There was a familiar face back in town two weekends ago when former Whitecap Deklan Wynne lined up for Colorado Rapids against his former side at B.C. Place. It was a happy homecoming for the Kiwi defender. One that saw him leaving with all three points after a hard fought 1-0 victory.
The 23-year-old New Zealand international joined the Whitecaps in August 2015, spending just over two seasons in the USL with WFC2, where he made 35 appearances and tallied two goals and an assist.
Injury and international appearances had disrupted Wynne’s time with the ‘Caps in the USL, but the talented left back had seen first team action in the 2017 Canadian Championship semi-final against Montreal and Carl Robinson pegged him as one for the future for the Whitecaps in MLS.
And he nearly got that chance, before the Rapids came in for him.
“I did actually sign with Vancouver at the end of the season, right when the USL season ended,” Wynne told AFTN. “So I was meant to come back [to the Whitecaps], but I ended up getting traded.”
Vancouver sent Wynne to Colorado in December in exchange for $100,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and the retention of 20% of any future transfer fee. I’m always disappointed when the ‘Caps lose some talent, but at the same time, it was definitely the right move for the Kiwi.
Wynne would have struggled to get playing time here this season, fighting for limited minutes with Brett Levis as the back-up left back. Instead he’s gone to Colorado as a starter and played every minute of their 18 MLS matches so far this year.
It was a move that also saw him reuniting with his former national team boss Anthony Hudson. His appointment as Rapids head coach in November paved the way for Wynne’s move, and he acted quickly to bring a defender he trusted and believed in to Colorado.
“When I was back in New Zealand [after the season], I got a call from the assistant coach and he said they were interested in bringing me there,” Wynne revealed. “But there was nothing sorted yet. So I thought, okay, if that doesn’t work out I was going to come back to Vancouver for the preseason. Obviously it’s worked out and I’ve played every minute. It’s something I wasn’t expecting to do, but it’s been a great move.”
Hudson knows Wynne well and feels he has a good career ahead of him. He may only be 23-years-old, but Wynne has a wealth of international experience behind him having played with New Zealand at the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup and with the senior side at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
Wynne has been described as having a cultured left foot, but it’s also his versatility on the pitch that attracts Hudson. We may have known the Kiwi here for his play up the left wing, but he’s been used in a far different role in Colorado as part of the Rapids three at the back formation.
“This is what people probably don’t know about Deklan,” Hudson told AFTN. “He’s a left back or a left wing back and he’s played all season with us as a right sided centre back. I think every game he’s grown. He’s grown physically. Vancouver tried to put Davies on him and different things on that side and I think he stood up to the challenge incredibly well. He’s a young player who has grown immensely. I have no worries about Dek. Dek’s going to be a fantastic footballer for us.”
It’s been a tough first season in Colorado for Hudson, Wynne, and the rest of the Rapids, but the signs have been there recently that things might be turning around. One loss in their first five matches seemed to set the team up for a good season, before an eight game losing streak severely derailed that.
The victory in Vancouver was the second of two back to back road wins for Colorado, and took an unbeaten run to three matches. In a league like MLS it only takes stringing a few results together to climb up the standings.
“That’s exactly what the coach said after got the 2-2 draw with Chicago,” Wynne concurred. “He said that was the turning point and we went and proved that with the two wins after that. We just had to get one result to get out of it and now we just want to push on.”
But the push looks to have stalled again this past week. A disappointing 2-1 home loss on July 4th to Seattle was followed by a defeat by the same scoreline in Montreal on Saturday.
That’s left Colorado sitting second bottom in the Western Conference, 11 points behind Vancouver, who are clinging onto that last playoff place. The belief in the Rapids locker room is that they can still turn things around this season. The hope was that the victory in Vancouver was a key part of that turning point as they closed in on the red line. It may have not proved to be that, at least not yet, but coming back up to the city was an enjoyable experience for Wynne, made all the sweeter by the three points.
“To go there, my old team and just knowing everyone, and to go there and get the win, it was amazing.” Wynne told us. “Obviously we had a bad run. We lost eight games but now that we’ve got a couple of wins we’re hopeful we can continue that.”
The trip also gave Wynne the chance to catch up with some old friends and enjoy the city he called home for over two years. But the nature loving New Zealander is loving life in Colorado, although he does still miss some things here in Vancouver.
“I’m very happy there,” Wynne said. “It’s a good place to live. There’s actually quite a lot of things to do. Something I miss though is the beach. We have the beach here, I had it in New Zealand, but there’s good lakes and there’s good outdoor stuff, so I’ve settled in and it’s going well.”