A significant goal of the Canadian Championship in the eyes of Soccer Canada is the development of Canadian talent. This is evidenced by the requirement of each team to start at least three Canadians in each game. Perhaps, that would seem like a no-brainer for a club to give their Canadians a platform to get minutes and compete for their national cup. But, that hasn’t always been the case.
Patrick Johnston of The Province recently wrote how the ‘Caps reputation for not playing Canadians is somewhat deserved. He wrote how Terry Dunfield and rookie, Russell Teibert were the only Canadians to play early in VWFC’s MLS tenure, and at the time they were really the only Canadians who were getting any MLS minutes. But, that all changed when Martin Rennie took over the team. In Rennie’s first year, Teibert didn’t play at all in the CC and rarely in MLS, while Dunfield had long been traded to Toronto. It became obvious there was a tension between Rennie and Lenarduzzi that began around playing young Americans over the young Teibert. The following year, Teibert played a few more games in the CC, but it was apparent Rennie did not see the tournament as a showcase for Canadian talent.
Things have changed under Carl Robinson. In previous CC campaigns he has boldly fielded teams full of young Canadians from the first team and from VWFC2. I remember a game in Toronto that featured Teibert, Froese, Carducci, Bustos, a young McKendry and Adegkube. That was an extreme statement of support for the team’s Canadian youth, and Robbo paid for it in accusations that he wasn’t managing the tournament to win.
On Tuesday, Robbo started Teibert, De Jong and Ben McKendry as his three Canadians. Only McKendry could be considered somewhat of a surprise, since he is not yet getting MLS minutes. However, McKendry is finally healthy and Robbo needs to know what he has in the player. The other Canadians that featured were Marco Bustos, and Alphonso Davies, whose Canadian citizenship is not yet in place. While Robbo didn’t start a first team line-up like Montréal did in the home leg. It can’t be said that this wasn’t the most competitive team at his disposal if you consider the squad rotation necessary to accommodate the MLS weekend games. And, after the injuries and slow start to the regular season suffered from the early CONCACAF Champions League games it is hard to fault Robbo for using his squad over these past two weeks. Is that not what a squad is for?
The Canadians involved in the 2017 Voyageurs Cup (Canadian Championship) campaign were not the wet-behind-the-ears group of players fielded in the past. This year’s selections were indicative of the evolution of Canadian players in MLS and more specifically VWFC. They were the best players the manager had at his disposal, and two of them were experienced MLS starters. The competitiveness of the two games forced the young hopeful Canadians in Norman Jr., Melvin and Baldissimo to remain appropriately stapled to the bench.
The squads weren’t good enough to beat the Impact in Montréal, but I suggest, had Reyna, Ibini and David Edgar, another Canadian International, been healthy for these matches the quality of their depth would have been stronger and the three starting Canadians would have fit in nicely beside them.
Does the ‘Caps hate Canadians moniker still apply with Adegkube and Froese finding early success in Europe, the Canadian Internationals who have recently joined the team, and a regular pipeline of young Canadians moving up the academy ladder? In terms of the Canadian Championship, I’d say it does not.
The real test of the Whitecaps commitment and ability to develop and play Canadian talent will be seen once these Canadians are consistently starting MLS games.