The Vancouver Whitecaps FC U18 Residency team is off to the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Finals Week, and Nolan Wirth of Comox is going with them.
The tall, 18-year-old goalkeeper will be backing up the older goalie on the squad and, while he doesn’t expect to see action unless there is an injury, he is looking forward to the experience and knows he has a key role to play.
“I have to be super positive, a leader on the bench and boost everybody. It will be very difficult sitting there watching instead of playing. You can’t do anything. But next year I could be the guy (in goal if the ‘Caps return to the tourney),” he said.
This is the second consecutive season the Whitecaps FC U18 have qualified for Finals Week. Last year they made it to the championship final before falling 3-2 to FC Dallas.
This year’s tourney runs July 14-20 in Houston, Texas. The ‘Caps open on Sunday, July 14, against Seattle Sounders FC at 6 p.m. PT. On Tuesday, July 16, they’ll face New York Red Bulls at 3:30 p.m. PT. Finally, on Thursday, July 18, they’ll wrap-up the group stage against Albertson SC at 6 p.m. PT.
In order to advance to the USSDA Championship final, the ‘Caps will need to finish first in Group 1. The winner of Group 1 will then play the winner of Group 2 for the title at BBVA Compass Stadium – home of MLS Houston Dynamo. The USSDA Championship final on July 20 will be streamed live on ussoccer.com.
Wirth, who joined the Whitecaps Residency in September 2011 after being scouted when he was playing for provincial teams, notes the Caps are the only team to advance to this year’s Final Eight by sweeping their three-game playoff qualifiers.
A Highland Secondary grad, Wirth played 11 regular season games this year (about one third of the 31-game schedule), and Whitecaps’ spokesperson Gabriel Lee notes, “Nolan has contributed greatly to the team’s success this season as he continues to work toward becoming an integral part of the future of Whitecaps FC.”
Wirth has one more year of eligibility left at the Residency. He has just graduated from Burnaby Central and says next season he will be taking extra courses to get more credits and open up his options even more.
Wirth says the Residency has been a great experience and credits WC Performance Goalkeeper coach Raegyn Hall and head coach Gordon Forrest with helping his development.
He has had many good coaches throughout his youth soccer career, and is quick to credit his dad Kelly as a major influence. “He’s always been there, and he knows the game so well.”
Wirth started his soccer career with Comox Valley United Soccer Club, where he played U12 to U14 Gold level (2006 to 2009). He helped Upper Vancouver Island (UVI) to a runner-up finish at the B.C. U13 provincial championship. He then made the step up to UVI United Metro to play at the U16 level from 2009 to 2011.
With UVI United, the shot-stopper was named two-time season MVP. Wirth also represented B.C. at the U15 and U16 levels (2010 to 2011). This included a bronze medal at the 2011 Canadian U16 All-Star Championships. In 2011, he participated in the CSA’s National Training Centre (B.C region) program.
Wirth was called up to a week-long training camp with the Canadian U18 team in November 2012 and earned a clean sheet in his SSL Premier Development League debut with Whitecaps FC U23 as they won 4-0 at home to North Sound SeaWolves FC on July 6.
WIRTH NOTING Wirth enjoys golf, boating and home-cooked meals from his mom Donna, especially pizza and cheesy lasagne … his favourite English Premier League team is Manchester City FC and he is a fan of England goalkeeper Joe Hart … Wirth hopes to play at the famous Wembley Stadium in London, England, one day …