Callum Irving has been involved with the Whitecaps youth set up since 2007.
The 19 year old has improved and developed year on year and earned his first call up to the national team program in 2011.
Many consider him to be the best young goalkeeper in the country at his age group and fully expect him to be Canada’s number one keeper down the line, hopefully still as a Whitecap.
We caught up with Callum just before he headed off to Dallas for a quick chat and started by asking him how he felt about this week’s USSDA playoffs:
“I’m extremely excited,” Irving told AFTN. “It’s something I’ve looked forward to the whole year, something we’ve been working towards, so now that they’re finally here, just extremely excited and anxious to get started.”
The U18s are the top seeds in their group and as the only Divisional winners have the favourites tag. In USSDA though, as is often the case with all playoffs, once the regular season is over and it’s all to play for, it’s almost a level playing field.
The Caps experienced that themselves on Monday, agonisingly losing their first match 3-2 against the eighth place wild card side, and defending Champions, Pateadores.
With a lot of unknowns in a playoff week like this, how do the team prepare themselves for the matches?
“I think we just need to take every game as it comes,” Irving said. “No matter who we’re playing, we have a certain way of playing. We don’t really worry about how they’re going to play as much if we don’t know the teams. If it was a first place team, a second place team, fourth place team, we’re going to approach it the exact same way.”
Callum has taken big steps with the Whitecaps this year.
As the first choice starting keeper for the U18s he has made 21 appearances this season and kept five clean sheets. He recorded another one in yesterday’s 4-0 playoff win over Weston.
The last two seasons have seen him as a regular starter with the PDL side and he has been training regularly with the MLS squad both this year and last.
How does he feel his play has developed this season training with the first team squad?
“I think it’s helped me mature a lot in the net,” Irving told us. “As a goalie, experience is something that’s very important, and to learn from somebody like Joe Cannon and Brad Knighton, who are very experienced goalkeepers, helps a lot. So I think every facet of my game has improved a lot.”
When we spoke to former Whitecaps technical director, Richard Grootscholten, back in May, he was very complimentary about the attitude of Callum, Bryce Alderson, and Caleb Clarke, in coming back to train with the U18s after training with the first team.
For a young player like Callum, is it important to not get too ahead of yourself?
“Yeah I think so,” Irving said. “You always have to try and stay grounded as a player and realise that the only way you’re going to be successful is from hard work.
“So no matter where you’re training, what team your playing with, you have to put in the same kind of work you’d put in with a professional team, with the national team, with any team. So I think if you have that kind of work rate you’re going to be successful, so that’s what I try to focus on.”
He’s certainly not afraid to put in the hard work in training.
The day we caught up with him he had just done a two hour training session with the MLS team in the morning, had a ninety minute break, and was all set to put in another two hours with the Residency team.
There’s commitment to your career.
And talking of which, what are Callum’s long term goals?
“I want to play professional soccer,” Irving said. “I would love to play for the Whitecaps, but that’s something that would happen in the future, I’m not really looking at that right now. I’m kind of focussing on everything as it comes. My long term goal is to play for the national team and to play professional soccer.”
His immediate future is going to take him out of the Whitecaps set-up and into pastures new, as he goes to play university football in Kentucky later this year.
For someone like myself, who knows nothing about the college soccer scene, why Kentucky?
“The school made a good offer for me to come there and put together a good package for me,” Irving told us. “To be able to play games right away, hopefully, is an important thing as a goalie.
“They also have some great strength programs and great facilities there so they can help me mature physically. It just seemed like the right fit for me at this point of my career.”
We’re sure it will be and all of us at AFTN wish him all the very best for the next stage of his footballing career.
Having seen Callum grow with the Caps over the last three years, it’s going be strange not to see him, and others from this year’s U18 team, on the pitch in a Whitecaps uniform next season.
The Whitecaps coaching staff, past and present, are all very high on Callum as a player and in his abilities to go far in the game.
He’s definitely one that all Canadian fans should be watching, because it won’t be a surprise to those of us here on the west coast when we do see him run out for the national team in a World Cup qualifier one day.