Over the past five seasons we have put together our annual ‘Ones To Watch’ list of who we feel are the top Residency players within the Whitecaps system (You can find links to all the previous years at the bottom of this article).
The basis of the feature is to highlight those players who have had a combination of a standout season and have shown potential to move up the ranks of football, whether still as Whitecaps or elsewhere.
As per every year, the following is a snapshot of where the players currently are in their development, combined with the potential they show to develop into professional footballers. Because potential is so hard to predict, it is not an even measurable with the player’s current status. We feel there isn’t a reason any of the players not mentioned in this piece couldn’t develop into future professionals.
Players develop at different rates. Some are ready to join the pros as soon as they graduate youth football, while others really benefit by having another few years of growth and development, while also getting an education behind them at college.
There was a lot of upheaval again in the Residency sides this past season, with players moving up from the U18s to the MLS and USL sides, while others have left the program midway through the season. That meant a number of U18 fringe players stepped up and several U16 players moved up, with many of the latter playing for both teams over the course of the season.
We’ve gone back to numerically ranking the players this year and back to separate U16 and U18 listings. Any player who has already signed a pro contract with the ‘Caps MLS or USL sides is automatically excluded.
Our U16 “One To Watch” list came out last month, and we’re bringing you the U18 one today, very late we know, but we finally got Steve to stop watching wrestling videos on You Tube to get it finished!
The Whitecaps are currently announcing their Residency rosters for the 2016/17 season. There will be a number of changes again, with only three U18 players returning to this year’s roster, due to graduations, college, and a general freshening up of the squad.
Last season’s group went all the way to the USSDA Championship game before losing a heartbreaker late in extra time to FC Dallas, after being mere minutes away from lifting the trophy in the 90 minutes.
It’s a very talented all-round group, possibly the strongest one potential-wise that the Whitecaps have produced. Certainly rivalling the Class of 2012. A number of the U18 squad have already earned USL contracts, with many committing to college and getting their first NCAA seasons underway in the coming days.
This is very much a U18 group that is one to watch.
(1) DAVID NORMAN
Position: Central Midfielder
Year of Birth: 1998
Hometown: Coquitlam, BC
2015/16 Stats: 26 GP – 20 GS – 6 G
Background: Norman has been with the organization since the age of nine, starting out with the Whitecaps Prospects team and working his way up to his final year of Residency this past season, where he captained the U18 side. Was named Whitecaps named Young Player of the Year in 2014 and has been involved with the Canadian national team at all youth age groups.
Strengths: Playing in a holding role, he has shown that he very strong in his tackles, playing a very physical game as well as possessing a high soccer IQ.
Opportunities: Like many young players his age, Norman will need to continue learning how to manage the match and feeling its pulse. His aggressive style is pleasing, that’s passion many in the Whitecaps first team need to show, but it may see him have to hone his game if it falls under the auspices of MLS or USL PRO referees!
Projection: Now graduated from the Residency program, the midfielder will attend Oregon State University, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he doesn’t complete all four seasons and will be tempted to pursue the pro ranks whether in MLS with the Whitecaps or abroad.
FURTHER READING: Ten Count with David Norman
(2) GLOIRE AMANDA
Year of Birth: 1998
Hometown: Edmonton, AB
2015/16 Stats: 33 GP – 27 GS – 17 G
Background: The Edmontonian joined the Whitecaps Residency program two years ago after having spent a year with the FC Edmonton reserve team. Can play as an attacking midfielder, winger or striker. Has been involved with the Canadian U18 national team.
Strengths: Amanda has a very high work rate and connects well with his teammates on the pitch whether he plays as a striker or winger.
Opportunities: Similar to many young players in his position, Amanda will have to become a more consistent finisher in order to capitalize his speed. He will get the chance to work on just with the U18’s main this coming season.
Projection: Gloire will be one of just three players returning to the Whitecaps U18 side this coming season, and the only one from our ‘Ones To Watch’ list. The ‘Caps will look for him to be become a leader, as well as possibly their main scoring threat. If he continues his upward trajectory, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him offered a USL deal next year.
FURTHER READING: Ten Count with Gloire Amanda
(3) VANA MARKARIAN
Position: Centre Back
Year of Birth: 1997
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
2015/16 Stats: 33 GP – 29 GS – 4 G
Background: Born in Iran, Markarian’s family moved to Canada at a young age, settling in Ontario. He joined the Residency program midway through the 2014-15 season as a holding mid. He transitioned to the backline this past season, and had a stellar year, scoring the ‘Caps goal in the USSDA Championship game with a beautiful finish. Has captained the Whitecaps and the Canadian national team at U16 and U18 levels.
Strengths: Having played in a midfield role before, his distribution skills and calmness on the ball are very good for a defender.
Opportunities: Markarian will need to improve on his communication skills and physicality, which will come as he gets more time at the new position.
Projection:The Ontario native heads back east and is about to start his Freshman year at Columbia University in New York City, where the Whitecaps will keep a close eye on his progress over the next few years.
(4) DANIEL SAGNO
Year of Birth: 1998
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba
2015/16 Stats: 34 GP – 27 GS – 10 G
Background: Sagno just finished his fourth season and final season with the Whitecaps Residency, after joining the program in 2012 from Manitoba. Has been capped by the Canadian national team at several youth levels now.
Strengths: With his special skill set, Sagno has the ability to create special moments at the drop of a hat as he attacks the net from the wide areas.
Opportunities: Sagno will have to work at becoming a more consistent player in his performances, which is typical of most young attacking players with a lot of pace. You just have to look at the likes of Kekuta Manneh to know that’s not something that comes with ease.
Projection: Sagno committed to Washington University back in February, but is not currently listed on their 2016 roster, so we’re currently unsure what’s happening there.But he has a talent that should be in demand.
FURTHER READING: Daniel Sagno interview
(5) ANDRE BAIRES
Position: Centre Back
Year of Birth: 1997
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
2015/16 Stats: 33 GP – 26 GS – 6 G
Background: Baires joined the Whitecaps in 2013-14 season and split his first season between the U16 and U18 teams. He has played at a number of positions before settling at centre half. His performances have caught the eye of the Canadian national team, where he has been capped at U15, U16 and U20 levels.
Strengths: With his big frame, the defender brings a physical presence to the backline but holds his own when it comes to being technical on the ball.
Opportunities: Baires will need work on his communication skills and improve his ability to manage the game from the back if he is to make the jump up to the pro game.
Projection: He will be leaving the program in order to join the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in the NCAA for his Freshman year. Like Markarian, the ‘Caps will be keeping a close eye on him to see how he fares at the next level.
FURTHER READING: Ten Count with Andre Baires
EDITORIAL TAKE ON THOSE JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP FIVE
As mentioned, we didn’t include any players that were signed to professional contracts so guys like Terran Campbell, Thomas Gardner, Kadin Chung and others will not be showing up on this list.
The goalkeeper position is very hard to judge at this age, and is one we’ve rarely included in these countdowns as a result. So neither Aidan Aylward or Luciano Trasolini have been included, but both have an excellent chance to be another future pro in the ‘Caps impressive keeper pipeline.
After splitting time for the past couple of seasons, Trasolini is leaving the program to head to college with Cal Poly, while Aylward is one of the three returning U18 players and will be the number one ‘keeper for this season. For Aylward (pictured below) this comes on the back of an outstanding performance in the USSDA Championship game against Dallas, where he made a number of world class saves.
Many asked about Michael Baldisimo and why he wasn’t listed in the U16 ‘Ones to Watch’. While he did start the season on that team, Baldisimo was elevated to U18 mid season which makes him an honourable mention for this list.
Baldisimo has impressed this year and is definitely a player with a very bright future in the Whitecaps organization. It’s hard to see him not following in his brother Matthew’s footsteps and signing a USL deal, sooner rather than later. He’s already received a Residency call-up to WFC2, playing eight minutes as a late sub.
Like in other years we have ranked the players but in no way is anything set in stone when it comes to analysing these young players. A perfect example of this is our 2012 ranking where Ben McKendry was ranked seventh and is now close to seeing his MLS debut, after impressing with the USL team.