Finding differences in the games of Burnaby soccer brothers Mark and Matthew Baldisimo is not that simple.
Aside from chosing different numbers on their respective Vancouver Whitecaps FC residency team jerseys, older brother Mark and 16-year-old Matthew have few other distinguishing qualities.
Both are defensive-minded midfielders with a strong minor soccer pedigree in Burnaby and participation on provincial age-group teams. Matthew was named to Canada’s under-15 roster for a match in Mexico in 2013, the same year Mark was playing in Germany for a top-flight youth team.
The two brothers both started in 20 of 26 games for their respective under-16 and u-18 residency teams this season. They both root for FC Barcelona and list Chinese food as their favourite edible.
The two teams they play for are also remarkably similar.
The u-17/18 Whitecaps finished runner-up with a record of 16-6-5 behind Seattle in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy West conference.
The younger ‘Caps squad finished just ahead of both Seattle and San Jose with a 15-5-7 first-place record.
Both will also be playing in the national USSDA championships, which get underway this weekend in Indiana.
But the similarities don’t end with just these two Baldisimos.
There is an even younger brother Michael, who is currently involved in the u-14/15 pre-residency program with the ‘Caps.
“(Michael) is probably the most talented one of the family,” said Mark.
“We’re all the same,” added Matthew, who was identified by the Whitecaps while playing with the provincial u-13 team in Winnipeg.
“I thought it was the best thing in the world,” said Matthew, who will be heading to his first U.S. Soccer championship.
“Soccer was the only thing we could do together,” he added. “(Mark) would come home and tell us about what he learned at practice. We hated it because most of the time it was fitness.”
But that has all changed now and attention to training is all in a day’s work within the Whitecaps’ program.
“I think we are very similar,” agreed Mark. “Our personalities and how we play as well. We’re really quiet people off the pitch, but on the pitch we come alive. We’re (both) strong on the ball and move the ball well. Getting stuck on our tackles is also something we take on with any team we play.”
Unlike Matthew, Mark’s first tryout at a u-16 Whitecaps combine did not lead to an invitation. He played in both the Metro and HPL leagues before going overseas.
“It was a good experience and it worked out well, too,” Mark said, adding he was contacted by the ‘Caps upon his return home and this time he stuck.
It just doesn’t get any better than to be in the biggest youth soccer tournament in America with a sibling, said Mark.
“I think it’s very special. We’re very close,” he added. “Obviously, it’s going to be a big tournament and a great challenge for us in moving on in our careers. But I think we can actually win it. We have a great squad, great players and we’re a good group.”
Matthew will join other Burnaby teammates Terran Campbell, Radid Rahiem, Terrell Smith, goalie Luciano Trasolini and Xu Qugong on the u-16 team, while Mark will be joined by Titouan Chopin on the senior squad in Indiana.
“We haven’t really reached our prime performance yet. I think they are still to be unleashed,” Mark said.
Regardless of the outcomes, there is still a lot of soccer left to be played in the Baldisimo family.
Ten-year-old Jeffrey is currently making his way through the Burnaby minor soccer system.
“Hopefully, one of us, and it’s a dream of all of ours, that we’ll make it. If all of us do that would be great,” Mark said.