post-season and secured the division titles in their respective age groups.
“It’s our first year in the league and there are a lot of new experiences and challenges for the players, the staff, and the club getting used to that schedule,” Residency head coach Craig Dalrymple told whitecapsfc.com. “We flew into California six or seven times over the course of the season to play league games, we had a big showcase event in Florida, and overall the players have adapted very well to that schedule.”
Dalrymple said the competition the teams have faced has been good, but varied. Some teams are more physical and direct in their play, while others play more of a possession-based style and try to beat you with their passing.
“It’s provided a real good foundation of competition for the boys,” Dalrymple said. “We’ve been pleased with the growth the players have shown and the results have been positive, which is a testament to how well the players have performed.”
The U-18 Residency team chose the perfect time to find their top form.
Led by a pair of hat-tricks from MLS roster player Caleb Clarke and Yassin Essa, the ‘Caps knocked off Seattle Sounders FC Academy 9-0 June 3 at Simon Fraser University Field #4. This performance was easily their best of the season, which was especially encouraging since it came after one of their worst, according to Dalrymple.
“They’ve had a few ups and downs, most recently with a 4-0 defeat to Crossfire two weeks ago, and to bounce back their very next game was pleasing for me,” Dalrymple said. “It shows that they have character and resilience and that’s something they’ll need if they want to bump up into the first team environment.”
With a 10W-2L-2 division record, U-18 Residency squad sit atop the West Conference, Northwest Division in the USSDA. They also lead the conference with 46 goals for.
The U-16 ‘Caps have been very impressive in their inaugural USSDA campaign. Their 12W-1L-1D division record is the best in the West Conference and they enter their final game of the season riding a six-game winning streak.
Just like the first team, the young ‘Caps have excelled on the defensive end of the pitch. They’ve only allowed nine goals against in 14 divisional games played, which has been the key to their success this season.
“We definitely pride ourselves on having a good defensive foundation and we don’t just defend with the back four and the goalkeeper, we defend with a full squad of 11 players,” Dalrymple said. “From that defensive foundation we’ve been able to spring our attack.”
Both the U-18 and U-16 teams conclude their respective regular seasons June 17 in Bellingham, Washington, against Arsenal FC, before the playoffs begin the following week in Frisco, Texas. Each team will be placed in a group of four, with the winner advancing to the USSDA Final 8.
While the older groups have garnered their fare share of attention, Vancouver’s pre-Residency teams also represented the Whitecaps with class May 25 to 28 at the Portland Timbers Friendship Cup in Beaverton, Oregon.
The three teams played a combined total of nine matches over the weekend and posted an undefeated record, despite an intimidating environment. The U-15 and U-13 ‘Caps both recorded two wins and a draw, while the U-14 ‘Caps claimed one victory and two draws, outscoring their opponents 7-3 in the process.
“We set an extremely high standard and kept playing very good football, even under very difficult circumstances,” U-14 Residency head coach Bart Choufour told whitecapsfc.com.
With a successful foundation building through the club’s Residency program, the future of Whitecaps FC appears as bright as ever.