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Red-Letter Days for the Whitecaps Youth

Russell Teibert of the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency was one of three Whitecaps to have a strong showing in the Canadian Soccer Association's youth awards. (CanadaSoccer.com)
Russell Teibert of the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency was one of three Whitecaps to have a strong showing in the Canadian Soccer Association's youth awards. (CanadaSoccer.com)

It's an occasion that deserves far more of a write-up than I'm going to give it.

Vancouver Whitecaps fans such as myself are fond of saying that we have the best youth academy setup in Canada, and one that might rank better than any in the United States as well. The Whitecaps Residency system has produced several professional players already in its lifetime and has more ace prospects than one can shake a stick at. Of course, most fans say that about their teams: Toronto FC fans take pride in TFC Academy, and the Montreal Impact supporters are pretty gung-ho about their nascent youth system. So it's pretty nice to see that the Canadian Soccer Association is siding with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Two days ago, current Whitecaps Residency forward Bryce Alderson was honoured as the Canadian U-17 player of the year. Alderson is the third consecutive Whitecap to win the honour, joining midfielder Russell Teibert who won in 2009 and 2008. Alderson, like Teibert, is an Ontario native who joined the Whitecaps residency team despite being scouted by and fully eligible for the Toronto FC Academy. The Whitecaps can't take too much credit for Alderson, as the alumnus of Portugal FC only joined the Residency system earlier this year. But the forward is already the captain of Canada's U-17 team and now has his first major individual honour.

Finally, yesterday, the Canadian Soccer Association named defender Ethan Gage winner of U-20 player of the year honours. In my write-up of Vancouver's U-20 Player of the Year nominees, I considered Gage something of a long-shot. But Gage ran away with the vote, taking 41% of the votes and handily beating goalkeeper (and technically-still-a-Whitecap) Julien Latendresse-Lévesque. Fellow Whitecap Russell Teibert came fourth in his first year of eligibility, while my personal selection, Toronto FC midfielder Nicholas Lindsay, was all the way down in fifth.

Unlike Alderson, Vancouver can certainly take all the credit for Gage: he's a Residency lifer and has copious experience with the Whitecaps first team. To see Teibert finish so strongly despite his youth is just as promising. Gage is on the bubble for the Whitecaps team going forward, and might only see Residency or reserve action if signed (though Gage would presumably qualify as a home-grown player, giving him a fighting chance). Teibert and Alderson are almost certain to play exclusively with the Residency. I don't want to overstate matters: none of these players will come straight into Major League Soccer and blow the doors off. But they are fine products of the Vancouver system, and when Alderson's scoring twelve goals a season in a few years, this award will be in the first paragraph of all the gushing profiles about him.

Not that I'm setting expectations too high or anything.