Goal.com's Martin MacMahon writes that Vancouver's signing of Honduran international defender Johnny Leveron on Tuesday could prove an inspired acquisition.
The 23-year-old is one of the rising defensive stars in the CONCACAF region and has already earned 20 caps for the Honduran national team, in addition to captaining his country during the London 2012 Olympics.
There’s no other way to describe the signing other than as a major coup. His agent says there were European suitors, and while the word of that sort of hype merchant is generally useless, in this case it’s there’s no reason to doubt it.
Leveron is a genuine star in the making and he’ll come here hungry to compete for a starting spot. Captain Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien make a strong and experienced pairing, but Leveron will push them, and with his cultured left foot will offer a different balance to Vancouver’s back line when he’s selected.
He’s more of a footballer than either of the incumbents, who are more conventional stoppers than ball playing centre backs – and it’s possible that by season’s end DeMerit and O’Brien will be competing for a spot alongside the Central American youngster – certainly if one or both have any injury issues.
But it’s not just promise Leveron brings. Despite his relatively young age, he’s an experienced pro in the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional, his country’s top league. He’s played 83 matches there for Club Deportivo Motagua, during which he scored nine goals, and has been a full-time pro since 2009.
The fact he has 83 matches as a professional at 23 while the likes of Erik Hurtado, just about to start his professional career at age 22 with the Whitecaps after playing in college, shows how far this continent has to go in developing elite talent.
Over the next few years Leveron should be hitting the prime of his career, and if he gets a chance to play in his natural position, it may not be an issue of whether he’s good enough, but rather a case of whether the club can convince him that it’s good enough for him to stick around.
There’s also the chance he could turn out to be a defensive midfielder or left fullback, but the player himself said in a video on the club’s official website that head coach Martin Rennie has told him he’ll be used in his natural position at centre back.
He will, naturally, need time to adjust – and he hasn’t played a match since November, so it’s possible he won’t be a starter right away. But as a long-term project, it’s difficult to imagine a much better scenario.
“Johnny is a left-footed centre back who is very comfortable on the ball,” Rennie said in a club statement following the signing. “He’s still young but he’s captained the Honduran Olympic team and has already played a number of games for the senior national team. He has a very big upside and we are really excited to welcome him to Vancouver.”
Whitecaps fans should be excited too – this guy’s the real deal.