Jersey native is now the team’s second-longest tenured player after the team extended his contract for two more years.
Valentine’s Day is Feb. 9 for Jake Nerwinski. It’s when the Vancouver Whitecaps right-back feels the love.
After being taken in the MLS SuperDraft in January 2017, Nerwinski signed his first pro contract a month later on Feb. 9. Exactly 12 months after that, on Feb. 9 2018, he signed his first extension.
And on Feb. 9, 2021, he signed his second extension, a two-year deal with a team option in 2023.
“I think it’s really nice to see that they value my play and value what I’ve done for this club,” said the 26-year-old native of Lawrenceville, N.J.
“That’s really important to me. That’s kind of something that I care about most, is that I’m in a spot where this club and this organization really wants me to be here, and it’s happy that I’m here.
“At the end of the season, I had a great conversation with Axel and Marc, and we started negotiations from there. They said they really valued me as a player, on and off the field. And I think that’s kind of all you’re really looking for as a player, to get that validation from the club.”
Nerwinski (92 regular-season games) is now the second-longest tenured Whitecap, behind Russell Teibert (184). Both are extremely active in the community, with Nerwinski being named the 2020 Jock MacDonald Unsung Hero award — given to the Whitecap for contributions off the pitch — for his work with B.C. Children’s Hospital and the Hope and Health Foundation.
Nerwinski is one of four Whitecaps who are working out at the team’s training facility — “getting torched by our strength coach,” he cracked — along with Cristian Dájome, Andy Rose and Pat Metcalfe as they prepare for the season.
A steady, stay-at-home defender, the six-foot, 175-pounder has yet to be displaced as the starting right-back in his four seasons with the club since being drafted out of the University of Connecticut, starting 85 of those 125 regular-season games. All three of his career goals have come under Marc Dos Santos, while all six of his assists came under Carl Robinson.
“Going into last season, I talked to Marc a bit and he kind of wanted me to take more of a leadership role, since we had such a young team,” said Nerwinski, who is the team’s all-time right-back leader in blocks, recoveries, tackles won and duels won.
“I tried to help out the younger guys as much as I could, you know, in training and games, just give them my experiences and what I’ve done throughout my career.
“I know I’m 26 now, and it seems like it just flew by. And I think even at 22, there’s still guys last year, they were younger than 22 — most of them on the field — so it was pretty crazy that I still could have been considered an older guy. It kind of shows where this club is headed. We’re valuing young players, we’re trying to develop, trying to create something a little bit different than other teams.”
The Whitecaps were the youngest team in MLS coming into last season, with an average age of 24.1, making Nerwinski — who got hitched six months ago — one of the team’s “old married guys.”
“I’m not cool anymore. It kind of sucks. I’m going to have to tell dad jokes now,” he joked.