BURNABY – With the Vancouver Whitecaps launching their USL Pro team this spring, spots have opened up for professional contracts for soccer players across the country.
Of the 28 players recently invited to the Whitecaps FC 2 training camp, 15 call B.C. home, including North Delta’s Derrick Bassi.
Bassi, a six-foot-one central defender, has been part of the Whitecaps youth development programs since he was a teenager and has played for the Under-17 and U-20 national teams.
When he was 16 years old, he was given the opportunity to play with Middlesbrough Football Club in England.
"It’s a whole different lifestyle there," Bassi said, also noting he got homesick while he spent two years training with the reserve team.
Unfortunately, his time was not extended at Middlesbrough, but when he got home Bassi signed with Simon Fraser University and current Whitecaps FC 2 coach Alan Koch.
"(Koch) has been a very influential guy in my life," said Bassi. "I’ve known him since I was in England."
Koch, who is from South Africa, said this is a great platform for a player to become a MLS player and believes Bassi could receive a contract.
"He’s got a lot of intangibles as a central defender that you really can’t teach," Koch said. "He’s big. He’s strong. He’s quick. He’s got all of the physical tools and I’m excited to have him in this environment. He deserves another opportunity to show he can do it."
However, the gaffer knows roster spots are limited, noting as few as five players could receive contracts to play for him.
"There’s a core group of 10-15 that are fighting it out for spots," Koch added. "It’s not going to be easy. I know (Bassi) has the talent to do it.
"Unfortunately, so far, it hasn’t quite worked out for him to sign on somewhere and have an extended career. Hopefully, this could be that next opportunity," said the coach.
The former SFU head coach, who was named as bench boss for the reserve team at the end of January, has a record of 126-21-7 in seven years in charge of the Clan.
In six consecutive seasons, Koch was named Great Northwest Athletics Conference (GNAC) Coach of the Year and led the school to four GNAC championships, two NCAA Division II regional championships and two berths in the NCAA Division II Final Four.
Bassi’s younger brother, Brandon, is currently a member of the Whitecaps preresidency squad. He said it would be nice for them to be the Sedin brothers of the MLS.
"If both brothers become centre backs for this club, it would be a dream for my dad and for everyone in the community," Bassi said.
Other local players at the recent training camp included Sahil Sandhu (Surrey), Yassin Essa (Surrey), Rizal Ganief (Delta), Jordan Whitehead (Delta) and Valarian Wiebe (Delta).