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Residency progression will be a key focus for new Whitecaps manager

As the search for Vancouver Whitecaps' new manager continues, one of the things that has become clear over the past week is that whoever ends up in the hotseat will be responsible for overseeing a more rapid progression of the Caps' younger talent from the Residency program to the MLS squad, and he will be held accountable if the developmental returns are not more plentiful to what we've already seen.

Whilst results, primarily the inability to achieve either of the club's two main goals on the pitch this season, were at the top of the list of reasons for Martin Rennie's dismissal, not far behind it was the failure to bring on the Caps budding young guns at an acceptable level.

The message is clear. Vancouver's footballing future lies with fully developing it's own homegrown talent more than the luck of the draw with draft picks.
It was a key role and expectation of the manager to do just that, as Bobby Lenarduzzi explained to us when Steve spoke with him after last week's press conference.

<i>"Our Head Coach in each of the three seasons, the priority was to get results on the pitch. But, we also wanted to ensure that the coach also understood that as a club it was important for us to develop players. We've invested a lot of money in to it."</i>

So will the new manager be getting the exact same message? Lenarduzzi says yes.

<i>"Ideally, that coach when he comes in, the same will apply. We need to get to the playoffs, we'd like to win an Amway Cup, but at the same time we'd also love to see more Sam Adekugbes and Russell Teiberts."</i>

For all of Rennie's talk about <i>"we've had a number of young players establish themselves in the group"</i>, the results in front of our eyes beg to differ, with the young players in the squad more often than not reduced to substitute roles, if they were even in the gameday 18 at all.

Although it's not where they would have ideally wanted it to be, has that "development" pleased the Caps and somewhat met the owners' ambitions?

<i>"We are relatively pleased that we now have two that have played, not significant minutes, but Russell has and it appears as if unless Sam's performance was a one off, he's capable of doing the same."</i>, was Lenarduzzi's thoughts on that, but what of Greg Kerfoot, who has spent a lot of money in setting up the Residency program to try and develop more Canadian talent?

<i>"I think he's excited that the development system is finally paying dividends."</i>

Of those young players in the current MLS squad, four have come through the Whitecaps Residency program but none of them have had an easy passage.

Russell Teibert was there before Rennie came on board and at one point seemed so far out of the picture that the widest angled lens in history would have struggled to pick him up. Bryce Alderson was signed, unplayed, injured and shipped off to Charleston. Caleb Clarke got a few minutes, deserved more, slipped down the pecking order and was eventually send on loan to Germany, where he has seemingly impressed. Sam Adekugbe was added late in the season, got to play due to a suspension and should have the chance to shine next season.

Add in Ben Fisk, who inexplicably can't find himself with a spot on a MLS squad full of strange additions who have somehow got themselves ahead of him, and there's not been a lot of role models and shining examples for the latest crop of Caps talent to take too much inspiration from.

Despite having their academy up and running long before they joined MLS, the Whitecaps have somewhat fallen behind some of their peers in bringing through the young players from there, not only into the first team but playing them.

All that should soon change and the new Caps boss will be tasked to make sure that it happens.

But will the philosophy and playing style of the Residency also change under a new coach? Or will the Residency coaches be allowed to continue their own development of the young talent?

<i>"Our philosophy is really for Gordon Forrest, our primary Residency coach, to make the players good players and to have those players be adaptable to different formations."</i> continued Lenarduzzi.

<i>"We haven't zeroed in on any one formation and I think for the time being we would limit our coach to come in, understand what's going on at the Residency level but focus your energies on ensuring that we give ourselves the best chance of success by making the playoffs and the Amway Cup."</i>

If senior players like Nigel Reo-Coker had their way, the introduction of more Residency players into the Caps MLS squad would be happening right now.

<i>"We've got a good bunch of young players all set to come through. I've seen some of these players in training, I'm excited about what the future holds for this club. It would be great if the fans could see what I see in training.

"There's a good bunch of lads who are playing right now in the Under 17 World Cup. For me it would be great if these guys were included in the squad for next season. Even though they're young, my mentality is if they're good enough, they're old enough, and I'd love to see them involved in the first team next year, getting some games. Regardless if they're 16, 17. these kids can play."</i>

As a young player, and Residency graduate, who has made the breakthrough into being a semi regular starter in the first team, does Russell Teibert feel that's realistic to expect?

<i>"Absolutely. You saw it with Sam. He came in and did fantastic. Showed his quality and showed that he can play at this level. Sam is just the tip of the iceberg, I think there's a more to come."</i>

Anyone who's watched any Residency, PDL and even Reserve games these last two years knows that this is the case.

It's now up to the new Whitecaps manager to make it happen.
<i>[You can find out for yourself just how good the current up and coming crop of Caps talent is by taking in the Residency's final home game of 2013 this coming Saturday at Percy Perry Stadium in Coquitlam. It's a Cascadia derby as Portland Timbers come to town. The U18s kick off at noon and the U16's at 2.30pm. Get out and support the future and see the Whitecaps' MLS stars of tomorrow, today.]</i>