Vancouver Whitecaps’ training continued apace today. Not only did the sun come out for the first time this week, but it was joined by two players making their first training camp appearances of 2012.
Last season’s top scorer Camilo returned from Brazil, after a family illness, raring to go and with the imminent offer of a new, improved contract following his goalscoring exploits in 2011. Also making his first appearance in camp was South Korean defender Y-P Lee, who himself was returning to Vancouver after a family illness.
Both players saw limited training time today, with the goal being to have them gently ease back into things and avoid any unnecessary injuries after their long lay-off. They are expected to train a little bit more tomorrow and Monday, before the team heads down to Arizona for a ten day training camp in much warmer climes.
Of those that did the full session, there were a few standout performances and none more so than from Lee Nguyen, who scored a couple of cracking goals and showed not only a nice turn of pace, but also the willingness to go in for some tough tackles. He’s certainly a player I’m looking forward to seeing in an actual match.
With the 25 signed players going through their paces, safe(ish) in the knowledge that they have a MLS contract, for nine of those in camp, the key is to try and impress Martin Rennie and the coaching team enough to earn one of the few remaining spots.
Maltese striker Etienne Barbara is still expected to be a given to join the squad, and new assistant coach Jake DeClute told us after the game that he’s a little banged up at the moment, but should be good to go at full pace soon.
The Caps three Supplemental draft picks, and SuperDraft selectee Chris Estridge, have shown the odd glimpses of what has them here, but from what we’ve seen so far, none of them are standing out enough to be considered worthy of a MLS contract just yet.
What interests us a lot more than the draftees, is how well the three Whitecaps Residency guys do this week, and going forward in pre-season training.
Striker Caleb Clarke hasn’t done anything wrong, but equally hasn’t stood out so far, whilst goalkeeper Callum Irving had a great session today, with a string of fine saves and looked the much better keeper over draft pick Andrew Fontein. The last member of the Residency trio, forward Ben Fisk, has looked good all week, and took some nice goals in his group’s mini game this morning.
It’s great to see all three of these Vancouver born and bred players in the camp (technically Richmond in Clarke’s case) and hopefully adding to the homegrown talent of Russell Teibert and Bryce Alderson in the Caps MLS squad down the line.
How does Martin Rennie feel the Residency guys have done in camp so far?
”I think they’ve done well. I think Ben Fisk did really well today. His finishing was good and his movement was good.
The thing with the Residency guys is they’re used to playing at this kind of tempo. The way I like to do it, is the way that Richard [Grootscholten, the Caps Residency Technical Director] likes to do it, so they’ve kind of got a little advantage in that area, so they’ve all done well.”
Having later told Carl Valentine that Ben Fisk was the player that stood out most for him today, if the Caps do add another homegrown talent to the squad for this season, Fisk looks to be the prime candidate right now. Signing a MLS contract for his hometown Club must be his main footballing goal right now:
”Definitely. I’m going to be 19 this year. All my idols were playing in the first team when they were 19, so for me that’s what I want to try and do.”
How has Ben found the camp so far this week?
”It’s been good. It’s just really nice to be involved. I really like Martin and the coaching staff. For me, it’s really exciting.”
For a young prospect to be singled out by Martin Rennie as his stand out guy today, with all the more experienced talent out there, it must be a huge confidence boost. Does it mean a lot to hear that?
”Yeah, definitely. I’m one of the younger guys so it’s really nice to be recognised, but it’s got to be more than one good day. I got to keep that up for the whole camp.”
Tomorrow sees an 11 v 11 game to round off week one of training, and it’s a match that will allow Fisk, and all the others, to show in gametime action just what they can add to the Caps squad.
”A lot of it right now is just judging where the players fit together and seeing where we need extra players or extra characteristics or seeing where a guy maybe fits the bill or doesn’t.” was Rennie’s take on what he’s looking for out of tomorrow.
There’s still a lot to prove for many of the guys in camp right now. If Ben Fisk continues going the way he has in training, and with the Residency these last few seasons, then hopes are high that he will become the latest Canadian on the Whitecaps MLS squad.
We’re certainly rooting for him.