Is Canada the soccer rival the United States needs?

Rory Smith replaces James Wagner this week, who will report for the United States Men’s National Team around their World Cup qualifier i...


Rory Smith replaces James Wagner this week, who will report for the United States Men’s National Team around their World Cup qualifier in Canada on Sunday.

By most measuring sticks, Dwayne De Rosario has had a successful football career. He played 14 seasons in Major League Soccer, winning the most valuable player award, a league scoring title and winning four MLS championships. He represented Canada at the world junior championships, won a Gold Cup with his senior team and, despite being retired for years, he still shares the title – for now at least – as leader. career goals for his men’s national team with 22.

But in De Rosario’s mind, there will always be a hole in his CV: he never fulfilled his childhood dream of reaching the World Cup.

“I always said if I played a World Cup game and retired I would be done,” De Rosario, 43, said in a phone interview this week. “I would have been happy with my career because that has always been my goal.”

No Canadian men football player, however, has achieved this goal since 1986. This trip to Mexico was the first – and to date still the only – time that Canada has qualified for the soccer world championship. For many generations of Canadian fans and players, memories of the World Cup consist solely of watching other teams play there.

This streak should end, at least, this year: Canada are currently at the top of their qualifying group and probably only need a few wins in their last five games to secure their ticket to the final in Qatar in November. .

“It’s been a long struggle, but luckily we’ve been able to bounce back and enjoy a new golden generation that has emerged,” said Julian de Guzman, 40, whose record appearances for Canada’s men’s team has recently been exceeded. by current team captain, Atiba Hutchinson.

For years, discussions of supremacy in North and Central America and the Caribbean have focused on the United States and Mexico. Other teams relied on this duality from time to time, but the top two usually remained the same. Mexico pushed the United States to improve, and vice versa.

However, Canada’s sudden emergence from a decades-long slumber is changing this real-time reckoning and conversation. And its immediate future, powered by young stars like Alphonse Davies, jonathan david, Tajon BuchananCyle Larin and an increasingly deep and talented core suggest this new kid on the Concacaf block could be here to stay.

“It’s the legitimate team with legitimate players playing among, otherwise the best team in Concacaf at the moment, they are definitely one of the top two or three teams in the region,” said former Canadian player Paul Stalteri. “And that’s on a constant basis. It’s not just a fluke. It definitely changed the landscape.

On Sunday, Canada – the only Concacaf team yet to lose a game in qualifying – will face their final test when they take on the United States in Hamilton, Ontario. Both teams will pick up wins on Thursday night. Both will feel like they’ve earned the top spot in the group.

“It’s refreshing,” De Rosario said. “If you look at the size of Canada, compared to Honduras or Panama, why aren’t we consistently on par with the United States and Mexico or in the top three? We should be a dominant force in the top three.

The rise of Canadian soccer happened for many reasons, former players said. It certainly wasn’t overnight. They highlighted a number of changes, among many others: the training of John Herdman; more resources for the national team; more talents trained in professional environments; and the proliferation of professional football throughout the country.

Canada has always produced talented players, De Rosario said, citing players like Hutchinson, 38, who has 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 players have more development outlets, including Canada’s three MLS teams — CF Montreal, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps — and their academies. Among the current national team players who have emerged through these systems or are playing there professionally now? Larin, Buchanan, Samuel Piette, Jonathan Osorio, Doneil Henry, Liam Fraser and Sam Adekugbe. And that list doesn’t even include Davies, the Bayern Munich star who will miss games this window while recovering. a heart problem linked to Covid.

Growing up, Martin Nash, a former national team player and brother of Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash, said the path for a Canadian was less clear and often involved leaving home and taking the risk. trying to get a job in Europe. Now, because there are about a dozen professional teams in Canada – from MLS to the Canadian Premier League and more – there are more ways to grow and get noticed.

“There are just more pathways to professional play now than there ever were before, which I think is a great thing because if it’s not visual you lose a lot of the better athletes for the benefit of bigger sports,” said Nash, 46, who is now head coach of York United FC in the CPL. “You know, hockey and baseball and basketball or American football. The best athletes, like my brother, played a sport that you saw more on TV.

For de Guzman, the proof of Canada’s growth is in its depth, a trait he says has been lacking in the past. Even without Davies, Canada had no trouble beating Honduras 2-0 on Thursday.

“When you talk about soccer to people in Europe, whether it’s Germany or Holland, there’s a different kind of feeling now and the respect you get when you talk about coming from Canada,” de Guzman said. “It’s kind of my duty and my goal as a player: to put Canada on the map. And we are finally there.

Stalteri described this Canadian team as fast, dynamic and strong on both ends of the court. The biggest difference from previous teams is his scoring ability, however, something he said has long been a blow against Canadian football. De Rosario said he appreciates how the diversity of modern Canada is reflected in both the roster and the style of play of this team. He said the 1986 World Cup squad he watched as a child was more European in its ancestry and philosophy on the pitch.

While going through the youth national team program, De Rosario, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Guyana, said he found it difficult to adapt to the more direct style that Canada employed at the ‘era. He grew up around the West Indians and his father taught him to play the South American way, with flair, attack and a penchant for dribbling. “We brought a different seasoning to the pot,” he said of his generation of national team stars.

“Now,” De Rosario continued, “we see ourselves keeping possession and attacking, moving the ball and dissecting them, and expressing yourself, which is refreshing because we have the players who can do that now. If you look at the demographics of Canada Soccer today, it’s very diverse and very multicultural, and that’s nice because it speaks to the state of our country.

Stalteri notices the change the most when coaching his son’s teams or spending time with other young players.

“There are a number of these kids who not only want Messi or Ronaldo shirts, but they legitimately want Canadian shirts,” he said. “And that’s where you start to see a difference. It’s not just footballers who are excited about this.

With five games remaining in the final qualifying round, there is still a lot of work to do for Canada, the United States and Mexico, who are now both trailing in the standings. But De Rosario admitted he could already sense the bubbling pride and possibilities of what is to come in Qatar and beyond.

“There should be no turning back after this,” he said. “It should be automatic now, right down to our youth teams.

“The World Cup should be the norm.”


That’s it for an abbreviated newsletter this week. Rory is on a brief hiatus – just like Set menu, Actually. But he’s still reading email, so reach out to him at askrory@nytimes.com with hints, tips, complaints, or ideas, or search for him on Twitterwhere he certainly shouldn’t be spending his time but where he’ll probably be found anyway.

Have a good week-end.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Is Canada the soccer rival the United States needs?
Is Canada the soccer rival the United States needs?
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