HASH(0xb42358)

Teenage talent set to clash as Whitecaps’ Davies faces Impact’s Tabla

Impact-Whitecaps game may showcase teenagers

MONTREAL — The future of Canadian soccer may be on display when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit the Montreal Impact on Saturday.

The Whitecaps have 16-year-old Alphonso Davies, the youngest active player in Major League Soccer, while Montreal brings Ballou Tabla, who turned 18 on March 31.

It remains to be seen whether either midfielder will start or come off the bench, but so far, neither team has been reluctant to use their gifted young players in games.

The two African-born, Canadian-raised players have been teammates on national youth squads in recent years and know each other well.

“I’m his friend,” Tabla said Thursday. “But it’s my team against his team.

“We will try to get the three points. He’s a good young player like me. I’m happy for him. We played with the national team and he was my roommate. We had time to talk a lot.”

He didn’t say if they discussed playing together on Canada’s senior national team one day, perhaps because that is still up in the air in both cases. Davies, a native of Liberia who grew up in Edmonton, has permanent residency in Canada but is not yet a citizen, while Tabla, of Montreal, is yet to decide whether to represent Canada or his native Ivory Coast in international play.

Canada coach Octavio Zambrano has said he hopes to convince Tabla to choose Canada, his home since he was eight.

The crafty midfielder has turned heads this season with the Impact. After a strong first pro season in USL in 2016, he pushed established veterans for playing time in the MLS squad’s training camp.

Tabla scored a goal in his first MLS start on April 1 in Chicago, when he replaced injured star Ignacio Piatti. Coach Mauro Biello has put him into six of seven games this season, including two starts. He is making a case to become a regular in the first 11.

“I think he’s very close,” said Biello. “He continues to perform and do well and absorb everything and grow as a player.

“We have to be careful with that because he’s 18, but at the same time, we want to give him all the tools he needs to express himself. In the end, you’ve got to let the talent flourish.”

There’s a fear of putting too much responsibility on a young player, but Biello said he has passed every test so far. Tabla can play on either wing or the middle, but appears to prefer the left side, which is where Piatti plays.

Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili is expected to join the club as a designated player in early May and take a midfield spot in the middle. Veteran Matteo Mancosu is the centre forward while Dominic Oduro holds down the right wing.

It may take time for Tabla to become a full-time starter, but he has shown he has the raw talent. Like Piatti, he likes to try to dribble through defenders, but he can also make plays at high speed and has a good shot.

“When he’s one-on-one and if a defender is too tight on him and he’s able to get behind, it brings doubt to the opposition,” said Biello. “These are things we continue to work on with him offensively and we also tell him what he needs to do defensively and where he needs to be.

“He’s a guy that has tremendous talent. I’ve been here many years and I haven’t seen one with that type of talent.”

Davies has played in five games for Vancouver, starting four. He made his MLS debut last season. While he has yet to score in 13 league games, he has potted two in CONCACAF Champions League play.

Note: Biello said defenders Hassoun Camara (concussion) and Victor Cabrera (high ankle sprain) will both miss the Vancouver game.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Ghostriders show grit and tenacity

Hard work and heartbreak; a reoccurring theme in Fernie’s past two hockey… Continue reading

Fernie Swim team aims for Nationals

Aidan Chudleigh has high hopes for his swim team this year, and… Continue reading

Jaffray Area OCP goes to public hearing

The public hearing will be held November 22nd at 7:00 PM at the Jaffray Community Hall.

Oil dumped illegally at Tie Lake Transfer Station

The Regional District of East Kootenay is searching for any information in… Continue reading

Forecasters promote avalanche safety awareness

Avalanche Canada advising backcountry enthusiasts to get proper training and equipment.

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Sparwood florist to compete nationally

The Maple Leaf Cup; where art and flower design meet under one… Continue reading

Start on time: Canucks looking to shake first-period struggles

Canucks centre Bo Horvat said the formula for getting a leg up is there for everyone to see

COMMUTER ALERT: Snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

Travelling this weekend? Check the forecasts before hitting the road

Drones take off to search for missing North Okanagan women

A volunteer search party was supported by professional drone operators

Tips for keeping your personal data safe, from the experts

It’s important to keep your ‘online footprint’ safe

Lights to turn blue ahead of funeral for fallen Abbotsford police officer

Buildings across B.C. are going blue Saturday night in honour of Const. John Davidson

Ride-share pioneer drives up quietly to B.C. battleground

Lyft approaches B.C. without Uber bombast, eyes small towns

Rising gas prices have valley drivers fuming

Two weeks ago, $20 worth of gas got Delenia Phillips twice as… Continue reading

Most Read