Is Canada the Soccer Rival America Needs?

Rory Smith replaces this week for James Wagner, who will report on the US men’s national team around Sunday’s World Cup qualifying game in Canada.

By most measures, Dwayne De Rosario has enjoyed a successful football career. He played 14 seasons in Major League Soccer, winning the most valuable player award, the league’s goalscorer title, and racking up four MLS championships. He has represented Canada in the World Youth Championship, won the Gold Cup with its senior team and, despite his retirement years now, he still shares the title – at least for the time. current points – as the career leader of the men’s national team with 22 goals.

But in De Rosario’s mind, there will always be one hole in his résumé: He never lived up to his childhood dream of making it to the World Cup.

“I’ve always said that if I play in a World Cup game and I retire, I’m done,” De Rosario, 43, said in a phone interview this week. “I’ll be happy with my career because that’s always been my goal.”

However, no Canadian men’s soccer player has reached that goal since 1986. That trip to Mexico was the first – and by far the only time Canada has qualified for the tournament. world soccer championship. For generations of Canadian fans and players, the memory of the World Cup consists solely of watching other teams compete in it.

That record will end, at least this year: Canada currently tops the qualifying group and probably needs just a few wins in the last five to qualify for the final round in Qatar in November.

Julian de Guzman, 40, who surpassed Canada’s record for appearances for the men’s team was recently surpassed and takes advantage of a new golden generation that has emerged. by the team’s current captain, Atiba Hutchinson.

For years, talk of supremacy in North and Central America and the Caribbean has focused on the United States and Mexico. Other teams will occasionally rely on that duality, but the top two usually stay the same. Mexico pushed the United States to be better, and vice versa.

Canada’s sudden rise, however, after a decade of slumber, is changing that calculus and conversation in real time. And its immediate future, backed by young stars like Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan, Cyle Larin and an increasingly deep and talented core, shows that this new kid on the Concacaf block could be here to stay.

“This is a legal team with legal players playing together, otherwise the The top team at Concacaf at the moment is, without a doubt, a top two or three team in the region,” said former Canada international Paul Stalteri. “And that is a consistent basis. It’s not just a lucky bit of stress. This has definitely changed the landscape.”

On Sunday, Canada – the only Concacaf team yet to lose a game in qualifying – will face the latest test against the United States in Hamilton, Ontario. Both teams will have wins on Thursday night. Both will feel they have won the top spot.

“It was refreshing,” De Rosario said. “If you look at the size of Canada, compared to Honduras or Panama, why don’t we identify with the US and Mexico or be in the top three? We should be a leading dominant force.”

The rise of Canadian football came about for many reasons, the former players say. It is certainly not overnight. They point to a few changes, among many: the coaching of John Herdman; more resources for the national team; many talents are trained in a professional environment; and the blossoming of professional football across the country.

Canada has always produced talented players, De Rosario said, pointing to players like Hutchinson, 38, who played in Sweden, Denmark and now Turkey; Stalteri, the first Canadian to score in the Bundesliga; and de Guzman, the first Canadian to play in the Spanish First Division.

The difference now is that the players have more facilities to develop, including the three Canadian MLS teams – CF Montréal, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps – and their academies. Among the current national team players, who have emerged through those systems or play there professionally now? Larin, Buchanan, Samuel Piette, Jonathan Osorio, Doneil Henry, Liam Fraser and Sam Adekugbe. And that list doesn’t even include Bayern Munich star Davies, who will miss games of this window while recovering. a heart problem related to Covid.

Growing up, Martin Nash, a former national team player and brother of Brooklyn Nets Coach Steve Nash, said the path of a Canadian was unclear, and often had to leave his hometown and venture out in search of one. work in Europe. Now, since there are about a dozen professional teams in Canada – from the MLS to the Canadian Premier League and beyond – there are ways to grow and get noticed.

Nash, 46, who is now the head coach of York United FC in the CPL “You know, hockey and baseball and basketball or American football. The better athletes, like my brother, went to see a sport you see more of on TV. ”

For de Guzman, evidence of Canada’s growth is in depth, a trait he argues has been lacking in the past. Even without Davies, Canada struggled to beat Honduras, 2-0, on Thursday.

“When you talk to people in Europe about football, whether it’s in Germany or the Netherlands, there’s a different feeling and the respect you get when you talk about coming from Canada,” he said. de Guzman said. “That is my mission and my goal as a player: to put Canada on the map. And in the end, there we are.”

Stalteri calls this the Canadian team that is fast, dynamic and strong at both ends of the field. The biggest difference from past teams, however, is the ability to score, which he says has long beaten Canadian football. De Rosario said he appreciates the way modern Canada showcases diversity in both the squad and the way this team plays. He said that the 1986 World Cup team he followed as a child was more European in terms of its ancestry, and their ethos on the field.

Coming to the youth national team program, De Rosario, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Guyana, said he has had trouble adjusting to the more direct style that Canada recruits into. at that moment. He grew up around West Indians and his father taught him to play the South American way, with flair, attack and a penchant for dribbling. “We have brought another spice to the pot,” he said of his generation of national team stars.

“Now,” continued De Rosario, “we are seeing us keep possession and attack, moving the ball around and dissecting them, and expressing ourselves, which is refreshing because we have the players can do it now. If you look at the demographics of Canada Soccer now, it’s very diverse and very multicultural. That’s beautiful because it speaks volumes about the state of our country. ”

Stalteri noticed the most change whenever he was coaching his son’s team or spending time with other young players.

“There are some kids now who not only want Messi or Ronaldo’s jerseys, but they also legally want Canada’s jerseys,” he said. “And that’s where you start to see the difference. It’s not just football that people are excited about this.”

Five games are still in the final qualifying round, and there is still much work to be done for Canada, the United States and Mexico, who are currently behind both in the standings. But De Rosario admits he has been able to feel a flaming pride and possibility for what is to come in Qatar and beyond.

“Don’t look back then,” he said. “It will be automated now, right for our youth teams.

“The World Cup has to be the norm.”

That’s all for this week’s abbreviated newsletter. Rory is on a short hiatus – like Order a piece menu, actually. But he’s still reading emails, so reach out at with any suggestions, tips, complaints or ideas, or search for him on Twitter, where he certainly shouldn’t spend any time away but maybe he’ll be found anyway.

Have a wonderful weekend. Is Canada the Soccer Rival America Needs?

Fry Electronics Team

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