Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Where will Canada's players come from?

What? You've been waiting impatiently for me to post about last Saturday's friendly against Venezuela? The one where Canada finally snapped a long winless and goalless drought on a last minute equalizer by Gavin McCallum, of all people? That featured promising performances by exciting youngsters like Adam Straith and Eddy Sidra?

Well, I didn't see it. But I've got some other thoughts to share.

Youth on display

In case you had forgotten, what with all the euphoria of the aforementioned Venezuela draw, or the celebrations in the streets of the T-dot in honour of "the FC" having clinched the Nutrilite tournament without even playing, tonight there is still one Voyageurs Cup game being played.

And since the outcome of the tournament no longer hangs in the balance, both squads have fielded less than full strength -- and somewhat more than experimental -- lineups.

Toronto FC's starting XI includes academy standouts Doneil Henry and Allando Matheson, and 3-year TFC man Gabe Gala who is, of course, still only 20 years old.

Vancouver is countering with an nearer-to-full-strength XI that includes young Canadians Marcus Haber, Philippe Davies and Luca Bellisomo.

The inclusions of these players is evidence of an abundance of young Canadian players within these systems. I decided against "young Canadian talent" because evidence that we are in fact dealing with talented youngsters remains in short supply.

But this brings to mind a thread on the Voyageurs forum: What's your hope for Canadian player development in 5 years. The theme in the responses from the more-clued-in-than-average posters that you get at the Voyageurs forum is that Canada's pro teams would have to shoulder the burden of developing Canadian talent if Canada is to have success on the internationl scene.

Three teams may not be enough, but it will interesting to see in 5 years time whether the young Canadian talent from it's 3 fully professional sides, whether currently on the senior squad or in the residency/academy, finds its way into the Canadian national team.

As an illustration of what a couple of pro teams can do for one nation's national side, let's go back in time. All the way to the year 2005 . . .

A walk down memory lane

Back in spring of '05, I was a young lad spending the days washing dishes and the evenings rolling around on the streets of Amsterdam. As luck would have it, Ajax was having a poorish season and tickets weren't in short supply. So I took in two matches that year at the ArenA: against FC Den Bosch in February, and Willem II in April.

The lineups on those evenings (actually, I think the February match was an afternoon encounter):
20 February 2005 vs FC Den Bosch: Stekelenburg; Trabelsi, Heitinga, Escudé, Maxwell; Obodai (60. Babel), Lindgren (81. Anastasiou), Van der Vaart; Rosales, Charisteas (68. De Ridder), Boukhari

7 April 2005 vs Willem II: Vonk; Trabelsi, Heitinga, Grygera, De Jong; Pienaar (74. Maxwell), Maduro, Sneijder; Rosales (74. Boukhari), Babel, Mitea
For your benefit, I've bolded the names of players part of the roster for the Dutch roster for the upcoming World Cup. That's 6 players, 4 or 5 of which are likely to be in the Orange XI, playing for the same squad at the same point in time. Not to mention Maduro, who has been on the fringes of the Dutch team.

If you look closely, this lineup reads as a who's who of Dutch football.

And this was not a New York Yankees-like collection of the big names of a league. These were all young players, 5 of which have since moved on to bigger teams and leagues (only Stekelenburg remains).

Could Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver produce the same effect on our national team roster five years down the road? Who will be our Ajax?

So, in a roundabout way

All of this brings me full circle. Canada's lineup vs Venezuela was as follows:

CANADA: Wagenaar (al-Shaibani 70); Stalteri, Straith, Hastings, Klukowski (Sidra 64); Nakajima-Farran, Dunfield (Beaulieu-Bourgault 74), Pacheco (McCallum 81), Ledgerwood (Zavarise 84), Wassey (Ademolu 61); Jackson

The only player with roots in a Canadian club team is Straith, and even he only spent a season or so in the Whitecaps system (thanks masster for the correction)

In other words, it looks like we have some way to go.


masster said...

What is Sidra's connection to the Whitecaps? I don't think there is one.

J said...

You're right, and I got that wrong. I thought he was part of the Whitecaps Residency to Germany pipeline. But he's not. Will fix shortly.