At 5-foot-11, 140 pounds, Owen Miller rules the air waves as a centre back in Rep soccer. Connor Glennon, while smaller and lighter, tears up the pitch using speed and moves up front and on the wings.
Both talented teens will represent Vernon with Team B.C. this summer. They had team photographs Tuesday before the start of three days of high-performance training. It will be full-out practices in Vancouver from July 8-21 with the Prairie Invitational Calgary tournament ending the month.
Miller, who is entering Grade 8 at Kalamalka Secondary this fall, sparkled in provincial U13 trials phase two during a tournament in Portland two weeks ago. B.C. defeated two Portland Timbers sides, tied the Whitecaps Residence program team and lost to an older Seattle entry.
“I think they took me for my leadership,” said Miller, who in Vernon U12 and U11 Rep Development was like an assistant coach. “I was captain down in Portland for our team in the final game.”
Miller draws praise from Team B.C. U13 coach Leigh Sembaluk for being big and mobile.
“Technically he is fairly good as well for his size,” said Sembaluk. “While tactically, Owen still has lots to learn, he has improved tremendously because he takes feedback very well and showed significant improvement with us over the last phase.
“We typically look at the ‘four pillars’ of a player – physical, technical, tactical and mental. For me, the first three pillars, Owen blends in with the group we had well, but it was the mental side that really set him apart from the rest.”
A fan of Barcelona and centre back Sergio Ramos, Miller hopes to earn an American scholarship down the road. Sembaluk is impressed with his maturity and eagerness.
“Any directions or challenges I would give him, he embraced and tried to apply immediately. Ultimately, the reason he made the final phase of the program was because he has the ability to make those around him better.
“Uniquely, this isn’t because of his ability but his character that is necessary, on and off the field, for the success of the team. While Owen has a lot to learn on the field, he possesses the character to make the most of the opportunities and learning experiences he will get. He was a pleasant surprise and one that ended up surpassing my expectations in phase two and made himself an easy selection for phase three.”
Miller played for last-place Thompson FC in the EA Sports Premier League this season, but he remains positive about the experience.
“We had four ties and the rest were losses. We had close games. We had one where we were up 1-0 until the fourth minute of extra time where a penalty was called and they scored.
“We can compete. We improved a lot because last year we were losing 8-0, 9-0.”
Glennon is no surprise to the provincial program and played for the U14 Whitecaps Pre-Residency team instead of Team B.C. in the Portland tourney.
“I’m looking forward to phase three,” said Glennon. “We’re going to Calgary for nationals in a month if the floods clear out and before that, there’s a tournament in Vancouver with American teams coming down. We’ll also be playing the Whitecaps Residency team twice.”
David Broadhurst, who heads the Whitecaps Academy in Vernon and Kelowna, said Glennon was identified as a player of distinction and offered the chance to attend a number of training sessions with the residency program in Vancouver. He showed well enough to get an invite to the Oregon event with the Caps.
“In regards to Connor’s attributes, he has a high level of technical ability and the ability to use both feet very well,” said Broadhurst. “His energy levels are excellent which enables him to produce high levels of work rate during games and training but most of all, Connor loves the game. He wants to learn and continue to develop, he always asks questions at every session to ensure he gets the most out of every opportunity he is given.
“I enjoy working with Connor and am looking forward to seeing him back in the school academy in September.”
Glennon, who turned 14 on June 28, is going into Grade 9 at Seaton. He is stepping up his game at every new level. His TOFC team finished at 4-4-5 in the middle of the pack before losing in the playoffs.
“I’m passing quicker and not holding on to the ball as long, and not only seeing one option, but seeing more than one and having a better vision on the field,” he said.
Glennon will use a short break in training to take in the CONCACAF Gold Cup July 11 in Seattle, catching Mexico versus Canada, and Panama versus Martinique, while also enjoying some thrills at the Silverwood theme park in Coeur d’Alene.
His favourite player is Welsh winger Gareth Bale of the Tottenham Hotspurs.