With the Canadian Men’s National Team having completed their first two matches of 2015, the two games against Iceland have afforded the Canadian soccer community with the opportunity to continue to evaluate which players within Canada’s national team player pool are fitting in and thriving within the approach of Spanish Head Coach Benito Floro.
One player who has impressed whenever he has seen the pitch under Floro is 24 year old defender/midfielder Adam Straith. The Victoria, British Columbia native has played very well when he has been given opportunities under the Spaniard and it is genuinely surprising that he has now been without a club since the end of his contract with German club FC Energie Cottbus.
Realistically, the fact that Straith has not already signed with an MLS club highlights just how much Major League Soccer’s roster rules designating Canadians as foreign players on U.S. teams prevents opportunities for Canadian players in a league that has benefitted so much by the introduction of the three Canadian franchises into the fold. It is likely obvious to anyone who has seen Straith play for Canada over the last couple of years that he has the technical ability, athleticism and football intelligence to be playing in the North American top flight.
In many ways, he is exactly the type of player you would hope would see his career benefit from the rise in quality and prominence of Major League Soccer. However, the 22 times capped Canadian International is all but limited to trying to sign on with one of the Canadian MLS teams and that can make sealing a deal and a spot on an roster more problematic than it should be.
The Whitecaps Residency product has reportedly previously trained with both Montreal and Toronto but has not yet signed with either club.
In my opinion, given the current state of Toronto FC’s roster, Reds General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko and Head Coach Greg Vanney should strongly consider signing Straith for a number of reasons.
With the additions the team has made to date, Toronto look like a team that will be strong up top and solid in the engine room with Bradley leading the midfield. However, a back line that struggled at times last season has already seen Doneil Henry leave the club for West Ham United. Furthermore, back line leader Steven Caldwell is also a year older.
Straith has played well as a centre back for Canada and brings a solid background as a defender from his time playing professionally in Germany. The mobile 6 foot 2 defender has the height, pace and physical attributes that would likely see him do well in an athletic league such as MLS. Furthermore, if you want to be especially cynical, his experience competing for Canada in the CONCACAF region would also see him well placed to deal competently with the terrible level of officiating in Major League Soccer.
Furthermore, in addition to his qualities as a central defender, Straith can very competently play several positions, as he has shown with his play with Canada at fullback and as a defensive midfielder.
Under Benito Floro, Straith has played the majority of his minutes for Canada at the defensive midfielder position, which is one spot that Toronto has struggled to adequately fill since Matias Laba was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Not surprisingly given his development as a defender in Germany, Straith has brought an excellent ability to shield the back four during his games with Canada over the past year. He passes well and generally sits back while allowing Canada’s other midfielders to push forward to support the attack, which is exactly the type of player that Toronto lacked to play alongside Michael Bradley last season. Certainly, while patrolling the middle for Canada, Straith has look like a more steady and defensively responsible player than someone such as Collen Warner.
Add in the fact that Straith would likely link up well with players such as Jonathan Osorio, Kyle Bekker and Ashtone Morgan, who he has played and trained with regularly with Canada, not to mention his European pedigree that would likely see him function on decent wavelength with players like Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Giovinco, and it seems that his integration at TFC would be fluid. Furthermore, at 24 years old Straith is a player who could conceivably be part of TFC’s young core for years to come.
Lastly, with Dwayne De Rosario and Doneil Henry both leaving the team over the offseason, Toronto are a Canadian club that is now actually quite light in terms of having a roster possessing Canadian players expected to contribute regularly. In fact, depending on how much Head Coach Greg Vanney decides to utilize Jonathan Osorio, Toronto could look very much like a team that is Canadian in only the most tenuous way. In my mind, if the club brings in one more U.S. International, the new equipment manager might as well just go ahead and replace the Canadian flag shoulder patch with one containing the stars and stripes.
That’s not to say that Straith should be signed because he is Canadian. Ultimately, he should be signed because he is good enough to help the team achieve success and because it really is getting close to the point where it would be a bloody big deal if the team actually signed a Canadian as a free agent and showed some interest in being something other than an outpost for U.S. National Team players to come to in order to be very generously remunerated.
So get it done TFC and sign up young Adam Straith! It will improve the team, as well as ensure that the Maple Leaf on the team’s kit is actually representative of the club’s commitment to Canadian soccer and fielding a team with at least a modicum of Canadian flavour.