Mark Village, a fifth-year graduating goalkeeper with the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer program, has signed with Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.
Village parlayed a training camp invitation into a pro contract with the Whitecaps’ new United Soccer Leagues (USL) side, which has been established to serve as a bridge between the club’s youth residency program and its MLS first team.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Village enthused. “It’s a nice transition from university soccer to be playing for a pro club.
“I kind of went into camp hoping to enjoy myself, because you don’t get those opportunities every day. I ended up enjoying myself so much that I played really well. I was nice and relaxed, trying not to succumb to the pressures of being on trial with a pro team.”
Village was one of three player signings announced by Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2) on Wednesday, along with midfielders Victor Blasco and Sahil Sandhu.
WFC2 begins its inaugural campaign with a four-game road trip, starting Sunday in Seattle vs. Sounders FC 2. Their home opener is April 19 vs. Toronto FC II at UBC Thunderbird Stadium.
“We’re very pleased to add three more promising young players to the roster ahead of our inaugural match on Sunday,” said WFC2 head coach Alan Koch. “Mark and Sahil are both talented local players and Victor is a very skilled Spanish player who grew up playing in the FC Barcelona academy. Each of them have worked hard to earn this opportunity.”
Abbotsford product Village played all five years of his university eligibility for his hometown Cascades, and developed into one of the top keepers in Canada West. He was a conference second team all-star in 2012, and backstopped UFV to its first-ever playoff berth and a Canada West bronze medal in 2013. He missed the first half of the 2014 campaign due to a concussion, but returned to help the team to its second straight post-season appearance.
“I’m delighted for Mark – he’s a smashing kid,” said Alan Errington, the longtime Cascades head coach who is set to retire at month’s end. “His foot’s in the door (with the Whitecaps), and he’s just got to kick it further open. No pun intended – his kicking is second to none. When he’s got the ball at his feet, he’s amazing. And he’s a good goalkeeper, too. I’m very happy for him.”
Village, who has one semester left on his history degree, acknowledged that it’s been “kind of crazy” balancing his studies with a burgeoning pro soccer career.
“It’s on to the next chapter, and I want to make sure that everything is done right,” he said. “I’m just going to relish the opportunity to be with the Whitecaps, and hopefully I keep progressing and I can move up in the roster.”