Whitecaps' surge sparked by Clarke's focus

Pro prospect Caleb Clarke is among the scoring leaders in the Development Academy this season. Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps

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Caleb Clarke's goal-scoring mentality can best be described with one word: "Focus."

"As long as I'm in the right frame of mind, do everything fundamentally correct, then I can take the ball in on them and score," said Clarke, an 18-year-old who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 175 pounds.

"Honestly, if you're just focused as a result of all of the work that you've done in practice, then, for me, after that, it just comes naturally. You just have to be focused throughout the game."

Clarke's 21 goals lead the Vancouver Whitecaps of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, winners of eight straight games and leaders of the Northwest Division of the West Conference with a division mark of 9-1-2 and an overall record of 16-4-3.

The Whitecaps's last blemishes, a 2-2 tie with Cal Odyssey and a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, recently were avenged by scores of 5-0 and 3-0.

"We attempt to keep a high tempo and maximize space in possession. We expect the players to find solutions to break down the opposition," coach Craig Dalrymple said.

As a result, the scoring has been dispersed throughout the lineup, with big contributions from players such as right winger Yassin Essa (13 goals) and central forward/midfielder Carlos Marquez (eight), as well as left wingers Spencer DeBoice

and Sebastian Cabrera with six goals each.

"Carlos and myself and Yassin and other players, we just love to play on the ground and make give-and-goes," Clarke said.

"We like to make these quick, little runs. We like to play with the ball on the ground. That's the preferred way that we like to score."

During last Saturday's 3-2 victory over California Development Academy, Marquez and DeBoice converted their goals within two minutes of one another for a 2-0 lead at the game's 24th minute mark.

Clarke's game-clincher for a 3-1 lead in the 42nd minute was the result of a textbook feed from Marquez following a series of runs by each player.

"I got the ball, I came and showed forward, and then I turned, saw Carlos, and did a give and go with him. I kept on with my run, he passed it back, and I took one touch," Clarke said.

"From there, it curled from about 16 yards from my left foot into the left far corner. I had been making a lot of runs, and the passes were either just missing or their defense was just nudging the ball out. So I knew that it was bound to happen."