Injury slows former Highlanders star Levis’ rise to the top

Brett Levis patiently answered all the questions the young players threw his way Friday morning during a Vancouver Whitecaps youth soccer clinic at Layritz Park.

Are you in the latest FIFA video game?

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“Yes, and it’s cool, because I grew up playing the game with my friends.”

How much money do you make?

“I can’t say here.”

Do you get free things?

“Yes, there are perks.”

When was your best assist?

“In a friendly against Crystal Palace.”

Do you want to play for Canada?

“I would love to play for the national team. I have been contacted by the new manager and they want to bring me into camp when I get healthy.”

Levis returned Friday to the city where his soccer career turned during his 2013 season with the Victoria Highlanders in the USL Premier Development League.

“We had a great team that year in Victoria and went all the way to the PDL Final Four in Texas and this how the Vancouver Whitecaps scouted me,” recalled Levis.

“The PDL and the Highlanders got me seen. I just progressed through the ranks.”

After scoring eight goals in 44 games from 2015-2016 with Whitecaps FC 2 of the USL, Levis was signed by the Whitecaps last year to an MLS first-team contract. The native of Saskatoon made his MLS debut last August but tore a knee ligament in his very first game for the Whitecaps against the Portland Timbers. He has been out since. The rehab has been long with Levis expecting to finally be ready for selection in about a month.

But a guy who has climbed from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to the Highlanders to the Whitecaps USL team to the main MLS Whitecaps isn't going to be denied his dream by an injury, as brutally inopportune as it was.

“I’ve made it this far. I can’t let this get in the way,” said the quietly determined 24-year-old former Highlander.

“I grew up with a soccer ball. This is my goal.”

Victoria fans who remember Levis as a clever-on-the ball attacking midfielder who scored nine goals in 14 regular-season games for the Highlanders, and as a Huskies player who bedeviled the University of Victoria Vikes, will be surprised to learn the Whitecaps turned him into a left back when Jordan Harvey got injured.

“I’m still attacking as a left back,” said Levis, with a glint.

He is only five-foot-eight but so smart with the ball.

“The best player in the world [Messi] is small,” he added.

“It’s not about your size in soccer. It’s about what you do on the ball that counts.”

From Saskatoon, through Victoria, and now Vancouver, it has counted for a lot. Where it leads is yet to be written. But the youth players at Layritz on Friday may have been well advised to lap up his every word.

ON THE PITCH: At Centennial Stadium on Friday, the Highlanders edged Seattle Sounders U-23 2-1. Out of playoff contention, Victoria will wrap up the season Sunday in Calgary against Foothills.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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