PORTLAND, Ore. - Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert showed his class Monday night in a 45-minute outing in the inaugural Chipotle Homegrown Game.
The game against the Portland Timbers under-23 team ended in a 0-0 draw on a warm, muggy night before an enthusiastic but less than full Providence Park.
Teibert, who signed a multi-year deal last month to extend his time with the Whitecaps, demonstrated his vision and creativity for a Homegrown squad featuring young talent who have come up the ranks of MLS clubs.
The Canadian international roved across midfield, starting on the left before expanding his domain and triggered many of the Homegrown attacks. The 21-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., demanded the ball and often played conductor, telling his teammates where he wanted them to be.
"I enjoyed it and I think it's a milestone to be a part of," Teibert said later. "And not only in the sense that it's the first Homegrown game but it represents a pathway for all younger players in North American to strive for and be part of. And that is the MLS youth teams, residency teams and developmental teams."
Will Trapp of the Columbus Crew replaced Teibert at halftime with the score 0-0 as the Homegrown side rang in the changes. Teibert may have been sacrificed with an eye to Vancouver's game Sunday away to Sporting Kansas City
Toronto FC left back Ashtone Morgan was the most experienced of the Homegrown squad, with Teibert close behind.
Morgan, 23, has made 67 league appearances for Toronto but has seen just one minute of league play this season as he sits behind veteran Justin Morrow.
Teibert has made 55 league appearances for the Whitecaps including 11 this season.
The two are friends and spent time together with the Toronto academy before Teibert headed west in 2008 to join the Whitecaps residency program.
Teibert delivered a fine cross in the fourth minute but Chivas USA forward Caleb Calvert failed to get a foot to it. Another laser-like cross produced a corner in the 16th minute as a defender just managed to deflect it away. Teibert also put a long-distance shot on goal in between, producing a save from Portland goalie Justin Luthy.
James Moberg hit the post for the young Timbers in the 10th minute. Portland midfielder Fatai Alashe came close with a header off a corner in the 38th but was off-target. Homegrown 'keeper Matt Lampson of the Columbus Crew stopped Kharlton Belmar from in-close soon after when Miguel Aguilar unlocked the defence with a fine pass.
Teibert combined well with Morgan late in the first half, with the Toronto fullback producing a diving save from Luthy to parry a Morgan cross.
"Whenever I play with Ash, it's always fun," said Teibert. "I wish we could play together more. But any time we do get the opportunity, we do seems to click. Credit to him. He's a great fullback and I hope he gets more time this season because he definitely deserves it."
"We just get each other," added Morgan.
Teibert had four of the Homegrown team's shots in the first half.
The game opened up in the second half with more scoring chances for both sides — with one glorious opportunity apiece in stoppage time.
Morgan exited late in the second half after going down with leg cramps battling two defenders on a run down the wing.
He left with a smile.
"It was good," he said. "I was surrounded by great players. We just started moving the ball, [possessed the ball. I felt good out there. It felt real good to be back on the pitch."
Homegrown goalie Jon Kempin of Sporting Kansas City, who came on to start the second half, won man of the match honours.
All MLS clubs were asked to nominate eligible players for the game. Based on availability, injuries and other criteria, the final 20 were selected in consultation with MLS director of player programs who will coach the team.
Under the league's homegrown policy, clubs can sign a player to his first pro contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has trained for at least one year in the club’s youth development program and has trained 80 days with the academy during that year.
The issue of homegrown versus the college route was raised earlier in the day when MLS all-star Thierry Henry was asked about his preference for developing youth.
"How you improve and how you progress is hours and repetition and work," said the former French international, now with the New York Red Bulls.
The 36-year-old Henry said college players may emerge at a disadvantage compared to those who went another route.
"For example, a kid in Europe will be training every day since he's 13 years old. So that amount of time that you're losing is huge."
MLS all-star coach Caleb Porter, a former University of Akron coach who is in charge of the Portland Timbers, agreed.
"The sooner you can get kids in a high-level environment that's as close to being professional as possible. The more time you get in that environment, the more you develop players."
Porter said adding more training and matches to the collegiate game would help that side of the development ladder
"I agree with Thierry. Kids coming into the pros at 23, 23 years old, it's tough."
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter