Caleb Clarke, superstar, now he's a Whitecaps conference all-star. (Benjamin Massey/Eighty Six Forever)
Congratulations are due to two young Vancouver Whitecaps. Bryce Alderson and Caleb Clarke were today named to the USSDA U-18 West Conference Team of the Year at midfield and forward, respectively.
Clarke and Alderson were the only Whitecaps honoured in the USSDA's year-end bash. Despite winning their division by six points, the U-16s managed not a single Team of the Year nod: leading defenders Alex Comsia, Sam Adekugbe, and Jackson Farmer were edged out by players from division rivals and Craig Dalrymple couldn't take Coach of the Year over Pateadores's Matt Tutton, whose team finished missed the playoffs with a negative goal differential in division play, were sixth in their division in divisional points (which determined playoff placement) and fourth in overall points.
If a team has ever finished with fifteen fewer goals against than their next-placed conference rival (Whitecaps U-16s conceded 25, Real Salt Lake Arizona conceded 40) and didn't get a single goalkeeper or defender onto the conference all-star team before, I can't think of when it happened.
Not to say the U-18s didn't get some questionable snubbings: how Yassin Essa's 19 goals in 19 starts were overlooked while Maikon Orrellana's 14 goals in 24 starts was considered All-Star worthy is beyond me. Here, at least, they got the defenders right, as all four individuals (and all three teams) were excellent on the other side of the ball.
What stands out is the dominance of the MLS-affiliated academies in the West Conference all-star teams. Of the West Conference U-18 allstars, only one player (Slater Meehan of Santa Cruz Breakers) is on a club without a direct MLS affiliation. The U-16s managed three. No other conference team is so dominated by Major League Soccer, although the Central Conference U-18s are up there as well.
Some of the selections are mindblowing to the outside observer and as such I find I place almost no stock in them. Yet that only enhances, rather than diminishes, the achievement of Alderson and Clarke to get recognition when Whitecaps found it so hard to come by. Congratulations to them.