It's been four months now since the Vancouver Whitecaps shipped Richmond, BC product Caleb Clarke out on loan to German Bundesliga club FC Augsburg, where he plays with the side's U23 squad and trains regularly with the first team.
Clarke has acquitted himself well there - having scored 4 goals in 13 appearances with Augsburg II this season. He's currently number four on their scoring list, and number three among their forwards. Augsburg have been riding heavily on three strikers season: Maximilian Löw (15 appearances, 8 goals), Bajram Nebihi (14 appearances, 6 goals), and their Canadian import, Clarke. Augsburg, which plays in the Bayern Regional League, currently sits fourth in the 19-team table, and sports a rather nice 12-4-4 record thus far this season.
Despite the 20-year-old's relatively decent performance in Europe so far, for the average fan Clarke tends to get lost in the woodwork - popping up like a pine beetle every now and then, but not yet really capturing the imagination. That might change just a little over the course of the next couple days, as Clarke is a late call-up to the Canadian Men's National Team. Clarke has represented Canada at the youth level, but this marks his first appearance with the senior team.
Canada faced the Czech Republic yesterday in a friendly, falling 2-0 to their hosts. Ranked 111th, Canada is now winless in its last 13 matches. Clarke came on in the final eight minutes, relieving Dwayne de Rosario, but didn't manage to get on the score sheet. Canada coach Benito Floro is expected to give the youngster more time in the second of the side's two international friendlies, when Canada plays 30th ranked Slovenia, on November 19.
With scoring now nothing more than a very fond and distant memory for the CMNT, the Slovenia match - if Floro indeed plays Clarke - could offer the striker an excellent opportunity to add significantly to his perceived worth if he can manage to even threaten the Slovenian keeper, let alone poke one in. As they say, timing is everything.
And on the topic of timing, Clarke appears to be well positioned for returning to the Caps once his loan deal expires - presumably after one year, which would make it this coming July. By then, the Vancouver strike force may well have some vacancies. Kenny Miller's current deal runs out mid-summer, and Darren Mattocks just might have managed to put himself on the trading block, no matter how much the Whitecaps have played down his poor judgement.
Since joining Major League Soccer the Whitecaps have not exactly been in a rush to put homegrown Canadian talent on the pitch. Of four Canadian players on the first team roster, only one, Russell Teibert, saw any degree of action for the club. If Caleb Clarke can continue to improve in Germany, and perhaps put on a good showing in Slovenia, he just might be able to secure a role in MLS.