VANCOUVER — Alphonso Davies said he got the “perfect ending” to his Major League Soccer career on Sunday.
The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder scored a pair of highlight reel-worthy goals in his team’s 2-1 home win over the Portland Timbers.
“Coming in this game, knowing it’s my last game for Vancouver, I just wanted to leave with a positive feeling,” he said.
The ‘Caps (13-13-8) are out of the playoffs, so the victory marked the team’s final game of the season.
It was Davies’ final match with the club after the Whitecaps reached a record-breaking US$22 million transfer deal with soccer giant Bayern Munich in July that will see him play for the German team through 2023.
Andres Flores scored for the Timbers (15-10-9) in the 90th minute. It was his first goal of the year.
Davies’ goals were his seventh and eighth of the season. He also had 11 assists.
“You’ll always be in my heart.”
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) October 28, 2018
Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the Liberian civil war. His family immigrated to Canada, eventually settling in Edmonton.
There he was discovered by the Whitecaps’ recruiting staff. He joined the club’s residency program in 2015 and steadily worked his way up to the MLS squad, with his league debut coming in July 2016.
Davies’ family was on hand to watch his final match in Vancouver on Sunday. His parents offered congratulations and told him they were proud when he left the field.
Cameras also caught his mom also trying to show some affection.
“As you can see, my mom tried to pick me up,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m a big boy now. I’m not a little baby any more.”
Messages of thanks and encouragement were broadcast across the big screen throughout the game. They came from Davies’ teammates on the Whitecaps and the Canadian men’s soccer teams, and from other athletes, including Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid.
The crowd of 25,348 also rose and gave the young man a standing ovation in the 67th minute, a nod to his jersey number, 67.
On the field, his teammates made a concerted effort to put the ball at his feet and give him an opportunity to realize his season-long goal of netting a hat trick.
That showcased how supportive the team has been throughout his career, Davies said.
“The team is an amazing team,” he said. “And playing my final games here, they just wanted to get me the ball as much as possible and let me do what I do. And I couldn’t thank them more for pushing me every day in training and also off the field as well.”
Sunday’s game was bittersweet for Davies, who said he’s disappointed his career in Vancouver is over.
“They’ve done so much for me,” he said. “But I think in the off-season, I’ll just go back and look at my career here and try to take it all in before I go (to Germany).”
The young athlete wanted to thank the Whitecaps fans with his performance on Sunday, said Craig Dalrymple, the team’s interim head coach.
“There’s something about him. He just has a knack to continue to prove people right. … He’s electric,” he said. “A fantastic person and obviously a great talent.”
An apparent passing of the torch took place in the game’s 86th minute, when Davies was subbed out for 16-year-old Simon Colyn, who was making his first-ever MLS appearance.
Colyn immediately showed he belonged, getting the ball alone deep in Portland territory. His shot went just wide of the net.
The moment gave Davies deja vu of his first appearance in a league match.
“Simon stepping in, he almost scored. I would have run on the field,” Davies said.
Colyn is an “extremely intelligent footballer,” Dalrymple said.
“He’s not Alphonso and we don’t want him to be Alphonso. He’s Simon Colyn and he’s got different qualities,” said the coach, who usually leads the club’s residency program.
There are a number of bright young players coming through the Whitecaps system, Dalrymple said.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we give them opportunities,” he said.
This season has been a difficult one for the Whitecaps, who struggled to keep the ball out of their net, dropped key games and underwent some upheaval late in the season when coach Carl Robbinson and several of his assistants were abruptly dismissed.
Vancouver finished eighth in the MLS Western Conference, two spots out of playoff position.
There was some frustration about missing the post-season, Dalrymple said, but there’s also optimism about the future.
“Clearly there’s a core group here that can take this positive stretch — whatever you want to call it — into next season and continue to believe,” he said. “Because the group’s not far away from contending way up the table.”
Notes: Whitecaps fullback Jake Nerwinski registered the assist on Alphonso Davies’ first goal on Sunday. The second goal was unassisted. … The Whitecaps controlled the momentum through much of the match, holding possession for 59 per cent of the game. … Davies will turn 18 on Friday. He said he has no plans for his birthday.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press