Wileman: Canadian MLS clubs turning to domestic talent

Luke Wileman
4/18/2013 9:59:45 AM
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In an ideal world, Canada's three Major League Soccer teams would be full of young Canadian talent. We're still a long way from achieving that goal, and I fully understand that for clubs the emphasis is first and foremost on winning. Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact are investing large sums of money into developing players but it's a long-term project and so far results have been extremely limited.

However, we have already seen some steps forward this year with some young Canadian players getting an opportunity in the opening weeks of the season. In Montreal, Quebec-born central defender Karl Ouimette stepped in admirably for Alessandro Nesta when the Italian veteran missed games injured, and in Sunday's 1-1 tie against Columbus Crew at Stade Saputo, Maxim Tissot made his professional debut as a late substitute for Marco Di Vaio.

In Toronto, although not developed by the club's Academy, there was still much cause for celebration when midfielder Jonathan Osorio scored his first professional goal for the club in the 2-2 tie against LA Galaxy last month. It was a great story to tell. A year ago he was watching his hometown club as a fan from the stands, and now he is part of the team being given adulation by those same supporters.

Across on the West coast, the Vancouver Whitecaps' Canadian content has been minimal through the last couple of seasons as they tried to establish themselves in Major League Soccer, but there is little doubt their owners are fully committed to developing talent and are anxious to see Canadians in their team on a regular basis in the future.

With that in mind, the standout performance of young Niagara Falls native Russell Teibert in Saturday's 1-1 tie against Real Salt Lake was a big moment for the club. A year ago, Teibert was a long way from 'Caps coach Martin Rennie's first team plans, but the midfielder says he has "reinvented himself" over the last few months. He has settled into a new position, and on Saturday showcased his talents for all to see.

The Canadian international was an attacking spark in the Whitecaps midfield. His passing was superb and he made intelligent runs to get into good areas of the pitch to be able to influence the game in a positive manner and create space for his teammates.
"I was just looking to create chances and the guys helped me out in that respect," said the 20-year-old. "I just have to make sure I stay involved in games and if I make a mistake just focus on the next pass.

"I'm just happy to be playing because a lot of the time last year I was up in the stands just wishing I could be down there on the field," said Teibert. "There were some nerves for me, but it's all about how you deal with those nerves. If you use nerves in the positive way they can be good, and as the game went on I was feeling more and more confident."

Now Teibert's challenge is cementing his place in the lineup. Saturday's match was the first time he has made back-to-back starts in MLS since March 2011 when Teitur Thordarson included him in the eleven for the Whitecaps first two MLS games.

Martin Rennie has plenty of options available to him, and right now Teibert is keeping the talented Ghanaian midfielder Gershon Koffie out of the team. Teibert and Koffie have massive potential and I would love to see a Whitecaps midfield three made up of the two youngsters alongside Nigel Reo-Coker. The Englishman's experience and leadership qualities are ideal for helping with the development of the two 'Caps youngsters.

"Nigel knows me very well both on and off the pitch," said Teibert. "He's like a brother and a great mentor to me so when I'm inside the middle of the field with him he definitely makes it a lot more comfortable for me."

As the Whitecaps head to face Western Conference leaders FC Dallas in Texas on Saturday, Teibert will likely make his third successive MLS start. It has been a long road for the Canadian youngster to get to this stage and this is only the beginning of the hard work, but so far he has risen to the challenge and that is a big boost for both club and country.

Russell Teibert (Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)


(Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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