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Whitecaps of the Future: Cole Seiler

The former first-round pick remains an asset for the Caps going forward

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too early to think about the future. When you’re the Vancouver Whitecaps, who possess one of the best run academy systems in Major League Soccer, there are plenty of young’uns coming down the pipe to get excited about. Here at 86Forever, we decided to start taking a look at some of the top young talent plying their trade for Vancouver Whitecaps 2 in USL, as well as in the Whitecaps Residency. Some of these guys won’t be taking the pitch at BC Place for many years but these profiles will hopefully give you an idea of what they have to offer when they do.

Selected with the 16th pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Cole Seiler was the least heralded of three Georgetown University defenders drafted. But Carl Robinson insisted at the time that he was stronger than his counterparts Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry.

“We thought Cole was the best central defender at the (MLS) Combine," Robinson said at the time. "We know he’s not as flashy as other players within the Combine but he’s a smart player."

And while Seiler has not made the instant impact that 2015 draftee Tim Parker has, he still presents a strong option for the Caps at the center back position moving forward.

The Anderson, South Carolina native has a track record of winning, going back to his high school days where he won four high school championships and was named an All-American by the United Soccer Coaches. He also earned time with the US U-17 Residency program.

Starting all four years at Georgetown and making 87 appearances for the Hoyas, Seiler led the team to a Big East championship in his senior year. And in those four years of starting, Seiler picked up only a single yellow card, coming at the end of his senior year.

Seiler’s time with Vancouver has been less auspicious, as he has spent most of it with the Thundercaps in USL. In 2017 he’s made 15 starts, missing out only when he was sidelined with a muscle injury. Given the struggles the Thundercaps have had, being the first choice center back on that team could be a blessing or a curse.

In 2016 Seiler also appeared in both the CONCACAF Champions league, starting one of the group stage matches at right back, perhaps signaling that Robbo is looking at Seiler to give him more positional flexibility. And in 2017 he started in both legs of the Canadian Championship tie against Montreal.

What does Seiler bring to the club? At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds he is not the biggest physical presence on the block and his physical profile is more similar to that of Tim Parker. He is also not the most athletic defender on the block, meaning that his MLS future is probably going to come at center back and not fullback.

But what he lacks in raw athleticism, Seiler makes up for in a high soccer IQ. Precise and intelligent with his tackles, Seiler has continued his strong discipline record into USL and this could be a real asset for a team like Vancouver known for its aggressive play. In college, Seiler was the bedrock of the Hoya defense and his steady presence allowed Yaro and Rosenberry more attacking freedom. This reliability might give Robbo more flexibility to experiment with tactics or push his fullbacks forward knowing that he would have strong defenders like Seiler and Parker as a safety net.

And unlike many center backs, Seiler is clearly very comfortable with the ball at his feet. While he has 0 assists in USL play, he is adept at setting up his teammates with adept long balls and is not one to give possession away easily. This attribute is what appeared to catch the eye of Robbo and the Whitecaps coaching staff.

“He’s very good on the ball,” Robinson said after Seiler was signed. “He’s very comfortable. Decision making for centre backs is very important, whether it’s simple or whether it’s aggressive in their passing. Cole can play simple, he can play smart and he can also switch the point of attack sometimes when need be.”

The comparisons to Parker may seem natural: both are of similar heights and playing styles. Moreover, the two even competed against each other when Parker played college soccer at St. John’s. But while Parker made an instant splash his rookie year, Seiler has not started at all in an MLS match.

This could leave some wondering if he will ever be more than a mere depth piece for Vancouver and there are concerns that he’s fallen down the pecking order at CB. But the 23-year-old has all the tools to be a capable MLS defender, if given the proper seasoning.

He represents a sensible partner to Tim Parker and his ability to pitch in as an emergency right back will likely help boost his stock. Even if the former Georgetown man never hits his stride and becomes an elite player, his smarts and passing will be an asset for Vancouver off the bench for years to come.

Plus he really, really likes his Mom. And that’s always a good sign in my book.

“The amount of time she sacrificed for me when she’s a fairly athletic woman—she does triathlons and she used to play tennis—she’s a very social woman,” Seiler said after being drafted. “She could have been either working or hanging out with friends or training for some sort of activity, but the fact she drove me to soccer seven, eight years of my life…when I tell her this, she always says, ‘no, you need to do this for yourself. ’But I feel some sort of incentive, personal incentive, inside of me, to push this as far as I can for her as well.”