There's been a lot of hullabaloo surrounding the Vancouver Whitecaps’ new USL Pro team and the club’s various ticket-marketing schemes, but not a lot has been said about who might actually be playing. Sure, the new team will help to "develop talent" but who exactly are these youngsters that need developing? To give you a better idea, here is list of potential* Whitecaps 2 starters that might feature in 2015.
*Disclaimer: This is obviously only a preliminary list. There will be plenty of changes from now until the start of the season but this is a best guess at a team with what the Caps have at the moment.
Paolo Tornaghi: Height: 6' 4" Birth Date: 06-21-1988 Birthplace: Garbagnate Milanese, Italy
If Tornaghi is still with the Caps next year, he’ll surely want more playing time. He is a talented young keeper who was unfortunate not to see the field this past season. In addition to a few possible CONCACAF Champions League starts, it’s quite likely that the Italian will feature for the new USL Pro team. That being said, whether or not he’s back next year is still very much up in the air.
Marco Carducci: Height: 6' 1" Birth Date: 09-24-1996 Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta
Carducci is much more likely to feature regularly for "Caps 2". He’s a young keeper with a lot of potential and will definitely benefit from consistent playtime. This year he was still able to feature for the Residency U-18s as well as for the first team in the Canadian Championship, but next season it’s important that he makes the step up to a regular, professional level of play.
LB Sam Adekugbe: Height: 5' 9" Birth Date: 01-16-1995 Birthplace: London, England
Adekugbe captained the Canadian U-20 team in their recent string of friendlies and could very well compete with Jordan Harvey for the starting left back spot next season. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see the speedy winger/fullback spending the majority of his time flying up and down the wing at Thunderbird Stadium. He is still only 19 (20 next season) and I’m sure Carl Robinson won’t be in any hurry to break up the veteran core of the Caps defense without good reason.
CB Christian Dean: Height: 6' 3" Birth Date: 03-14-1993 Birthplace: Alvin, Texas
The Whitecaps’ 2014 first round draft pick had his playing time severely limited this past season. When he did play, it was usually out of position at left back. Dean is a player who would benefit considerably from consistent minutes in his natural centre back position. After training spells at Rangers and Liverpool this off-season he’ll be feeling confident and ready to contribute. The American U-23 international is very promising and has the build to become a player similar to Kendall Waston.
CB Jackson Farmer: Height: 6' 2" Birth Date: 05-03-1995 Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta
The 19 year old Canadian is someone who the Whitecaps seem very keen to hold on to. After graduating from the Whitecaps’ residency program, Farmer spent a portion of last season on loan to the Charleston Battery and has played for the Caps U-23 team. He also made his national team debut this past year against Mauritania. The center back position is very strong with the Whitecaps at the moment, but Farmer could definitely break into the first team in the next few years. Until then, look to see him breaking up attacks for Whitecaps 2 in USL-Pro.
RB Ethen Sampson: Height: 5' 10" Birth Date: 12-28-1993 Birthplace: Mitchell's Plain, South Africa
The tough tackling South African featured a few times for the Whitecaps this past year in place of Steven Beitashour. He’s a strong fullback with a great deal of potential but will have a tough time breaking into the starting 11 for at least a couple of years. In the meantime his crunching tackles will no doubt be on display for the "Starting 11" ticket holders at Thunderbird Arena instead.
Mitch Piraux: Height: 5' 7" Birth Date: 04-18-1995 Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta
Piraux is another young Canadian who trained frequently with the first team last season and is probably in the running for an MLS contract. He’s a dynamic midfielder who is best known by most fans as the subject of a dangerous Omar Salgado tackle back in September. He should be a good fit on the USL Pro team, as he’s one of the players currently stuck in the awkward stage between residency graduation and a first team contract.
Nicolas Mezquida: Height: 5' 6" Birth Date: 01-21-1992 Birthplace: Paysandú, Uruguay
There is a chance that the young Uruguayan could be scooped up in the expansion draft, but given that he was one of Carl Robinson’s first signings this season and had relatively little playing time in 2014, odds are that he’ll be protected or not picked at all. If that’s the case we’ll likely see "Mosquito" in an attacking midfield role for Whitecaps 2 at least a few times next season. He’s a quality young player, but being behind the likes of Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales on the depth chart, it will certainly be tough for him to get first team minutes.
Marco Bustos: Height: 5' 6" Birth Date: 04-22-1996 Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Bustos is a very exciting young attacking midfielder whose talent and potential were enough to create a substantial uproar over a stint with the Chile U-20 team. Luckily it seems that the Whitecaps’ residency product is sticking with Canada, as he played with the U-20 team in a recent string of friendlies. He’s one of the Caps newest homegrown signings and will definitely benefit from the opportunity to get minutes with the Whitecaps 2 squad.
Kianz Froese: Height: 5' 9" Birth Date: 04-16-1996 Birthplace: Havana, Cuba
Most fans will remember this youngster from his cameo appearance against Seattle in the Whitecaps’ historic win at Centurylink field in October. He’s strong, skillful, and could even make it into the first team next season. The Whitecaps are very high on the young Canadian, as demonstrated by their creation of a slow-mo video for just one juke. However, he is still young, so will likely spend the majority of next season with Caps 2.
Andre Lewis: Height: 5' 9" Birth Date: 08-12-1994 Birthplace: Spanish Town, Jamaica
Another up-and-coming creative midfielder in the Whitecaps’ system, Lewis was loaned out to the Charleston Battery last season where he made 14 appearances and scored one goal. Unfortunately his season was cut short by an ACL injury back in July. Initial estimates put his recovery time at anywhere from six to nine months, so there is a chance he’ll still be recovering when the season starts. Hopefully the young Jamaican will get back to full fitness in no time and can return to the kind of form that led to an NASL team trying to take him off of our hands.
Jordan Haynes: Height: 5' 10' Birth Date: 01.17.1996 Hometown: Peterborough, ON
Haynes came to Vancouver from Toronto FC’s academy in 2011. He is an incredibly versatile player who is listed as a midfielder but can play as a fullback or up front. He featured for the Canadian U-20 team in their recent string of friendlies in Europe and has been a mainstay for the Caps’ U-18 residency side this past year. A utility player is always a useful thing to have (i.e Russell Teibert), and Haynes could find himself with a similar role for Whitecaps 2.
Caleb Clarke: Height: 6' 1" Birth Date: 06-23-1993 Birthplace: Richmond, British Columbia
It’s up in the air whether or not Clarke will be back next year. He’s out of contract at the end of this season and will probably be looking to return to Europe. The homegrown striker was loaned to FC Augsberg 2 two years ago and has had injury problems, but the Richmond, BC native still has potential. Clarke is a promising young Canadian striker who (if he comes back) will be looking to break into the first team after picking up a quadriceps injury and then having to undergo surgery last season. When he gets back to full fitness in 2015 it will be interesting to see if he can find the kind of form that saw him score 8 goals in 26 appearances back in Germany. Regardless of whether he stays with the Caps or not, Clarke will be one Canadian to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Adam Mena: Height: 5' 10" Birth Date: 08-9-1989 Birthplace: Holland, Michigan, United States
It’s unclear whether Mena will come back to the Caps from the Charleston Battery (he wasn’t on loan), but the 2013 Supplemental draft pick was definitely on Robbo’s radar during preseason. Mena is a strong winger who battled back from injury to earn himself shot at professional soccer this past year, and he earned praise from the Whitecaps coaching staff. In 2011, before his injury, Mena scored 14 goals in 14 games for the Indiana Invaders in USL PDL. He’s struggled to find similar form since, but could find a spot on Whitecaps 2 if he makes the move back from Charleston.
Mamadou Diouf: Height: 6' 1" Birth Date: 09-15-1990 Birthplace: Dakar, Senegal
The big striker from the University of Connecticut was drafted 30th overall in 2014 and spent the past season on loan with the Charleston Battery. He only managed 2 goals in 17 appearances (one in the first game of the regular season and one in the last) but could potentially be a strong player for Whitecaps 2. Diouf linked up well with Andre Lewis before the Jamaican succumbed to injury, so if both players are back next year they could form a formidable partnership. The Senegalese forward has a fantastic attitude and had a strong showing this past preseason. He would've fit Carl Robinson’s one-striker system very well and he has a heading capability the Caps have long lacked from their striker corps.
Have you got ideas, questions or concerns about the new team next year? Voice them all below in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer.