One of the hot topics amongst fans at Residency games is always which players do we think can go on and become professional footballers, either with the Whitecaps MLS squad or somewhere else in the world.
Last year we put together a Top 20 countdown of who we felt were the top prospects in the Whitecaps Residency program and how we would rank them, looking at only the then current U16s and U18s (who had not signed a MLS contract).
We’re going to make this a yearly list and have tweaked it a little this year, bringing you a Top Ten ‘Ones To Watch’ countdown, along with a special note to those just bubbling under and missing the cut. We complete the countdown today with a look at the Top Five (you can read part one, featuring numbers 6 to 10, HERE), along with a look at the youngest players who could be taking the next step in the program and we revisit some of last year’s Top 20 and take a look at where they are now.
The following rankings are a snapshot of where the players 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. Included in this review is an independent coach/scout who has seen the Residency players in action on a number of occasions. We feel there is no reason for any of the lower ranked or unranked players couldn’t develop into future professionals.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP:
We looked at some of the players currently just bubbling under the Top Ten in part one, but the Whitecaps also have a number of players that are coming up through the ranks who by next season may find themselves a spot in the Top 10.
Midway through this season Alex Comsia made the move up to the U18 side where he saw limited action but proved his ability with the U17 Canadian side in Panama. While most local supporters knew how talented Matthew Chow was, he became known to a nation when he showed his abilities at U17 World Cup qualifying.
The leading scorer for the U16s Dario Zanatta will make the move up one level where he will compete for a starting spot as an attacking midfielder/striker. Both Thomas Gardner and David Norman Jr are 98s who should return to the U16 team for a second year as regular starters. With Carducci moving up one level, the team will most likely look to Ottawa native Aidan Aylward to be their number one keeper.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?:
Before we get to this year’s Top Five let’s take a look back at the players who were part of the countdown last year and have left the academy program.
Midfielder Sebastian Cabrera started the season with the U18s but decided to move to Chile to continue his development while Sadi Jalali returned to FC Edmonton and signed a professional contract.
Former left back Adam Polakiewicz moved to Poland and signed with Slask Wroclaw of the top division before he returned to Canada and joined KW United FC of the PDL. On the other side of the backline Declan Rodriguez went the NCAA route with the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, where he earned conference 2nd team honours.
Last season Wesley Cain led the NAIA’s University of Northwestern Ohio with ten goals which led to a transfer to NCAA Division 1 Wright State. Staying local Alex Rowley started 19 of 20 games for SFU where he earned a Conference honourable mention.
The biggest breakout season was by Ben McKendry who scored seven goals ranking him among the top 15 by freshman and earning him Conference newcomer of the year and a place in the NCAA 2nd all-freshman team by several publications. The freshman year wasn’t as successful for keeper Callum Irving who was unable to win the starter’s spot and only started three games, but will be looking to reclaim that spot next season.
Defender Daniel Stanese started the season at Florida Gulf Coast, where he earned a spot on the 2nd team in the southeast region, moved to FC Nurnberg U19 in January and now has transferred to FC Augsburg II for next season. Our number one player in the countdown, Ben Fisk, went through a couple of trials in Germany before deciding to join Charleston Battery on loan where he had an impact start to the season before hitting the injury wall. He is back in Vancouver rehabbing and still hopes to be able to see some more playing time before the end of the season.
You can find all the details of our 2012 countdown HERE
2013 ‘ONES TO WATCH’ TOP FIVE
5 – Spencer DeBoice
HOMETOWN: Surrey, BC
STATS: 26GP, 22GS, 11G
ANALYSIS: It was a struggle early on for DeBoice as he had some big shoes to fill taking over for Ben Fisk at the left sided winger position. However he picked up his game in the second half of the season contributing offensively especially when Huitema went down with an injury. DeBoice is a very quick hardworking wing player who can take on defenders and either beat them into the box or deliver a cross into danger areas.
OUTLOOK: For at least one season he will be staying local and joins the SFU program that plays in NCAA Division 2.
SCOUT’S TAKE: “Spencer really came on as the year went on and showed more confidence when he takes on defenders in 1v1 battles. He should really excel next year with SFU where they play a high tempo style that suits his particular skills.”
4 – Jackson Farmer
HOMETOWN: Edmonton, AB
STATS: 26GP, 26GS, 1G
ANALYSIS: One of the most consistent performers on the U18 team, Farmer took over from the year before as the captain on the pitch and leader of the backline. He is a physical player who is filling into his large build which hasn’t affected his technical ability on the ball. Farmer is very effective defensively whether it’s in the air, on his feet or when he takes away the ball with a slide tackle.
OUTLOOK: While he is eligible to return for another season with the U18s there is a chance Farmer leaves for college or be loaned out by the Caps to get playing time with another club.
SCOUT’S TAKE: “He is an extremely smooth player for a physical defender of his size. Jackson might be the least known residency player since he makes every play look so easy and rarely makes a mistake.”
3 – Marco Bustos
HOMETOWN: Winnipeg, MB
STATS: 21GP, 15GS, 7G (U18) / 5GP, 5GS, 2G (U16)
ANALYSIS: It was clear early on in the season that Bustos was too dominant on the U16 team so the Caps decided to move him up a year early to the U18s. Once he joined the senior squad the Winnipeg native became the engine of the team, similar to what he did for the U17 Canadian team that qualified for the World Cup. Bustos is a tireless worker who is excellent on the ball in tight spaces and is capable of scoring in multiple ways as well as setting up teammates.
OUTLOOK: While it is expected that he will return to the U18s for another season, there is a chance for him to explore other options.
SCOUT’S TAKE: “A truly dynamic player who could become the best player from this season’s group of academy players. The biggest improvement in his game is the high work rate which combined with his skills makes him a very dangerous attacking player.”
2 – Sam Adekugbe
HOMETOWN: Calgary, AB
STATS: 25GP, 25GS, 2G
ANALYSIS: As his stock rises Adekugbe continues to show enough skill and
athletic ability that could make him the next homegrown signing for the Caps. The left back not only played for the U18s but has also started for the U23 PDL side and has a couple of starts for the Whitecaps reserves against MLS competition. Adekugbe is a solid defender who is very aggressive on his runs down the left side and delivers a solid cross into the box.
OUTLOOK: It doesn’t seem like he will be going the college route instead going pro with the Whitecaps with a possibility to play with the U18s or going out on loan.
SCOUT’S TAKE: “Of all the players in the academy he might be the most ready to go pro in MLS because of the maturity he demonstrates in his play. Sam has an excellent base of skill and talent but like most young players he will need to work on the defensive part of his game.”
1 – Brody Huitema
HOMETOWN: Chilliwack, BC
STATS: 22GP, 18GS, 26G
ANALYSIS: There was absolute no drop off in the play of Huitema as he moved up to the U18 level this season. He had a better season when it came to goals per game compared to the outstanding year that earned Caleb Clarke a contract in 2011-12. When it comes to finishing his chances Huitema is capable of doing it several ways whether in the air, from in close or from distance.
OUTLOOK: He will be heading to the NCAA Division 1 ranks where he has accepted a scholarship to Duke located in North Carolina.
SCOUT’S TAKE: “I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to keep up his goal scoring as he moved up but he exceeded my expectations. The Whitecaps may need to break the bank if they want to retain him because Brody will get quite a bit of attention from European clubs.”
And that’s it for our 2013 countdown. An interesting crop this year and it will be interesting to see where both the 2012 and 2013 noted players will be playing this time next year and how their development has gone.