Photo by Jose M. Romero
By JOSE M. ROMERO
Early impressions of the No. 1 overall MLS SuperDraft pick, Omar Salgado: The kid can play.
His height stands out immediately. At 6-foot-4, any defender is going to have a hard time with him in the box, even the most physical centerback, because he has to not only push Salgado out of the goal area but keep him as far away from the 18-yard box as possible.
Salgado might need to put on a few pounds so he can shrug off the bumping from the likes of Jamison Olave from Real Salt Lake or Jhon Kennedy Hurtado from the Seattle Sounders, but it was clear from seeing him early in Vancouver Whitecaps preseason training in Arizona that he can make an impact with the new MLS side.
"Just trying to adapt to the rhythm of the game and the speed and adapt to the players that I'm with, that'll be the most important thing," Salgado said. "I haven't proved anything yet."
He's getting there, even if he won't be able to play in an MLS match until September when he turns 18 years old.
Vancouver is trying to win an exemption from FIFA to allow Salgado to play prior to September, because the league spans two nations, the United States and Canada. Salgado holds dual citizenship and is registered to play in the United States and Mexico, but he has to wait until his 18th birthday to be eligible for an international transfer certificate that would allow him to play in Canada, by FIFA rule.
"In the meantime I'll be with the (U.S. U-20) national team, so it's not that bad," Salgado said.
The Whitecaps could probably use Salgado sooner considering their dearth of strikers. The only other forward listed on the current roster is Atiba Harris.
"They will be there, that's for sure," Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson vowed, saying that he'd like to add some experienced attackers to the team.
In the meantime, Salgado will continue to get the chance to show off his potential throughout the preseason.
He scored his first preseason goal last week in Arizona, a game-winning header against Columbus to give the Whitecaps a 2-1 result.
"Omar was with us last year (in USSF-2) for a while," Thordarson said. "And I felt during that time that I discovered some great talent in there. I know that it will take a bit of time and we have to be patient with him, but he has qualities that can bring him very far if he is willing to work hard enough."
Salgado's time will come, whether its in September or before. As shocked as he admitted he was at being the first overall pick in the draft, he's happy to be in Vancouver, where he'll finish high school via online courses after his daily training sessions.
"(Vancouver) is really nice. It rains all day, but it's nice," Salgado said.