The Canadian national team enjoyed their best run at the U17 World Cup, getting two results out of three games, but were unable to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. For the Whitecaps and their residency program it was a coming out party as four of the five players on the team had significant contributions for their country on the world stage. Two of their players, Captain Bryce Alderson and Yassin Essa, were singled out as impact players for Canada in this tournament and potentially in the future.
Named the U17 captain for Canada, Bryce Alderson led the team with his play in the central midfield as he displayed long stretches of quality in the three group games. The Ontario native is a box to box midfielder who excelled at tackling the ball away from the opposition, maintaining possession and then moving forward with his excellent distribution. Jason DeVos, who covered the tournament for CBC, tweeted that Alderson could be the next Atiba Hutchinson which was high praise indeed. In the game against England he set up Keven Aleman for a shot on net which led to Canada’s first goal.
Ethiopian born midfielder Yassin Essa impressed many including the FIFA broadcaster with pace down the right wing. It wasn’t just his speed but he was also able to create his opportunities as he continually cut into the middle of the pitch to get his shot off. It was his hard work that caused a turnover that led to Canada’s first goal against England.
The Whitecaps had two players, one of them a late add on, contribute to a Canadian backline that improved as the tournament progressed. The Canadian defenders held Uruguay, top scorers in South American qualifying, to one goal through 85 minutes, were beaten by perfectly placed shots by England and held Rwanda to a cleansheet. In the first two games Daniel Stanese looked the part in the center of the backline clearing the ball out of the box a number times. Unfortunately, he fell ill for the third game and was unable to start.
Due to injury, Adam Polkeiwicz was a late add on and started for the national team at left back and while he struggled against the Uruguayans, he rebounded against the English by containing their speedy winger. After playing the full 90 against Rwanda he was the only Whitecap to play every minute for Canada in the World Cup. The fourth player on the national roster, Matteo Pasquotti, made a couple appearances as a sub coming on in the first game with 14 minutes left and a total of 4 minutes against England.
There was also some information learned from the FIFA broadcast that former TFC academy product Keven Aleman would join the Whitecaps if he were unable to latch on to a club in Europe. Aleman was released from TFC prior to the World Cup when he refused to sign a commitment to the MLS club. He claimed that he would sign it after the tournament but TFC took the step to release him and not wait for his decision.
While Canada did not advance to the next stage of the tournament and made a first round exit they came out with a couple of results including a draw with England. The majority of the team was made up from representatives from the three professional academies as it seems like this setup is paying dividends for the national squad. The players returning to the academy should also benefit from this experience as they try to make the Whitecaps and national teams in the future.