From the 80 teams that started the 2012-13 United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) campaign back in September last year, only eight teams remain and Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency are one of them. The 'Caps have booked their place at the Finals Week party for the second successive year.
Handed a tough group in the USSDA Playoffs week, Vancouver sailed through with comfortable wins against fellow MLS academies Chicago Fire (3-0) and Houston Dynamo (5-2) before seeing off qualification rivals PA Classics 3-1 to seal a place in the USSDA Finals Week.
The team will be hoping to go one step further than last year’s Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency side who fell to a 3-2 defeat in a pulsating USSDA Final against an FC Dallas team featuring United States U-20 stars Kellyn Acosta, Danny Garcia and Jonathan Top - the latter of whom went on to score his first MLS goal right here at BC Place.
A handful of this year’s crop experienced that devastating loss firsthand, and the likes of Sam Adekugbe, Spencer DeBoice, Yassin Essa, Carlos Marquez and Sean Melvin will want to claim the title that they were so close to winning last year.
However, before the team starts dreaming of glory in the final they must first navigate the Finals Week group stage where the eight group winners from Playoffs Week compete for a place in the final. Two groups consisting of four teams play a round robin tournament with only the group leaders advancing to play in the final to be held at Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium at 6p.m. PT on July 20.
During the regular season, Vancouver collected the joint-highest number of points (69) and were the highest scoring team in the USSDA with 98 goals, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that two of the other three teams that qualified for Finals Week are from the same West Conference Northwest Division in which the 'Caps won this season - Seattle Sounders FC and De Anza Force.
Regardless of the outcome of Finals Week, this Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency side looks to have a bright future with several of the younger players in the squad set to continue with the team next season.
Young U-16s gain valuable experience as best days yet to come
With so many U-16 players called into prominent roles with the U-18s, the U-16 Residency team were left to call upon a number of players from the club's Pre-Residency group.
The U-16s were the youngest side competing in the USSDA this past season with 13 Pre-Residency players(1998 born) turning out for the Blue and White and five of those players playing in over a third of the team’s matches. The quality of these young players was certainly high though, with a total of 16 internationals having represented the U-16s this year.
Included in this number are six Canadian U-17 internationals: Marco Bustos, Marco Carducci, Matthew Chow, Alex Comsia, Kianz Froese and Jordan Haynes. Each of these players were promoted from the U-16 squad to the U-18 team and have made a major impact with the older group over the past season. Bustos was the U-18s leading scorer in Playoffs Week with four goals in three matches while Froese and Haynes also scored a goal apiece.
As well as the six U-17 internationals, there were also call-ups for Francesco Saporito and Aymar Sigue for the Canadian U-16 squad and call-ups for the Canadian U-15 squad for no fewer than eight players; Aidan Aylward, Matthew Baldisimo, Terran Campbell, Kadin Chung, Thomas Gardner, John Kasper, Riley Pang and David Norman having all received caps for the Canucks.
This week the U-16 team wrapped up their season at the USSDA Showcase, also being held in Frisco, Texas.
They opened the USSDA Showcase with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Weston FC on Monday but bounced back with a 2-1 win over IMG Academy with Daniel Sagno grabbing both of the goals for Vancouver.
They finished the week with a 3-0 loss against fellow MLS academy Sporting Kansas City on Thursday, but for coach Craig Dalrymple the signs are good for the group of players coming through the U-16 Residency squad.
“All in all it has been a very challenging season for the young squad, as half the squad are playing against players two years older,” said Dalrymple. “These positive long-term effects will be realized in seasons to come. The future is very bright for the program and this group of players.”
With such success and depth in the Whitecaps FC Residency program, it can’t be too long before we see the next Russell Teibert, the next homegrown star making waves in MLS.