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Ajax FC alumni Derek Cornelius ('97 Boys) Named Canada Soccer’s 2018 Youth Player of the Year & Signs With Whitecaps!

By J.J. Adams , 01/18/19, 9:57AM EST


He’s young. He’s talented. He’s Canadian.

Derek Cornelius is the trifecta that Vancouver Whitecaps fans want to see in a new signing.

The 6-2, 190-pound, left-footed centreback agreed to terms with the Major League Soccer side this week. It’s a multi-year deal including team options, pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

Cornelius is a rising star with the Canadian national team, being named the 2018 Canadian Youth International Player of the Year in December, and most recently spent the past two seasons with Serbian Superliga club FK Javor Ivanjica.

The Whitecaps made the deal official on Friday.

“Derek is one of the top young players in a new generation of Canadian talent,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos. “For his age, he has the right composure and characteristics we look for at the centre back position. We have followed his progress within Canada Soccer and believe he has developed in the right way. He has also been exposed to different environments and this is always good for a player’s development.

“We are working hard to build this roster and will be announcing additional player acquisitions very soon.”

he 21-year-old Ajax, Ont., athlete was capped three times with the Canadian senior side in 2018 after a standout showing with Canada’s U-21 side at the Toulon Tournament, where Les Rouges only lost a single game and conceded just a single goal in the group stage.

In his three appearances with the senior team, all CONCACAF Nations League qualifying, Canada didn’t surrender a goal.

Cornelius has been in the national team program since the age of 15, a year before he moved to Germany to play for VfB Lübeck’s U-19 side, then on to the senior side in the country’s fourth division. He spent two years there before transferring to VfR Neumünster for the 2017 season.

“Vancouver is a club that I’ve followed for a few years and I’m extremely excited to now be a part of it,” said Cornelius. “This is a good opportunity for me to show the city and club what I can do as an individual and to not just come through, but to really leave my mark here. I look forward to playing in front of the passionate supporters and doing whatever it takes to help the club win.”

The only other centreback currently on the Caps’ roster is Cornelius’s Canada running mate, Doneil Henry, though more CB signings are expected in the next few weeks. His familiarity of playing alongside Henry works in his favour, though it’s likely he won’t be tabbed as a full-fledged starter when the season starts.

The Caps have made few moves this off-season, mostly depth-related. Midfielder Andy Rose (Motherwell), and fullback Victor “PC” Giro (Orlando City) were added to the back line, while Zac MacMath (Colorado Rapids) and Maxime Crepeau (Ottawa Fury) will battle to be the No. 1 goalkeeper.

Sources inside the Whitecaps’ organization say they are in negotiations with high-profile targets, but any announcements would come after the closing of the European transfer market at the end of the month. That’s likely because it would give the teams losing the player time to sign a replacement, or if the Caps’ target had multiple offers — or was waiting on a more lucrative one — it would give some time to make a decision.

The MLS transfer window opens Feb. 7. The team leaves for its pre-season tournament in Hawaii on Jan. 31.