BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, March 26, 2010
As the 2010 Dallas Cup prepares to get underway this weekend, one of the most talked about players who will be playing in the premier youth tournament is Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Joseph Gyau.
Gyau, a native of Silver Spring, Maryland, will be looking to lead the Whitecaps in the Super Group level of the tournament.
Last year the Whitecaps advanced all the way into the championship game before falling to Sao Paulo of Brazil. Gyau is optimistic the Whitecaps can achieve similar success this year.
"We went to the finals last year and we have a pretty strong team this year," Gyau told YA. "So I think we should do pretty well again this year."
Last August it was reported that Gyau signed a deal with 1899 Hoffenheim of the German Bundesliga. Because FIFA restrictions limit the activity that players under the age of 18 can play professionally with foreign clubs, the deal was said to initially have Gyau start at Vancouver before making the transition overseas.
Since signing the deal, Gyau has been training in Vancouver with the academy team and he feels that things have been going very well for him in the Canadian city.
"Everything has been going very well actually," Gyau described. "The development process, the soccer, the social life - everything has been going pretty well."
Gyau, 17, has always been a superior dribbler with an aggressive style of play in one-on-one situations. In Vancouver, he is playing predominately as a right winger but can also play occasionally on the left.
Gyau insists the coaching in Canada has been very beneficial in that it has improved him into becoming a more complete player and has added more dimensions in his style of play.
"I feel I am improving a lot. My game has changed a lot," Gyau said of his change since joining Vancouver. "It's been going great. My versatility has improved. I am able to just play just one-touch now and in thinking ahead in the game instead of relying on my dribbling to get me out of situations. Things like that."
While Gyau is currently with Vancouver, his long term plans are still in Germany with Hoffenheim. He recently went over to Germany in December to check out the facilities and he came away impressed.
"I went over in December to check out the facilities and meet my coaches and see the players and things like that. I went to see some games," Gyau recalled of his trip to Hoffenheim. "It was very good to be around those guys. They were really nice. I wanted to meet my team and see where I fit in. It was very good. I am excited."
While Gyau will look to eventually take his game overseas, he said he initially thought about staying in the United States with MLS but Hoffenheim was the first to offer so he decided to go with them.
"I thought about [MLS] at first but I got the Hoffenheim deal first so I was going to take that first."
Gyau was not the only American that Hoffenheim signed last year. In addition to Gyau, the German club also signed Charles Renken to a similar deal. The fact that Gyau was able to have a close friend with him throughout the whole process has made it easier.
"It's made everything a lot easier," Gyau said of having Renken with him in Vancouver. "It's a lot easier having a friend beside you to go through things with you."
As Gyau begins his career as a soccer player, he will be also carrying an impressive family legacy in the sport. His father, Phillip Gyau, was a former professional and US international.
The family legacy in the sport also goes back another generation to Joseph's grandfather in Ghana. Joseph takes pride in the fact that he's the third generation of successful soccer players in his family.
"Yeah, it's really cool actually because my [grandfather] also played for his national team in Ghana," Gyau said with pride. "So I am trying to follow in their footsteps. I am trying to keep the family trade going on."
Gyau arrives in Dallas today with his Vancouver teammates where they will play in Group D of the Super League. They open group play on Sunday night against the youth team from Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga.
The final game of group play will be next Wednesday against the Mexican U20 national team. It is their second game, however, that will be the most interesting for Gyau as he leads Vancouver against the US U20 national team.
"It's going to be difficult," Gyau said of playing against his own national team in a competition. "but it's just another game and I have to do what I have to do.
Gyau said that he has been in contact with the US U20 staff but injuries and club conflicts have prevented him from playing with the US U20 team so far this cycle.
"I have been invited to two [US U20] camps," Gyau described. "The first camp I was injured and the second camp was when the Hoffenheim people told me that they needed me to stay and work on what they were asking me to work on. Hoffenheim were sending me some videos of how they played. They were trying to get me to assimilate to that style of play. So I had to stay here and work on that."
So while Gyau has been unable to play for the US U20 team so far in this cycle and will even compete against them in Dallas, he states that playing for both the US U20 team as well as the senior team in the future is still a priority for him.
"I hope to make this team and be able to play in a World Cup and I still have high goals to play for the senior national team," Gyau said of his international goals with the Stars and Stripes.
While playing for the US team is a priority for Gyau in the long term, his short term goals revolve mainly around making the transition from Canada to Germany. Gyau said that the move has already been planned.
"It has already been discussed," Gyau said of when he will move to Germany. "And it should happen in June. I am going to go straight to the U19 team [of Hoffenheim] and move on from there."