Manuel Veth –
When asked about Alphonso Davies, and his performance in Vancouver’s 2-0 win against New York Red Bulls in the quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Champions League head coach Carl Robinson told the media, “He did okay.” The message was clear that Robinson did not want to single out a single player in his squad.
Emphasis on overall team performance is a dominant mantra for Carl Robinson. But, despite the fact that he did not want to single out an individual performance, Robinson proceeded to do it anyway in the case of Alphonso Davies:
“Listen, he is one of a number of players that were outstanding today. Two things stuck out to me—he is breaking in the 75’ or 77’ minute he already got a goal at this moment, but his desire to score a goal, and he already got one, is phenomenal. I shouted at him to get back [after he failed to score], and he looked at me with his big eyes, and then went back, brilliant, as a coach you want players who want to work.”
Robinson also pointed out a particular play in which Davies passed the ball along to Brek Shea instead of finishing himself: “For someone so young to make [a] sensible situation, where it was three against one, he decided not to score himself but setup Brek Shea.” Overall Robinson concludes, “[Davies]was outstanding in the game, but there is still lots more to come.”
Alphonso Davies even the opposition is in awe
New York’s head coach Jessie Marsch also was full of praise for Vancouver’s wunderkind. “The kid was great, the kid was great. He pained us all night. Very tough to deal with in one-on-one situations. Fought hard. Kid was great, but it was fun to watch, so I wish we had dealt a little bit better with him, but congratulations to him, and you guys have a fun player to watch up here in Canada.”
Before the match, the Futbolgrad Network had identified Davies as the player to watch. The 16-year-old, who does not turn 17 until November, certainly did not disappoint.
Within five minutes, Davies gave Vancouver the lead with a close range effort. The goal showed that, despite his young age, Davies already has the sort of composure that will see him become a top-class player. Receiving the ball from the right, Davies did not shoot right away, but instead stopped the ball, side stepped a defender, and then slotted the ball past New York goalkeeper, Luis Robles.
The goal meant that Vancouver were in the driver’s seat against New York and, therefore, could sit back and hit Red Bulls on the counter attack. Here, Davies, together with teammate Kekuta Manneh, also excelled. Using their speed, the two broke forward on a frequent basis, using Brek Shea, who was playing as a forward, as an outlet for a quick counter attack.
Davies still needs to work on efficiency
Perhaps the only point of criticism is that Vancouver was not more efficient in the first half when it came to finishing off their counter attacks. But this was not down to Davies, whose decision-making process by picking the right outlet players, was excellent.
Instead, Vancouver clearly lacked the right man on top of what looked like a 4-2-3-1 formation, but was described by Robinson as a 4-4-2, with Davies and Shea playing up front. The Whitecaps, however, finally got their second goal when Montero was brought on with about 15 minutes to go.
The Colombian forward, who was signed from the Chinese Super League club Tianjin TEDA, finally scored the second goal for Vancouver after an Alphonso Davies corner kick. Vancouver clearly were more dangerous with Montero up front and, once the Colombian has gained full match fitness, Vancouver’s striking force with Davies, Montero, Shea, and the likes of Kekuta Manneh as well as Christian Techera, will be formidable.
Vancouver’s depth up front means that Alphonso Davies will have several players around him who can help him with their experience. At the same time, the injury to Yordy Reina and the lack of scoring last season could also mean that Robinson will give Davies significant playing time while, at the same time, also managing his playing time, as Davies has to juggle the early stages of his career while also completing his High School diploma.
Davies needs time to develop
Another aspect will be Davies’ citizenship. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, Alphonso Davies immigrated to Canada when he was five. Escaping the civil war in his home country, Davies has been called up for numerous youth level games for the Canadian national team. But Davies is not a citizen and, instead, holds permanent residence status, which means that he is not yet allowed to represent Canada in official FIFA matches.
In order to obtain citizenship, and be eligible to represent Canada, Davies will have to write a citizenship test. This is another element the Whitecaps will have to keep an eye on when it comes to developing the player over the coming years, as they do not want to overburden the 16-year-old with too many responsibilities.
But, given Davies’ trajectory at the moment, and judging from Robinson’s words after the press conference, the Whitecaps are very much aware of the fact that they are in possession of a player who could bring a brighter future to Canadian football.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.