The Canadian flag has flown high in Major League Soccer during the early part of the 2016 season. While the country's three teams have had mixed results to start the year, players born north of the border are making an impact.
Will Johnson has been a revelation in the Toronto FC midfield and scored his first goal for the club this past weekend. In Montreal, Kyle Bekker is having a breakout season. Fraser Aird has been a fixture at right-back for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Cyle Larin and Tesho Akindele, meanwhile, have been offensive weapons for Orlando City and FC Dallas respectively.
The examples continue, and throughout Major League Soccer Canadians are getting more minutes than in previous years. The majority of this increase has come from Canadian teams, who are finally playing their own consistently. Montreal has led the way, starting four Canadian players in their past two games.
Canadian players are appearing in 591 minutes on average per match day, an increase from previous years. Matchday totals are calculated differently based on how many games each team has played.
That means nearly 7 Canadian players play a full 90 minutes per match day, compared to 5 from last season. It isn't a massive increase, and still nowhere near where it should be, but it is enough to be considered a positive.
Theoretically, minutes available to Canadians will only increase during the summer months as well. Toronto FC, for example, will likely lose at least three of their starters to long international competitions. This will open up starting spots for young Canadians like Jordan Hamilton, Mo Babouli and Jay Chapman. Vancouver and Montreal could also lose international starters to the Copa America, opening the door for their youngsters.
Not only are Canadian players getting playing time this year, they are making the most of that time on the field. Canadians are scoring and assisting on goals more frequently than they have in previous years.
Larin and Akindele have been leading the charge, as the 2014 and 2015 MLS rookie of the year winners have been scoring and setting up goals a plenty to start the year. Johnson, Bekker, Max Tissot and Anthony Jackson-Hamel have also found the back of the net in 2016.
So far this year, Canadians have scored 1.26 goals per matchday, up from last year's 0.85. If this scoring rate continues, Canadians players are on pace to score a combined 43 goals this season. Assists per matchday are also up: from 0.41 the last two seasons to 0.93 this year.
The timing of these strong performances is important as well. CSA president Victor Montagliani has made it clear in interviews that Major League Soccer is on the verge of making some sort of rule change which would push American teams to sign Canadians.
Canadian players are currently considered international players on American teams and, as a result, limited spots are available. Only three Canadian MLS players currently play in the states: Larin with Orlando, Akindele with Dallas and Karl Ouimette with the New York Red Bulls.
The impact this rule change could have depends on how it is structured. But it could help players like Ashtone Morgan, stuck on the bench behind one of the best fullbacks in the league, find more minutes elsewhere.
Nonetheless, if Canadian players continue to have a collectively strong 2016 it will only make more of a case as to why Canadian players need to be given full domestic status.