June 19th, 2024

‘They made me feel wanted:’ Whitecaps’ latest addition embracing Vancouver

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on February 21, 2023.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC's Sergio Cordova, right, tries to score a goal during the team's practice in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Cordova is a Venezuelan international acquired from German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam

VANCOUVER – Some blustery weather in Vancouver hasn’t dampened the arrival of the Whitecaps’ latest acquisition.

Striker Sergio Cordova got his first taste of training at his new home base at the University of British Columbia Tuesday, where the temperature hovered around 7 C and a biting wind swept across the field.

It was a markedly different atmosphere than Cordova and his new teammates experienced while training in Palm Springs, Calif., in recent weeks, but the Venezuelan international wasn’t troubled, noting the winters he spent playing in Germany and Salt Lake City weren’t exactly balmy.

“I’ve learned to kind of fall in love with the cold a bit,” he said through a translator.

The 25-year-old forward has fallen in love with the Whitecaps, too.

Vancouver signed Cordova to a three-year designated player contract on Monday with a club option for the 2026 season. News of the deal confirmed long-standing rumours he was joining the team.

The ‘Caps acquired the six-foot-two, 200-pound forward from FC Augsburg of the German Bundesliga, where he tallied seven goals and three assists across 13 starts and 79 appearances.

Before inking the deal, Cordova spoke with the Whitecaps’ front office about what Vancouver is trying to build and said he’s bought into their vision.

“They made me feel wanted and made me feel like I could be an important piece in this team and they offered me the opportunity to keep growing. And in the end, I didn’t doubt it at all,” he said.

“Among all the choices I had, this was the one that fit me most and it’s given me the opportunity to to continue growing as a player and continue building from that and hopefully do a lot for this club.”

Cordova spent 2022 on loan to Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, where he led the team in scoring with 11 goals across 34 appearances.

“I learned that it’s a competitive league. It’s very intense. And to play, you have to be 100 per cent. Physically it’s very demanding and you have to be at the highest level to perform,” he said.

“In terms of playing style, it’s a great league. It’s grown a lot recently. There’s a lot of youngsters coming through, a lot of young players coming through. And yeah, it’s going to continue going and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Cordova has been around his new teammates for about two weeks after joining them in California where they’ve been preparing for the upcoming season. The ‘Caps will kick off the 2023 campaign on Saturday when they host Cordova’s former club.

While Vancouver is still trying to get the new striker up to speed, head coach Vanni Sartini likes what he’s seen so far.

“Sergio, I would say, is a striker that has all the characteristics that we like and I like in a striker to play in this kind of setup,” he said. “He’s strong, he’s fast, he can press a lot, he scores goals. So I think he will help a lot the team during the season.”

The ‘Caps are changing their tactics this season in a bid to add more attacking options, the coach added, and Cordova will help the new system.

Fellow forward Brian White is looking forward to seeing what the “dynamic player” contributes.

“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s good on the ball,” White said. “And I think he’s going to be a really good player for us and hopefully can score a lot of goals for us.”

Cordova believes his speed and physicality will be a boon for the Whitecaps, who finished last season with a 12-15-7 record and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

“I hope to give my all and get far in everything, every competition,” he said. “We’ve got a deep team here. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2023.

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