Alphonso Davies made his Vancouver Whitecaps FC first-team debut in the semifinals of the 2016 Canadian Championship.
He was 15 years old at the time.
In the first leg at Ottawa Fury FC, Davies came on as a sub and played the final 20 minutes, before starting the second leg in front of the home crowd at BC Place.
Fans caught a glimpse then of what has now become a common theme: Davies dribbling past players for fun. He got the ball on the left wing, squared his opponent up, and weaved in-and-out, putting the defender down on the turf before firing a shot off the post.
That was the moment when ‘Caps fans knew they had a special talent to cheer on.
The rest is history.
For Wednesday’s Canadian Championship semifinal against Montreal Impact (4:30 p.m. PT on CanadaSoccer.com and TSN 1040 radio), there’s a chance another young member of the ‘Caps could have their breakthrough moment, with the likes of Michael Baldisimo, David Norman Jr., and Simon Colyn in contention to be involved at some stage.
“There’s always that fine balance,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “We take this tournament very seriously, but we also try to blood young players, integrate certain players who haven’t played many minutes over recent games. I will supplement some of the senior players with some young Canadians as well. We’ve won this tournament once before and we will try to win it again.”
With this week’s signings of Baldisimo and Theo Bair, who has signed a pre-contract and will be eligible for first-team competition in 2019, the ‘Caps have now inked five players from the club’s development system to MLS Homegrown contracts in the past eight months.
“There’s been a good conveyor belt,” Robinson said. “We need to try and open up more avenues for the young players to come through. I think we’ve had some varied success with it. The next batch of young ones coming through, the Simons, the Mikeys, the Theos, we have high hopes for, which is why we’re trying to get them in early.”
One player who came through the Residency program early and has excelled ever since is Russell Teibert. The 25-year-old, in fact, is currently the all-time leader in Canadian Championship appearances.
Teibert lifted the Voyageurs Cup as the ‘Caps captain back in 2015 and still remembers the emotion that came with lifting the trophy for what he now considers his hometown team.
“It's a trophy we want to go out and win this year as well,” Teibert said. “It's a good opportunity for a lot of young players to get some time on the field that haven't been, and some seasoned pros that haven't been getting a lot of time. It's a great opportunity for all of us, but first and foremost it's the Canadian Championship and you want all rights to call yourself the best team in Canada.”
Following Wednesday’s first leg, Whitecaps FC host the decisive second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal next Wednesday, July 25 at BC Place (7 p.m. PT – visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets for ticket information).