–By Ottawa Sportspage, for OSU Force Academy
Jaeden Mercure has become the latest Force Academy player to jump on Ottawa South United Soccer Club’s “Pipeline to the Pacific”, officially joining the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program in August.
Mercure joins fellow OSU products Matteo De Brienne and Keenan Foley in Vancouver, while Vana Markarian graduated from the Major League Soccer club’s youth academy and now attends Columbia University in New York City.
“It keeps the chain going,” notes OSU Club Head Coach Paul Harris, whose club also recently sent a trio of players to Toronto FC. “I think the secret of a good youth development program is continued success. You get these programs with a very good team, and from that team, there are 3 or 4 players who maybe go on to success; the fact that we’re doing it year-in and year-out proves that the program is working.
“That’s due in large part to the staff that work within it. We’ve got a good body of staff who have been with us for a number of years who work really hard and that’s why we’re getting continued success.
“We’ve got the right program, the right pathway, the right philosophy, and it’s continued to produce those players.”
Mercure’s family appreciated the developmental atmosphere their 14-year-old experienced during his time at OSU, which began at U9. Mercure played both hockey and soccer until recently turning his attention to the beautiful game.
“I remember his dad was upset with me,” Harris recounts with a smirk. “He said if his hockey coaches were as good as what we had here at OSU, he would have probably gone into hockey.”
Mercure is a player with good athleticism, though on first look, he doesn’t pop out being one of the smaller players on the field physically.
“He’s had to survive and work on different parts of his game because he wasn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest,” Harris highlights. “It meant he had to make his technique even better. He had to be a little brighter with his thinking and his tactical understanding of the game.
“That was something that really attracted Vancouver. At this moment in time, he’s probably underdeveloped physically, but that shows the potential they look at. They’re looking for the future – not just the big, strong, athletic boys.”
Harris believes Mercure has the maturity required to move across the country, and the desire and dedication to thrive in the fully-funded residency program, underlining that Vancouver – home to a new National Soccer Development Centre – is now becoming a hotbed for the best players from across Canada to come together.
“They’re really scouring across the country to find the best Canadian talent they can find,” Harris adds. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for him to go and he can go to that next level.”
The Whitecaps brass was in town for another talent ID camp in mid-August – one in a continuing series of similar events part of OSU’s partnership with the MLS club for its Ottawa Academy Centre.
“It’s why they’ve been here, to see who is the next Jaeden or the next Matteo? Who is the next Vana and who is the next Keenan?” Harris details. “They’re really pleased with what they’ve seen here at OSU. They think there’s going to be a continued pipeline.”