Person of Interest: Whitecaps teenager Davies turning heads

Vancouver Whitecaps' Alphonso Davies. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies is a budding young star who is not only drawing rave reviews across Major League Soccer, he’s also garnering interest from some of the biggest clubs in England’s Premier League.

And here’s the kicker—he’s only 16 years old.

Here’s a closer look at the talented teenager:

CLUB CAREER

Born in Liberia, Davies and his family fled the country to escape the civil war. They ended up in a refugee camp in Ghana before eventually settling in Edmonton when Davies was five. Davies headed out west two years ago when he joined the Whitecaps’ youth residency program as a 14-year-old.

He turned out for the Whitecaps farm club in the third-tier USL, and signed a pro contract with the MLS team last summer. At 15, Davies became the the second-youngest player to take the field in league history. Vancouver coach Carl Robinson has brought Davies along slowly, though, restricting him to just eight appearances, and just two starts, as a 15-year-old.

Having turned 16 last November, he’s featured in the club’s opener of the 2017 MLS regular season, and has made a number of appearances in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League, including the first leg of the semifinals against Mexican club Tigres earlier this week.

WHAT MAKES HIM SO SPECIAL?

For someone so young, he demonstrates a lot of composure and maturity.

He’s also a dynamic and fleet-footed attacker, using his pace and skill on the ball to take on defenders one-on-one, and create a bit of magic with his probing runs.

Solid in possession, the youngster combines creativity, mobility and strength into a tantalizing package.

INTERNATIONAL CAREER

Davies has been a part of the Canadian youth program since 2014, and he has already played for Canada’s under-17 and under-20 teams. He was also named the Canadian Under-17 player of the year for 2016.

However, he is not yet eligible to play for Canada at senor level, as he is not a Canadian citizen—he just has permanent resident status.

INTEREST FROM ENGLAND

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson recently sad every club in England’s Premier League is aware of Davies. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are reported to be closely monitoring him.

But Davies won’t be making the moving abroad just yet—FIFA guidelines prohibit him from being transferred to a foreign club until he is at least 18 years old.

HIS MOST FAMOUS MOMENTS

Last September, Vancouver visited Sporting Kansas City in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. Tied 1-1, Davies curled a shot from outside the box that beat KC goalkeeper Timothy Melia deep into injury time that sealed a dramatic 2-1 victory for the Whitecaps. That result allowed the Whitecaps to clinch first place in the group and advance to the quarterfinals with a game to spare.

In the Round of 16, Davies opened the scoring in the second leg, helping the Whitecaps earn a 2-0 win at home over the New York Red Bulls to move on to the Champions League semifinals.

TORONTO FC TAKE NOTICE

Vancouver hosts Toronto FC on Saturday evening at BC Place in MLS action, and the Reds are quite aware of Davies’ exploits thus far.

“What's most impressive for his age is just the composure and belief that he belongs on the field and that he can make a difference. He is mature beyond his years. … I enjoy watching him as a player. If he's on the field against us, we'll have to be aware of him and his strengths and make sure we're accounting for them,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said.

Michael Bradley, captain of both TFC and the U.S national team, is also impressed with the Whitecaps youngster.

“For a young player he has a lot of really good starting points,'' Bradley explained. “The way he can move with the ball and put defenders on the wrong foot is pretty special. Obviously, Carl Robinson has done a really good job, not just with Alphonso Davies, but with a lot of their young guys of pushing them along and clearly giving them confidence and encouragement and room to grow.”

HE SAID IT

“When I come on the pitch, we’re all equal. Off the pitch, yes, I’m 16. But on, I don’t consider myself a 16-year-old.” – Davies told The Province newspaper

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