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Derek Cornelius: Vancouver Whitecaps close to signing Canadian national team defender

Vancouver Whitecaps fans celebrate Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies (67) during the 67th minute of play against the Portland Timbers during the second half at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

VANCOUVER — The news first broke in Germany. Former VfB Lübeck defender Derek Cornelius completed his medical and will join the Vancouver Whitecaps from Serbian side FK Javor-Matis Ivanjica, German newspaper Lübecker Nachrichten reported Thursday.

Derek Cornelius has left the Javor-Matis’ training camp to sign a contract with the Whitecaps, sources in Serbia confirmed to ProSoccerUSA.

In Cornelius, the Whitecaps will land a proven centerback with a growing international pedigree. 

Cornelius joined VfB Lübeck’s youth side in 2014, but he only played one game with the first team. Even though his father worked in the city, FIFA at the time did not permit the underaged defender to play for the German-based club. FIFA regulations only allow transfers of players 18 or older between two different countries. 

In 2016, Cornelius left Lübeck and joined VfR Neumünster, for which he played 17 games in the fifth-division Oberliga Schleswig-Holstein.

Just one year later, in January 2017, the now 21-year-old defender left Germany altogether and joined the Serbian SuperLiga side Javor-Matis. Altogether he played 25 games for the Serbian club, enough to break into Canada’s senior national team in September, 2018.

Cornelius was also a standout for Canada at the Provence Toulon youth tournament in May and June, with Canada finishing sixth at the prestigious international competition in France. Cornelius helped Canada open with a 0-0 draw against Portugal and then wore the captain’s armband for a 1-1 draw with Japan.

“Derek Cornelius came into the March camp in Spain with the men’s national team and showed a lot of maturity and composure for a young player which led us into the Toulon tournament in May and June, where he took the captain’s armband and helped us to achieve some pretty remarkable results” Canada’s national men’s coach John Herdman told Sportsnet. “He has strong character and a drive to reach the top so we hope he can continue to progress.”

As a result of his standout performances, Cornelius was voted the 2018 Canadian Youth International Player of the Year in December by Canada Soccer.

The defender, who also has a Jamaican passport, also appeared in three games for Canada’s senior side in the Concacaf Nations League. Herdman paired the centerback with current Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry in the games against the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis. 

Henry and Cornelius will now be reunited in Vancouver, where they could center the Caps’ defense under new head coach Marc Dos Santos.  

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