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. Part one today takes a look at those players along with those taking the 6 to 10 spots in the countdown.
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.
10 - Sean Melvin
HOMETOWN: Victoria, BC
STATS: 14GP, 14GS, 6CS
ANALYSIS: Coming into this year Melvin was returning from an injury that cost him the entire 2011-12 season. As he worked his way back this season he has split duties with Nolan Wirth but has also made appearances for the Whitecaps U23 squad in PDL and been a regular at training with the MLS team. The starting keeper for the U18s has excellent length and athletic ability as well as good command of the box on crosses.
OUTLOOK: Melvin will be graduating this season from the Residency and we have heard he may be heading to the college ranks with North Carolina Tar Heels in NCAA Division 1.
SCOUT’S TAKE: "Melvin is an excellent keeper prospect who had his development slow down due to an unfortunate injury. He needs to find a place next season where he can play full time and continue to learn the position because he has the athletic ability."
9 - Kianz Gonzalez-Froese
HOMETOWN: Brunkilo, MB
STATS: 16GP, 11GS, 2G
ANALYSIS: While still eligible for the U16 program Froese started the season one level up with the U18s after playing PDL the year before. It’s been a difficult season for the central midfielder as he has had to deal with injuries and fitness issues that saw miss games and a trip to the U17 World Cup qualifiers in Panama with Canada. Froese is capable of playing as a holding midfielder or an attacking one. He is strong on the ball and has the vision to play both positions.
OUTLOOK: The Manitoba native should return to Residency where he will be a key player for the U18 team next year.
SCOUT’S TAKE: "He looked to be on an upswing after the way he burst onto the scene last year but injuries and inconsistency has derailed him. Kianz is still an exciting young player and he has the ability to be one of the best players to come out of the Residency program."
8 - Jordan Haynes
HOMETOWN: Peterborough, ON
STATS: 7GP, 3GS, 1G (U18) / 18GP, 17GS, 2G (U16)
ANALYSIS: Having started the season with the U16 Haynes has also spent time with the U18 playing either the fullback or wing position. He was a vital piece in the U17 Canadian side that qualified for the World Cup and finished third, especially with his goal in 119th minute against Honduras in the third place match. Haynes has pace on the wing and is capable of scoring as well as playing the role of provider from the left side.
OUTLOOK: He will return next year to be a full time starter on the U18 team where he will most likely play on the wing as a replacement for DeBoice.
SCOUT’S TAKE: "A quality young player who has really taken a big step forward this season especially with his performances for the national team. The big question for him is what will be his best position. Will he play as a fullback or as an attacking player in the midfield?"
7 - Yassin Essa
HOMETOWN: Surrey, BC
STATS: 27GP, 25GS, 18G
ANALYSIS: In his final season with the Residency, Essa saw himself take a leadership role with a youthful U18 side. During the season he would sometimes move inside to a striker role where he was able to take advantage of his ability to play in tight spaces as well as his finishing ability. Essa continues to show the speed and technical ability that makes him an intriguing prospect for the Whitecaps and has impressed playing PDL so far this season.
OUTLOOK: It will be highly unlikely that Essa will be going the college route so look for him to go pro either in North America or Europe, with continued development minutes a must.
SCOUT’S TAKE: "As usual one of the more exciting players on the pitch when you watch the Residency team especially when he takes players on in open space. All Yassin needs to do is improve his consistency and strength so he can continue to grow in his career."
6 - Marco Carducci
HOMETOWN: Calgary, AB
STATS: 4GP, 3GS, 2CS (U18) / 17GP, 16GS, 4CS (U16)
ANALYSIS: The reigning Canadian U17 'player of the year' has spent most the season as the leader of a very young U16 side that struggled this season. Carducci played a couple of games for the U18s earning two clean sheets in three starts as well as captaining the U17 Canadian team to a World Cup berth. He reads the play very well, is a good organizer of the backline and is an excellent shot stopper as he proved in the penalty shootout against Honduras.
OUTLOOK: Next season should see Carducci move up to the U18 side where he will compete with Nolan Wirth for the number one keeper duties.
SCOUT’S TAKE: "He’s still very young for a goalkeeper but what he has done so far shows what he is capable of becoming in the future. Very mature for his age and a leader on the pitch it’s difficult to imagine he won’t be a professional keeper."
Just Missing The Cut:
There were a number of players who just missed making the Top Ten list for Whitecaps Residency players this season. Injuries cost Carlos Marquez almost half the season and the striker was limited when he did return but the attacking player will be joining Langara College for a season where he'll look to continue his progress. Calgary native Mitch Piraux was the regular starter at holding mid where he plays a solid game and started contributing late in the season with some timely goals. A very athletic prospect Quinton Duncan is like most defender prospects who needs time to learn the particulars of the position and might be doing next year at an undisclosed NCAA college.
[Part Two of the countdown, featuring our top five, will be revealed on Saturday, but get an early sneak peak by listening to our latest podcast on Wednesday]