Vancouver Whitecaps FC have acquired 2018 Canadian Youth International Player of the Year Derek Cornelius, the club announced on Friday.

“Derek is one of the top young players in a new generation of Canadian talent,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos. “For his age, he has the right composure and characteristics we look for at the centre back position. We have followed his progress within Canada Soccer and believe he has developed in the right way. He has also been exposed to different environments and this is always good for a player’s development. We are working hard to build this roster and will be announcing additional player acquisitions very soon.”

A native of Ajax, Ontario, Cornelius earned his first senior cap for Canada in September 2018. He has three appearances for Les Rouges, helping the national team to clean sheets in Concacaf Nations League qualifying during each outing.

After making his debut in the national youth program at age 15, Cornelius was honoured as the 2018 Canadian Youth International Player of the Year in part for his leadership and performance with Canada U-21 at the prestigious Festival International Espoirs Provence in France. Cornelius helped lead Canada to an undefeated group stage, in which they conceded just one goal in three matches against Portugal, Turkey, and Japan, and wore the captain’s armband in their group stage finale.

“Vancouver is a club that I’ve followed for a few years and I’m extremely excited to now be a part of it,” said Cornelius. “This is a good opportunity for me to show the city and club what I can do as an individual and to not just come through, but to really leave my mark here. I look forward to playing in front of the passionate supporters and doing whatever it takes to help the club win.”

The 6-foot-2 defender makes his Canadian homecoming having most recently spent the past two years with FK Javor Ivanjica, making 31 appearances while competing in the Serbian SuperLiga in 2017-18, and the First League in 2018-19.

Prior to his move to Serbia, Cornelius began his professional career in Germany’s Regionalliga, scoring two goals in 18 total appearances for VfB Lübeck and VfR Neumünster.

Whitecaps FC celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1979 Soccer Bowl Championship throughout the 2019 season.