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Stinson: Stefan Leslie, blurb on Dale Mitchell


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Leslie's stock on rise: Versatile teenager makes most of relief opportunities

Dan Stinson

Vancouver Sun

641 words

23 June 2006

Vancouver Sun




Copyright © 2006 Vancouver Sun

Stefan Leslie has come a long way in a very short time on the Canadian soccer scene.

Last year, the 18-year-old Richmond native was playing in almost total anonymity with the Vancouver Whitecaps reserve team in the Pacific Coast Soccer League.

Signed by the Whitecaps first team on April 19, Leslie has made five appearances in this United Soccer Leagues First Division season and is knocking on the door for a place with Canada's under-20 national side.

Leslie's emergence as regular player with the Caps in his rookie year is partly due to the team's injury problems. Four players --forwards Jason Jordan, Eddy Sebrango and Corey Woolfolk, plus midfielder Alfredo Valente -- continue to nurse injuries as the Caps head into a Sunday game against the Puerto Rico Islanders at Swangard Stadium.

Leslie's playing time includes three starts. And although Leslie is still looking for his first USL point, head coach Bob Lilley has confidence in the youngster's ability to contribute.

"Stefan's a very fit young man who plays heads-up soccer and hasn't looked out of place," says Lilley. "He's played mostly as a forward, but his versatility is such that I can also slot him in midfield or as a defender. I think he's got a very bright future in this game."

A graduate of North Surrey Secondary School, Leslie made an impact in his earlier teenage years at the 2004 Canadian under-16 championships, helping the B.C. team win the silver medal. He also played for an under-18 national development team last summer in an exhibition game against New Zealand at Kelowna.

"It's just hard work and never giving up," says the 5-11, 160-pound Leslie. "I've stayed positive in my career and worked hard to become a better player."

Dale Mitchell, head coach of Canada's under-20 team, has selected Leslie to the squad of 18 players for exhibition games against the U.S. under-20 national team July 7 in Toronto and July 9 in Kingston, Ont. Leslie will also attend a six-day training camp with the national team, starting July 1.

"Some of our players will be training with their European teams at that time, and I want to have a look at some new guys," Mitchell says. "Stefan has played quite a few different positions in his career, but I don't know yet where he'll play with us. The most important thing is that he's training every day in a professional environment with the Whitecaps. It's certainly helped his development as a player."

Mitchell says it's too early to make a decision whether Leslie will play for Canada in the FIFA under-20 men's world championship tournament in July 2007. The tournament will be played in six Canadian cities, including Burnaby's Swangard Stadium.

"I'll have a squad of 22 players for the tournament and there's a core group of guys I'm comfortable with right now," Mitchell says. "That leaves a number of spots open to guys like Stefan. I'll be watching him closely over the next year and make a decision on his status as we get nearer to the tournament."

GOAL DUST: Mitchell has been widely touted as the leading candidate for head coach of Canada's senior national men's team since Frank Yallop's resignation on June 7. "Am I interested in the job? Yes." says Mitchell. "Has anybody contacted me about it? No. Nobody from the Canadian Soccer Association has contacted me."


Photo: Stefan Leslie is seeing regular playing time filling in for several Whitecaps regulars who are nursing injuries.

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Good to see Pacific Coast Soccer League players moving up to USL First Division play. Diaz Kambere is another Whitecaps Reserve PCSL player who has done well when playing in the first team. Does anybody know what's happened to Andrew Corrazza, clearly he didn't catch on with the senior Whitecaps team?

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