Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007

B-CC soccer’s Ethan White is pro-lific

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Bethesda-Chevy Chase junior Ethan White returned to Montgomery County this year, rather than accept an invitation to sign a professional contract with Bordeaux, a team in France’s top soccer league.
Let’s face it, a 16-year-old is playing against professional soccer players overseas is special. Especially if he’s from Montgomery County, Maryland, U.S.A.

It’s not altogether implausible — let’s not forget that the youngest American athlete ever to sign a pro contract, former D.C. United soccer player Freddy Adu, attended The Heights in Potomac. But make no mistake, it’s rare.

So rare, in fact, that Bethesda-Chevy Chase midfielder Ethan White doesn’t like to talk about it much.

But the junior phenom lets his game speak for him all over the world. Last summer, he was invited for an individual tryout for several European squads, and later competed in a tournament with Bordeaux, a team in Ligue 1, France’s top professional league. He was even asked to rejoin Bordeaux for a tournament this summer.

Maybe he just doesn’t want to jinx it.

‘‘Last summer — so, I have a couple of friends that are ex-pros, and they got me hooked up with a tryout,” White said. ‘‘I really don’t want to mention names because I don’t know if they want it public, but they play for a couple African national teams, and my brother [Nigel] plays over in France. They asked me to come back next year, and hopefully they want me to stay and things work out.”

In fact, White says that he was asked to stay this past year. But the Barons are sure glad he didn’t.

Following in the footsteps of his older brother, a 2003 B-CC alum who went on to play midfielder at American University, White has been perhaps the key ingredient in a complete turnaround of a perennial power that suffered through a disappointing 4-8-1 season a year ago. Now in the center midfield instead of his normal spot in the backfield, White has logged three game-winning goals for the county’s 3A⁄2A⁄1A Division co-champion Barons (7-2-2 overall, 3-1-1 in the division). In doing so, he buoyed the team to the No.1 seed in the 3A West Region playoff picture

He is as athletic as he is technical. In mid-September, his breakaway boot and deft header accounted for the only goals in a 2-0 win over Poolesville. Two weeks later, he lofted in the only tally in a win over Wheaton, and two weeks ago, his bending freekick allowed B-CC to defeat upstart Clarksburg, 2-1, leaving his opponents thoroughly impressed. As Coyote head coach Jeremy Spoales put it: ‘‘Ethan White is a stud.”

Opposing coaches aren’t the only ones noticing this, nor the first. White has long been an elite layer, skillful enough to be selected into the D.C. United Soccer Academy on the Under-18 squad.

Before that, he was proving himself on an even more local radar. Prior to his acceptance with the United, his on-ball skills provided a dominant force in the backfield for the Potomac Cougars, a U-17 club that once ranked tops in the nation. He was coached by Bryan Davis, an assistant with the George Washington University men’s soccer team, who expects to see White’s name in the headlines for a long, long time.

‘‘Ethan’s talent and his résumé are incredible, but above all he’s a classy kid and one of my favorites that I’ve ever coached,” said Davis. ‘‘I had him for about two years, and he cut a lot of his wood with us, and he’s so gifted athletically. The sky is really the limit for him — if he continues to improve upon his game, Ethan’s a player that could honestly play with the full-time U.S National Team. He’s got that type of potential.”

As of now, he’s busy using that potential with a state-championship contender. He relishes his opportunities with the Barons because he gets offensive opportunities — something he rarely does when playing against the best of the best. And though he’s got a great opportunity to take soccer internationally, he still gets bashful when setting expectations.

They could be higher, but he doesn’t want to say it just yet.

‘‘I’m keeping my options open right now — I don’t know where I’ll be a few years from now,” he said. ‘‘I’d love to represent the United States. Hopefully, I can just take it further than I am right now.”