SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – It's been a whirlwind month for Kianz Froese.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Homegrown midfielder inked his first MLS contract on Sept. 15. Less than a month later, the Canadian youth international was making his league debut in front of 55,765 screaming fans at Seattle's Centur Link Field, in a Cascadian derby with crucial playoff points on the line. It doesn't really come much bigger in the MLS regular season.
Coming on as a halftime sub for the injured Kekuta Manneh, the 18-year-old admitted to some nerves when he first took to the pitch, but the support of his teammates saw him take the occasion in his stride, putting in a confident 45-minute performance.
"Coming in, with 50,000-plus people, when Robbo [coach Carl Robinson] told me I was going in, my heart dropped," Froese told reporters with a grin from ear to ear. "I was quite nervous for a bit, but the game settled down and then you slowly get into it."
"The guys were great. A lot of talking. They told me everything that I needed to do. Jordan [Harvey] was great, he was all, 'Come back, tuck for me and help me.' I was there for whatever we needed as a team and three points was vital today. I'm just happy being part of the group and helping the guys win."
Robinson had previously indicated that the addition of Froese wasn't just to make up the numbers and that he had plans to involve the 'Caps Residency product in his gameday squads before the season's end, having already blooded the youngster in a Canadian Championship game in Toronto in May.
True to his word, Robinson told Froese on Monday that he would be making the short trip down the I-5 to Seattle. Neither of them probably expected that the young attacker would be thrown into the action in such a dramatic fashion, but Robinson had faith in his newest young star to go into such a red-hot atmosphere and perform.
"I had a big decision who to put on at halftime," Robinson admitted. "Again, as I've shown all along, I'm not afraid to throw the kids in. Kianz came in, made his debut and what an environment to start."
"With all young players, they have no fear and they've got to learn. Sometimes it's best learning in the toughest environments and [Friday] was the toughest environment for him to learn. [Froese was] excellent. Hard work, determination, the kid can play. Let me tell you, the kid can play. He's got a great future."
Seattle seems to be the perfect environment for Vancouver's young talent to perform. Manneh stole the headlines again, but as a worldly 19-year-old now, the Gambian sang the praises of Vancouver's newest starlet.
"He was exceptional when he came in," Manneh said. "He did his job well and that's what we can hope for. He's a really good player and he just needs a little more minutes and you will see what he can do. He's a quality player."
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