Langley’s Joel Harrison has spent the past two years with the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency Program. He also represented Canada earlier this month with the U18 national team program against El Salvador.

Harrison turning heads

Langley's Joel Harrison back from stint with Canada Soccer’s U18 program

The success Joel Harrison is showing now comes of little surprise to Rich Fagan.

Fagan recalls the Langley teenager spending some time with the Whitecaps FC Residency Program on trial stints two years ago.

“Whenever he came in on trial, there was an unbelievable focus about him,” Fagan explained

“Whenever he played trial games, he approached it like it was a real match, like it meant everything to him. And ultimately, that is what paid off and got him here.”

In 2014, Fagan was coaching the Whitecaps U16 team but he now runs the U18 side which features Harrison.

“When he first came in on trial, there were a few questions about things. We gave him feedback and he want back to his club (Surrey United) and worked on those parts of his game and came back much stronger,” Fagan said.

“He is a student of the game. If he is not playing, he is watching and listening and trying to pick up as much as he can.”

And it is obvious Harrison is on an accelerated learning curve.

Earlier this month, the 17-year-old was one of 18 players named to Canada Soccer’s men’s U18 camp.

The players participated in a nine-day camp which concluded with a pair of matches in Salvador, El Salvador.

Both games were draws.

“It was a big experience for me; something I have been dreaming about for many years now,” Harrison said.

“Representing your nation is a big opportunity and I just feel really proud to put the Canadian badge on.”

“Anytime you get selected to represent Canada, it is a big thing for a player,” Fagan said.

The camp and two matches were for those born in 1999 and later and will be used to help evaluate the potential players for the CONCACAF men’s under-20 championships and the FIFA World Cup. Both events are in 2019.

It caps off what has been a great few months for Harrison.

Harrison, a central defender for the Residency Program, was also called up to practice and play with WFC2, the top development team for the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps. He was with the team as they made a charge in the USL playoffs, advancing to the Western Conference final.

“To go into that professional environment was a really cool experience,” he said.

“There were so many older guys that I could learn from.”

Harrison was the recent recipient of a $1,000 Registered Education Savings Plan.

He was chosen among the Whitecaps Residency Program’s youth development programs for “exemplary team pride, spirit, community commitment and passion for the game.”

“It nice to be recognized not only for my soccer, but for my work off the field,” Harrison said.

While Harrison has always excelled on the soccer pitch, he also starred in both cross-country and in track and field.

In 2014, while competing for the Walnut Grove Gators, Harrison won the BC junior boys cross-country championship. That title came just a few months after Harrison won the gold medal in the pentathlon at the Canadian Legion track and field championships.

But he is happy with his decision to focus on soccer.

And Fagan figures Harrison, who is in Grade 12 at Burnaby Central,  can use his experiences of the past summer as he looks to elevate his soccer career.

“That is probably the next step for him, earn himself a contract with that particular group (WFC2)  and then the sky is the limit after that,” Fagan said.


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