News broke this week that Rangers had brought in three youngsters from the Vancouver Whitecaps on a week long trial. Sam Adekugbe, Christian Dean, & Kianz Froese have been training with the club even though a permanent moves, or even loans, seem unlikely.
UPDATE: It has since been confirmed that they are simply training with the club & are definitely returning to Vancouver.
Vancouver’s manager, Carl Robinson, discussed the trio’s time with Rangers, via The Daily Express – “This is a great opportunity to receive additional experience. I’ve seen how much these young men have developed this past season and these training spells will only help further their growth.”
Sam Adekugbe is a 19 year old left back who has been part of Vancouver’s youth system since 2013. Recently he was also called into train with Canada’s national team squad, as Benito Floro has tried to infuse more youth into the Canadian national team picture. Adekugbe made is first team debut with Vancouver in 2013, making one appearance that season. He made four appearances this past season, including one start.
Russell Berrisford, who covers the Whitecaps for The Vancouver Sun, spoke to Rangers Report about Adekugbe. “He looks to be a quality left back who will be starting more games next year. He is good going forward & on the ball.”
Christian Dean is a 21 year old center back who is considered to be a top prospect with a bright future in MLS. Born in East Palo Alto, California – one of the poorest cities in all of America – he channeled his skills into an opportunity to play college soccer for UC Berkeley where he was one of the best players in the entire country at that level.
Dean was the third overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft – the annual process in which MLS teams select college players for allocation. Dean’s college coach, via The Vancouver Sun, said – “Dean’s skill and athletic ability are very rare.”
At the time Carl Robinson raved, “He’s got a lot to learn, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders.”
Berrisford added, “Dean is a strong central defender who may struggle to get time next season with Vancouver because of the depth in that position.”
Dean lined up, alongside Kenny Miller, to make his debut last season for Vancouver & played in a total of four matches. He made one start & played a total of 123 minutes – committing no fouls in that time.
The third player player may actually have the potential to have the brightest future. Kianz Froese is an 18-year old midfielder & forward, born in Cuba, & has been in Vancouver’s youth system since 2012. He has made appearances for Canada’s U17 & U20 teams (even though he began his international career representing Cuba’s U17 team).
Froese made one appearance last season. His debut with the first team came in front of 55,765 fans in Vancouver’s match against the Seattle Sounders. Forese played the second half of the Cascadian derby & completed seven passed in the tense 1-0 victory.
Froese spoke to Michael McColl of MLS’ official website after the debut, “Coming in, with 50,000-plus people, when Robo [coach Carl Robinson] told me I was going in, my heart dropped.”
“I was quite nervous for a bit, but the game settled down and then you slowly get into it.”
Robinson discussed thrusting such a young player into such an electric atmosphere with McColl. “I had a big decision who to put on at halftime. Again, as I’ve shown all along, I’m not afraid to throw the kids in.”
“Kianz Froese came in, made his debut and what an environment to start.”
“With all young players, they have no fear and they’ve got to learn. Sometimes it’s best learning in the toughest environments and this was the toughest environment for him to learn. Froese was excellent. Hard work, determination, the kid can play. Let me tell you, the kid can play. He’s got a great future.”
Berrisford also touted Froese as the best prospect of the three training with Rangers. “The Whitecaps have high hopes that Froese will be a quality forward given another year or two (maybe less).”
“They are all potentially very good players that we definitely want to come back to Vancouver!”
“Of the three I’d say Froese has the most potential but Adekugbe is another one who is definitely good enough to play at MLS level.”
“I would doubt any would be loaned to Rangers as the Whitecaps will likely use them next season & coach Carl Robinson likes to give time to his youth players.”
It isdifficult to foresee the ‘trial’ of these three Whitecaps youngsters as anything more than a week to stay fit in the off season. However, they do sound like the kind of players that Rangers should be targeting – young players who appear to have the upside to compete in a league, MLS, that is proving to be a higher quality of competition than most of Scottish football.