clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why Players Are Suddenly Committing to the Canadian National Team

New, 2 comments

Canada has long struggled to convince anyone with other options to play for the national team. In 2015, however, that all changed and that trend looks to be carrying over into the new year.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It started with an online teaser video. The post read "Coming soon to Canada's Men's National Team... Can you guess who it is?". Correction -  can you guess who they are? That video was the public announcement that long time national player in limbo Junior Hoilett would commit to Canada. Quick to follow was the announcement that Rangers FC midfielder Frasier Aird would also be added to the squad ahead of the first World Cup Qualifier. Paired with Tesho Akindele, the Canadian mens national team has been ending call up conversations left (mid), right and centre (forward).

It doesn't stop there, more players have been rumoured to commit with the additions of Scott Arfield and Steven Vitoria, expected to pull on the Canada kit for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in March. While any national team securing five new commits is impressive, it is the quality of these players that will be most valuable to Canada. Hoilett and Akindele have already played starting roles for the Reds while Arfield has the experience and quality to play a major role on the right side of the midfield. A consistent starter for Burnley in the English Championship, the midfielder has four goals in 26 games for the club. The other two commits may not be starting eleven quality, but both players will be strong depth options coming off the bench.

While I like to think each of these players simply saw the (Northern) light and realized that representing Canada was a matter of playing for your country and heritage, below are a few more plausible reasons why these players have decided to dawn the red and white.

Boosting Club Career

At the front of most fans' minds is where these players are in their careers. Hoilett is a prime example of a player that was playing consistently in the first team but is committing at a time when his career took a downturn. Hoilett's playing time dropped last season from playing 38 games in the Championship to 22 in the EPL and has only played 12 of 25 games in this year's campaign. While fans have the right to be frustrated if they believe Hoilett is just using Canada as an opportunity to showcase his talent and land a new contract (his ends June 30th 2016) fans should also be looking at the positives.

For one, Canada is landing a young quality midfielder who has experience to influence games in CONCACAF and bring attention to the national program. Two, even if Hoilett isn't invested in Canada, by him landing a new contract will make him a better player which in turn will again help the national team. Three, this is Canada, we aren't a football player factory and while Hoilett hasn't committed in his prime he has still committed and committed to winning. He played a major role in the win over Honduras and Canada's first tie in Central America since 2004. Better late than never.

Quality Coaching

While it is possible that Benito Floro is selling these players on Canada as an opportunity to rejuvenate their club careers, that would truly undervalue what the players are gaining in return. Floro was not just another soccer mind brought in to manage the Canadian team, he too is a selling point for players. Each of them learning from a coach with 32 years' experience plying his trade across Spain, Japan and Mexico. Floro is the coach who stood at the touchline of the Estadio de Mestalla and won the Copa Del Rey with Real Madrid and finished in second in La Liga the same season.

As the Canadian coach who has the most years of professional coaching under his belt his experience should resonate with the players and would have been a factor in their decision to come to the national team. If Stephen Hart or Colin Miller were coaching the team would these players still have committed?

CSA Sweet Talkin

While Victor Montagliani likely didn't call the players and whisper sweet nothings in their ears, they were absolutely impacted by the level of commitment and increased support the CSA has provided the program. Following a record breaking Women's World Cup and their eyes on a 2026 bid the CSA has invested more dollars and raised their level of commitment to the national program. While attitude and ambition are traits that come down from the top down, the players likely saw the strength of the program and the potential that Montagliani's team is laying out and believe this was a program they can help build up - regardless of what they are receiving in return.

Overall each player's decisions would have been specific to his own needs and wnats, these additions will be welcomed by the organization and may help end discussions around future national team call ups. As young players look to the national team they will be able to see an array of skilled players playing all over the world, all playing for a common purpose - Canada. That is something everyone can get behind.