These past seven seasons we have put together our annual ‘Ones To Watch’ list of who we feel are the top Residency players within the Vancouver Whitecaps system (you can find links to all the previous years at the bottom of this article). Our U17 “One To Watch” list came out on Saturday, and today we’re bringing you the U19s.
With the reclassification of age levels by USSDA the U19 team, previously known as U18, had a number of holdovers from 2016-17. This meant that there were eight players from last season’s lists that were eligible and in fact all five below placed last year in the two separate rankings.
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, as has been shown in years past.
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.
We were able to talk to an independent expert to evaluate the top prospects on the U19 team and they helped us come up with this year’s ranking based on both our thoughts and their comments.
So, without any further ado, let’s continue AFTN’s Vancouver Whitecaps Residency Ones To Watch 2018 Edition with a look at the U19s, who finished the regular season as the tenth ranked team in the USSDA after finishing second in the Northwestern Division, topping their playoff group with three wins out of three and booking a place in next month’s semi-finals after today’s 1-0 quarter-final win over Sockers SC.
(1) MICHAEL BALDISIMO
Year of Birth: 2000
Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
2017/18 Stats: 25 GP / 23 GS / 4 G
Background: Another season and Baldisimo returns to the top spot of our rankings. He has been with the Residency program since 2011, and signed a USL deal with the ‘Caps in March 2017 before rejoining the team full time after WFC2 disbanded. He represented Canada at the international level most recently at the Toulon Tournament in France.
Strengths: He uses his excellent first touch to control possession in the middle of the pitch and then uses his vision and awareness to send the right ball, whether it be a short or long pass, to his teammates. Baldisimo puts himself in the right position defensively to break up attacks and is willing to put in a solid tackle when needed.
Opportunities: In order to make himself an even more of an all round player Baldisimo will need to become more proactive in moving up the field and get involved in the attack.
Projection: The Whitecaps will have three options for Baldisimo as he could either remain with the U19 for another season, move on to Fresno in the USL and join his brother or sign with the a MLS contract.
(2) THEO BAIR
Year of Birth: 1999
Hometown: Ottawa, ON
2017/18 Stats: 32 GP / 28 GS / 23 G
Background: Since joining the program in 2015 Bair has become a dangerous striker who works hard at his craft. He has really risen to the occasion in this year’s USSDA playoffs, scoring in six goals in the ‘Caps three group games, and the winner in today’s 1-0 quarter-final win over Sockers SC. Along with Baldisimo, he represented Canada at the Toulon tournament where he scored a goal against Japan.
Strengths: Bair is a pure athlete showing both power and speed when trying to break down the opposition backline. He is a quality finisher when he gets his chances and is able to score in multiple ways.
Opportunities: While he is a great finisher, Bair can even expand his repertoire by using his athletic traits to become an aerial threat to score goals on set pieces and crosses in the box.
Projection: While he has made a verbal commitment to the University of Vermont (as you can read HERE), there is a chance Bair could turn professional, whether with the ‘Caps or with a look towards the CPL.
(3) THOMAS HASAL
Year of Birth: 1999
Hometown: Saskatoon, SK
2017/18 Stats: 14 GP / 14 GS / 5 CS
Background: In his second season with the senior Residency team Hasal seems to have established himself as the next goalkeeper to be developed by the program.
Strengths: The Saskatchewan native excels at being a athletic shot stopper when manning the posts. He is also very good at organizing his backline when defending and assists the attack with distribution.
Opportunities: Similar to most young goalkeepers as they climb the ladder, Hasal will have to continually work on being more assertive in the box and establish his physicality.
Projection: The Whitecaps will have to find a new avenue for Hasal to develop as he could either go to college, join Fresno of the USL, or be loaned out elsewhere.
(4) JOSE HERNANDEZ
Year of Birth: 2000
Hometown: Edmonton, AB
2017/18 Stats: 31 GP / 23 GS / 22 G
Background: In his first season with the senior Residency squad, Hernandez recovered from a slowish start but then didn’t miss a beat as he once again led the team with 22 goals (as you can read HERE).
Strengths: With his goal totals at the higher level he has once again proven to be a pure goal scorer. He is a finisher in whichever position he plays up front and has an ability to find the net. Hernandez is an extremely hard worker and will constantly chase down the ball the from the opposing side.
Opportunities: He will need to improve in holding up the ball and keep possession so his teammates can join him in the attack.
Projection: While college is an option, the Edmontonian will most likely use his gap year to stay with the Residency program with turning pro continuing to be his focus. He wants to get a MLS deal and another season banging in the goals as he has been doing and he will be hard for the Whitecaps to ignore.
(5) JAKE RUBY
Year of Birth: 2000
Hometown: North Vancouver, B.C.
2017/18 Stats: 29 GP / 26 GS / 1 G
Background: Ruby has made a smooth transition to the U19 level after joining the program at the beginning of the 2016/17 season and getting to last year’s Final Four with the U16s. He was one of four Whitecaps called up by Canada for the recent Toulon Tournament in France.
Strengths: He is an excellent representation of the modern day fullback who loves to join the attack and is accurate with his crosses. In addition to his ability in going forward, he’s no slouch in the defensive third as he can take on attackers in one on one situations.
Opportunities: One of the things that Ruby will continue to work on is choosing the right path on getting up the field, whether it is a pass or dribbling past the opposing players.
Projection: Ruby has one more year of eligibility in the Residency program, if he chooses to do so, before deciding on the college or pro route as his next step. He has been involved with first team training sessions this year, so the ‘Caps are clearly keen on him for the future.