With Vancouver Whitecaps FC set to kick off the 2016 MLS regular season this Sunday, March 6 against Montreal Impact, whitecapsfc.com will take an in-depth look at the club’s roster with a different piece every day leading up to First Kick. Today, we introduce the defenders.
PART 1: Goalkeepers
No team conceded fewer goals or recorded more clean sheets than Vancouver Whitecaps FC last season. The defenders deserve a lot of credit for that. Most of them are back, including 2015 Whitecaps FC BMO Player of the Year Kendall Waston. But there are a few changes around him. Right back Steven Beitashour has moved on, setting up an intriguing battle between Canadian newcomer Fraser Aird and Jordan Smith, while 2016 SuperDraft pick Cole Seiler has replaced Diego Rodriguez at centre back.
#2: JORDAN HARVEY (AGE: 32, HOMETOWN: MISSION VIEJO, CALIFORNIA)
When it comes to MLS experience, Jordan Harvey leads the way for Whitecaps FC. And it’s not even close.
The 32-year-old left back has started 200 of his 214 MLS regular season appearances over the last eight seasons. He joined the ‘Caps midway through their inaugural season in 2011 and has been a steady presence on the back line ever since.
He’s been around the block – and he has one final goal in mind.
“The older you get, the more you realize that winning a championship is all that really matters,” Harvey told whitecapsfc.com. “That’s absolutely what’s driving me right now.”
That, and his family. He has a pretty adorable one, as we documented earlier this year.
#3: SAM ADEKUGBE (AGE: 21, HOMETOWN: CALGARY, ALBERTA)
If Harvey is the master, then Sam Adekugbe is Young Padawan.
Adekugbe, 21, came through the Whitecaps FC Residency program and is now looking to establish himself as a regular on the first team. The speedy left back was born in London, England, before immigrating to Calgary at the age of nine.
Last year, he made his first appearance for the Canadian senior men’s national team.
He’s also a pretty darn good piano player.
#4: KENDALL WASTON (AGE: 28, HOMETOWN: LIMON, COSTA RICA)
This guy is kind of important.
Last year, Costa Rican centre back Kendall Waston was only voted as the club’s player of the year and named to the MLS Best XI – the first Whitecaps FC player to earn this recognition.
Not too shabby.
On the pitch, Waston is an intimidating presence – that’s what happens when you’re 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. Off the pitch, you can’t wipe the smile off his face.
Some refer to Waston as the “Towering Tico.” Others, including his teammates and the coaching staff, aptly call him “Big Man.” Take your pick.
#6: JORDAN SMITH (AGE: 24, HOMETOWN: SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA)
Smith is one of three Costa Ricans on Vancouver’s MLS roster.
He and Waston were teammates at Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa – and now they’ve reunited on the Whitecaps FC back line.
Smith, 24, is an attacking-minded right back with a cannon of a shot – though at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, you might confuse him as a centre back. During the team's preseason fitness tests earlier this year, Smith recorded the fastest 20-metre sprint and highest counter movement jump.
Smith is currently on loan from Saprissa.
#8: FRASER AIRD (AGE: 21, HOMETOWN: SCARBOROUGH, ONTARIO)
The other right back on Vancouver’s roster is Canadian Fraser Aird.
Born in Scarborough, Ontario to Scottish parents, Aird grew up in Canada before signing with the youth set-up of Scottish side Rangers FC at the age of 16. He represented Canada at the U-15 level and Scotland and the U-17 and U-19 levels before committing to the Canadian senior men’s national team last year.
Aird, naturally a winger, is a speedy fullback who loves to join the attack. He's currently on a one-year loan, with a transfer option, from Rangers.
Interestingly, he was a Toronto FC season ticket holder as a kid. Don’t hold it against him.
#14: COLE SEILER (AGE: 22, HOMETOWN: ANDERSON, SOUTH CAROLINA)
Cole Seiler, a mature and respectful 22-year-old from South Carolina, was Vancouver’s first-round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. The running joke throughout the preseason was that Seiler is a clone of Tim Parker, Vancouver’s first-round pick from last year.
There may be something there.
“I actually really try to emulate my game after his,” Seiler said. “He’s a bigger guy but when it’s time for a tackle, he doesn’t shy away. He gets stuck in. But he also wows people with his foot ability and his skill, so I definitely try to emulate my game after his.”
And for your random fact of the day: Seiler’s family owns eight chickens. Now you know.
#22: CHRISTIAN DEAN (AGE: 22, HOMETOWN: EAST PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA)
Christian Dean is entering his third year as a professional.
He’s a 6-foot-3, left-footed centre back who is comfortable on the ball – and he’s hoping to establish himself as a regular fixture on the ‘Caps back line.
An avid Star Wars fan, Dean has a tattoo of Darth Vader on his shoulder. But most of his tattoos revolve around his family. Born in Alvin, Texas, Dean was put up for adoption days after he was born. He now lives in East Palo Alto, California with his adoptive family, but he's still close with his biological mother.
Dean’s half-brother, Josh Huestis, plays for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
#26: TIM PARKER (AGE: 23, HOMETOWN: HICKSVILLE, NEW YORK)
After a standout rookie campaign, Tim Parker will be hoping to avoid the sophomore slump in 2016.
Parker, Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2015, appeared in 15 regular season matches last year and added a pair of goals in the Amway Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League. By the end of the year, he was a starter alongside Waston. Can he solidify his spot again this season?
The Hicksville, New York native earned his first call-up to the U.S. senior men’s national team earlier this year.
#44: PA-MODOU KAH (AGE: 35, HOMETOWN: OSLO, NORWAY)
Finally, we have Pa-Modou Kah.
He’s easily the loudest, and most animated, player on the team. He’s also the most experienced.
Kah was born in The Gambia, like fellow Whitecaps FC player Kekuta Manneh, before immigrating to Norway with his family when he was eight years old. He ended up representing Norway at the international level on 10 occasions, in addition to playing over 400 matches professionally in Europe, Asia, and North America.
The 6-foot-1 centre back speaks seven different languages.
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