Whitecaps FC Residency is widely regarded as one of the top academy programs in North America. The ‘Caps currently have six Residency grads on their MLS squad, but who are the next wave of youngsters rising through the ranks?
Four young players who joined the club as 13-year-olds in 2012 are now playing professional soccer with WFC2. Add in a 15-year-old from Edmonton. The most impressive part? They haven’t looked out of place.
The young players on WFC2 are in for their toughest challenge yet this weekend against a much older and more experienced Sacramento Republic FC side. But before we get to the home opener, here’s a little bit about our teen pros:
#65 MATTHEW BALDISIMO (AGE: 18, HOMETOWN: BURNABY, BC)
One of three Baldisimo brothers who has been with the ‘Caps, along with graduated older brother Mark, and younger brother Michael who is still with Whitecaps FC U-16 and U-18 Residency.
Matthew is a tenacious holding midfielder with a great engine. He’s a quiet leader and was captain of Canada’s U-17 national team last year. Baldisimo will give his all for the team, and it’s that work ethic that draws respect from his coaches and teammates. He made his professional debut during the season opener at Orange County, and put in a solid performance in his first professional start in the 3-1 victory at Portland last weekend.
#61 TERRAN CAMPBELL (AGE: 17, HOMETOWN: BURNABY, BC)
A powerful player with a build similar to Residency grad and first team midfielder Kianz Froese. Campbell is capable of both using his strength to muscle past a defender, and his quick feet and burst to burn a defender. And don’t let him shoot, or he’s likely to curl one in that will leave the goalkeeper stuck in cement.
Still only 17-year-old, the Burnaby native regularly finds the back of the net at the academy level. He now seeks consistency in his game and an attacking breakthrough as a winger at the professional level. Early signs have been promising, with glimpses of his ability in preseason.
#63 KADIN CHUNG (AGE: 17, HOMETOWN: PORT COQUITLAM, BC)
Another player who is still only 17-years-old, but one who has received a great deal of recognition at his young age. Last year Chung was named Canada’s U-17 Player of the Year, and this year he’s already burst further onto the pro soccer scene. Two weeks ago he scored for Canada U-20s in a 2-1 win over England, and last weekend he made his first professional start in the 3-1 USL win at Portland.
Chung is very much a modern fullback, able to play on either the right or left side and very much able to get up field and jump in on the attack. He’s drawn praise from first team head coach Carl Robinson, but he knows as well as anyone that there is still hard work ahead to move up the ranks.
#67 ALPHONSO DAVIES (AGE: 15, HOMETOWN: EDMONTON, AB)
Much publicity has been made of Alphonso Davies age – at 15-years-old, he’s the youngest professional soccer player in North America. But for a teenager, he hasn’t looked out of place.
He joined the Residency program last year and made his pro debut, and first start, at Portland last weekend. He nearly scored as well, denied on a second half breakaway. That followed a preseason spent with the first team in Arizona, one where he began to turn heads. That included an assist in a preseason win over Houston Dynamo. But Davies isn’t getting ahead of himself, he knows he needs to stay humble and continue working hard to raise his game to the next level.
#64 THOMAS GARDNER (AGE 18, HOMETOWN: NORTH VANCOUVER, BC)
When you talk about attacking midfield prospects at the club, Marco Bustos’ name is often mentioned – and he’s been stepping his game up this year. But one of the next in line at that position is North Vancouver’s Thomas Gardner.
A player who loves the ball at his feet and is great at spraying passes around the field. At 5-foot-9, he’s not one of the bigger players on the pitch, but he does well to get himself into good positions to either set-up his teammates, or score himself as he nearly did when he hit the post in the season opener. That game was his first pro start, which he followed with a second pro start in Portland last weekend. He’s started well, and will need to continue to put in work in a very competitive attacking corps on the team.
Don't miss the 2016 WFC2 home opener this coming Sunday, April 10 at Thunderbird Stadium. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster or at whitecapsfc.com/wfc2/tickets, or if you're an MLS season ticket member redeem your vouchers through Account Manager.