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The Playbook | GA Cup 2023

The Generation Adidas Cup took place in Bradenton, Florida April 1st-9th as 49 different clubs from 11 countries competed at the U15 (2008 and younger) and U17 (2006 and younger) championships. We at the Playbook had the opportunity to watch the ‘Group Stage’ of the event which featured (3) 60 minute games in 3 days. Below are the standout players we recognized for all 6 Canadian teams that participated. 

CF Montreal U15 

Michael Ampofo | CDM | #70 

Michael was electric in the group stage of the 2023 GA Cup. Even though CF Montreal U15 didn’t garner a point in their first 3 games Ampofo continuously showed his fight and desire to “play the right way” despite the score line. His most impressive match was against Chelsea U15s as he definitely had his hands full with their talented midfield but continued to connect passes and was the point person going forward with his ability to  start different types of attack for CF Montreal. As he continuous to develop & grow physically in the CF Montreal academy system the sky is truly the limit. 

Josh Nteziryayo | CB | #74

As mentioned earlier CF Montreal’s results in the group stage weren’t very impressive but that didn’t take away from some of the heart and compete level of some members in their team. The player with the biggest desire to win in the squad was definitely Josh. Right now Nteziryayo stands out in this age group because of his physical size but you can’t teach his leadership skills and defensive instincts at such a young age. Technical and tactical understanding still need to be improved upon with Nteziryayo,and it will be interesting to see how he develops at the academy for the next few years.

Vancouver FC U15: 

Similarly to Montreal, Vancouver didn’t fair well at all from a team perspective in the group stage losing all 3 games however there were some real bright spots in the squad as they played some extremely competitive group games. 

Johnny Selemani | ST | #77 

Johnny is lightning quick and always on the front foot trying to press and create chances in the final third for VWFC U15. Unfortunately in most of the Caps’ games in the group stage ball possession in the opponent’s area was hard to find so it was difficult to judge how well Selemani’s movement in the box and finishing could potentially be. Moving forward if Johnny can focus on his hold up play and ability to bring his midfielders into the game with him he will very likely be called to a Canada Soccer youth team (U15 or U17 in the future). Secondly with the way the Whitecaps pro development system works (MLS Next Pro and MLS Homegrown Opportunities) it’s almost a lock we will see Johnny as a future pro out of the  Whitecaps Academy which has produced so many top players over the years. 

Grady McDonnell | CAM | #75 

Grady was without a doubt Whitecaps best player throughout the course of the group stage rounds of the 2023 GA Cup for Whitecaps U15.The talented midfielder was gliding past players in multiple 1v1 situations and is always looking to get off his cannon of a shot whenever the opportunity arises. In speaking with a few people at the competition the midfielder has already had some good training/trial opportunities overseas and has been called to Ireland’s U15s a few times over the last couple of years. Grady’s name is one to remember for any obsessed Canadian Soccer fan as this means he has dual-citizenship which always makes things interesting. 

Toronto FC U15: 

 Spencer Sappleton | CB | #4 

TFC came into this competition as a favourite to get out of their group and started off hot with an early victory in their first game but fell short in their last 2 which put them in the consolation bracket. Despite not advancing their were some standout performers in the group and we will start in the back with defender Spencer Sappleton. 

Spencer is without a doubt TFC’s best defender on the team and it showed consistently in their 3 group games. The defender is trending to have the height to play the position at the next level and his defensive instincts (when to slide/ tackle , when to press, how to hold a line) are always on full display. He is also very capable as a short range passer as he regularly finds his CDM, RB, Wingers & midfielders very comfortably. As he develops, working on his long range passing and overall technical ability is something you would like to see from the young defender. But as the saying goes “all good things come with time”. 

Shola Jimoh | Winger | #7 

If you ask anyone who watches MLS Next academy action often Shola is the most popular name in TFC’s U15 group and for good reason as he is such an electric talent. Shola is normally the smallest player on the field but his speed and pace running with the ball always keep his defenders on the back foot when trying to defend the winger. Jimoh also has a pure and powerful left foot and even though he didn’t score any goals in the group stage he continued to peeper the opposing teams keeper with rockets from different areas in the final third. For those who haven’t seen Shola play in person just picture our own ‘Canadian 15 year old version’ of Sadio Mane (fingers crossed he becomes that good haha) and that’s essentially what you’re missing out on. 

Generation Adidas Cup U17 Division 

Similarly to the U15s it was tough sledding for all U17 teams as no Canadian teams ended up reaching the ‘Championship’ bracket of the next round at Generation Adidas Cup in 2023. However there were some performances over the course of the group stage that deserve some recognition. 

Montreal U17:   

Rafael Coulanges | Winger &FB | #58

Rafael was very good for CF Montreal U17s in the group stage of the tournament. Naturally a winger, in his team’s current formation (5-3-2) he features as more of a wingback but you can tell his main objective is always to go forward. Coulanges is a treat to watch in 1v1 situations as he’s very elusive and always looking to deliver in the box. In CF Montreal’s 1st game he scored the game winner and from that moment on earned two back to back starts for the group in their last 2 games. In their toughest task against Flamengo no one on CF Montreal (outside of Rafael) was able to get anything moving forward. Similarly in their last group game versus San Jose, Rafael was again their best player going forward while having a great shift defensively against an extremely sound San Jose Earthquakes team. 

Toronto FC U17:

Coming into the competition as a potential team to win the event, the TFC U17 group surprisingly  didn’t end up making it out of  their group at this year’s event. The team is loaded at this age group with 8 players on the squad who just helped CMNT U17 qualify for the World Cup which will take place later this year. At the top of their talented  pyramid is Lazar Stefanovic, captain of the group.

 Lazar Stefanovic/ CB/ #17

Lazar is your typical modern day CB. He can defend, he’s not afraid to travel with the ball going forward, he can pick out any pass on the pitch, extremely technical, and even has a few disguise passes in arsenal that unlock a defense within seconds. Having already featured many times for TFC 2 it’s without a doubt Lazar is trending to be the next pro out of TFCs academy system. The only question that remains with Lazar is “when”. Stefanovic  is a lock to start at the upcoming U17 World Cup and our guess is TFC would like to make him a full pro before he essentially “auditions” for the whole world to see. 

Tyler Londono Zapata | CDM | #16 

The unsung hero of this TFC team is CDM Tyler Zapata. His continuous work rate in the middle and desire to win first and second balls always keeps the very talented squad ‘ticking’. The midfielder can pass with both feet very effectively and  rarely ever loses possession. It will be interesting  to see if Zapata will get a call to the U17 World Cup as there have been midfield injuries to the squad since qualifying and his “relationship/ familiarity” with other members of the team could see him brought in.

Whitecaps U17: 

The Whitecaps had no easy task in their group with their first game being Manchester United. In similar fashion to the other Canadian teams the Caps didn’t make it out of their group but that didn’t stop the team from having a fairly good showing. 

Jeevan Badwal | CM | #6 

Captain of this side Jeevan showed his stuff again at the Generation Adidas Cup just how he left Guatemala for the U17 CONCACAF qualifiers. The midfielder covers a ton of ground and has a great knack of always staying in possession and combining with teammates everywhere on the pitch. Badwal consistently displays his ability to get in the box from the midfield position and “make things happen” which helps a team like the Whitecaps who don’t really have a true number 9. Jeevan is sure to be a selection with the U17s at the World Cup and it will be interesting to see if he can push for consistent minutes with Whitecaps 2 this upcoming season where he has already featured. 

 Angelo Zhu | Winger | #10

Zhu was a pleasant surprise for us at the event as he’s not necessarily a “house hold name” in Canadian Soccer circles (no national team youth camps to date) but definitely showed well in the group stage games for the Caps. The attack minded winger is always looking to beat players 1v1 and in the brightest of lights against Manchester United Angelo was arguably the best player on the field making things happen with his craftiness going forward. With a continued effort to defend, Angelo could turn into a serious talent  out of the Whitecaps academy system. 

For more information about FTF Canada please check out our website at www.ftfcanada.ca or follow us on Instagram at @ftfcanada

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