It didn’t take long for the Vancouver Whitecaps to recognize Alex Matsubara’s skill on the soccer pitch.
Four months after his family moved to Kelowna from Tokyo, Japan, the 14-year-old spent last week on the Lower Mainland, training with the MLS team’s residency staff.
Stuart Neely, the Whitecaps FC head of high performance, identified Matsubara as a potential prospect for the team’s residency program after making a couple of scouting trips to the Okanagan late last year.
Matsubara, a student at Aberdeen Hall Prepartory School in Kelowna, was thrilled to get his first major exposure to the Whitecaps during the week-long camp.
“It was really awesome,” said Matsubara, a member of the Thompson Okanagan Football Club’s U15 boys program. “The facility was really nice and it was a good experience to train with high level players and coaches. I liked it a lot.”
As for his performance and skill level alongside some of the province’s best young players, Matsubara said: “Technically, I feel like I was able to cope. I lacked a little in the physical side, so I need to work on that.”
Following the camp, Matsubara was informed he would be invited back for a future training session with the Whitecaps staff.
This season, Matsubara will suit up for TOFC which plays in the B.C. Soccer Premier League.
Whitecaps Okanagan regional head coach David Broadhurst said Matsubara has plenty of potential.
“He’s got good size for his age,” said Broadhurst. “He has a good level of technical ability, he uses both feet well, and his speed is an attribute.”
Broadhurst said Matsubara’s initial experience with the Whitecaps is useful for both the athlete and the club to determine whether a long-term relationship has potential.
“The whole point of the residency program is to generate players for the first team,” Broadhurst said. “If Alex is successful in getting into the residency at some point, there would be a lot of travel and a lot of games…it would be a big step for him.
“It’s an opportunity to see if it’s a good fit for him and his family,” Broadhurst added. “The worst case scenario is he gets feedback from them, and the club will continue to monitor and look at him as he progresses.”
As for his future goals and the possibility of one day playing professional soccer, Matsubara said, at just 14, it’s a little early to look that far ahead.
“I’m still young and a lot of things can happen, you can get injuries,” he said. “I’ll just keep playing and see what happens.”