ALEX KURIAL - Friday, May 3, 2013
Having spent the early season with the reserve squad, Whitecaps forward Tom Heinemann is now embracing the role he has found with the starting team.
Heinemann joined Vancouver this season after a two year stint with the Columbus Crew. The 2011 season saw the St. Louis native become a regular fixture in the lineup, as Heinemann featured in 28 regular season games while registering three goals and an assist. Heinemann played just five minutes of the Crew's 2012 season opener however before his year was lost to a knee injury.
Coming to a Whitecaps team with a deep pool of forwards, Heinemann knew it would be a climb to crack the starting squad. He stayed optimistic, and worked on developing his strengths throughout training camp and the beginning of the season.
"I just try to work hard, use my body, try to bring some hunger and passion and drive," Heinemann explained to Full Volley on what he adds to the Vancouver lineup. Heinemann's size is one of his most notable features. At 6'4, 190 lbs., his physical presence is one that can wreak havoc among defensemen, something he is well aware of.
"I think overall it's a big league, it's very physical," said Heinemann regarding MLS play. "Being able to battle and win balls is important for our whole team."
After impressing for the Whitecaps reserves to start the season by scoring four goals in five games, Heinemann's first MLS action for Vancouver came when he was subbed on in the closing minutes of the Whitecaps 1-1 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes on Apr. 6. Since then he was refused to give up his role with the first team, featuring in the last six Whitecaps games with two starts.
"Just like all the other guys, they try to work hard and try to compete, that's why all of us are here, to try and compete to try to get into the lineup," says Heinemann of the effort needed to rise up the depth chart. "It's been nice to play and I'm very appreciative of that."
Heinemann has settled into the Whitecaps system as his playing time increased, and become a factor in getting Vancouver results. In the first leg of Vancouver's Canadian Championship series against FC Edmonton Heinemann capped the Whitecaps comeback with an 89th minute goal to deliver a 3-2 win. Last Saturday against FC Dallas Heinemann made an alert pass to set up a Kekuta Manneh goal, sparking a rally that saw Vancouver tie the league's top team 2-2.
Heinemann's aggressive and impressive play during the current stretch of games have certainly made the case for the forward to continue to be a regular in the Whitecaps lineup, and perhaps return to the level of playing time he enjoyed with Columbus. For now though Heinemann is taking advantage of his opportunities one game at a time, and building credibility as one of Vancouver's go-to attacking options.