13 Mar Young Canadians impressing early in 2018 MLS season
Canadian players in Major League Soccer have always been a controversial subject. The MLS, which has three Canadian franchises sprinkled in amongst a league that is mostly American has always favoured players south of the border.
Until recently, a bizarre ruling meant that Canadian players were considered “international” players on American MLS teams, forcing them to compete for limited roster spots on each team. Americans, meanwhile, were considered domestic throughout the league. That rule has changed slightly, with Canadians who have come up through MLS recognized academies now earning the “domestic” title as well. But it still isn’t perfect.
Many in Canadian soccer circles have felt this double standard has hurt the national team player pool, taking away potential jobs from young Canadians. It is part of the reason why Canada Soccer is set to launch a league of their own in 2019.
But the first few weeks of the 2018 MLS season have seen many Canadian players break through and make a positive impact. Evidently, although it’s still early, if this keeps up it would be a banner year for Canucks in the league. Here is a look at Canadians to keep an eye on this season.
Jonathan Osorio – Toronto FC
Osorio hasn’t looked back since having the best game of his professional career in the 2017 MLS Cup final. Toronto FC’s longest serving player had been dealing with a tough season where he had only started nine matches, the fewest of his career. But in the biggest game of his tenure, he started and delivered.
This offseason, however, it looked like Osorio might again lose out in the numbers game. Toronto FC decided to move right back Nicolas Hasler to his preferred position at central midfield. They then went out and bought Ager Aketxe, a Spanish league midfielder from Athletic Bilbao.
Osorio’s response was to make sure there was no way Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney could take him out of the lineup. Through the first four games of 2018, he has been Toronto FC’s best player, period.
Not known for his goalscoring ability, Osorio has already scored twice including a breathtaking back heel that saw Toronto FC beat Tigres in leg 1 of the CONCACAF Champions League. He has been excellent on both sides of the ball, and his passing ability is starting to rival the league’s best.
Alphonso Davies – Vancouver Whitecaps
Davies spent 2017 making sure the world knew who he was. The 17-year-old, in his first appearances for the Canadian men’s senior national team, led the CONCACAF Gold Cup in scoring. He also won young player of the tournament.
Now, he is looking to have his breakout season at the club level with the Vancouver Whitecaps. He is already off to a good start, scoring his first ever MLS goal in the season opener against the Montreal Impact. He also added an assist in a 2-1 win for the Whitecaps for good measure.
Davies is well beyond his years in more ways than one, already a mature young man off the field while showing clear physical and technical gifts. This could ultimately be his last year in Vancouver, as European teams including the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool have already scouted him.
Raheem Edwards – Montreal Impact
Just a couple of days after winning the MLS Cup with Toronto FC, Edwards’ journey took a surprise turn. The 22-year-old Toronto native was scooped up in the expansion draft by LAFC and dealt to TFC’s biggest rival, the Montreal Impact.
The move just might be a good one for the 22-year-old, who was recently called up by the Canadian men’s national team for their end of month friendly against New Zealand. Edwards wouldn’t have played very much for an incredibly deep Toronto FC side, and instead joins a rebuilding Montreal team that needs more players with his creativity.
Edwards’ Montreal career got off to a rough start against Vancouver. However, in his second game of the season against the Columbus Crew Edwards came off the bench to score a beautiful volley.
Mark-Anthony Kaye – Los Angeles FC
Kaye was a surprise inclusion at the 2017 Gold Cup by then-manager Octavio Zambrano. Even more surprising was how much he was used in the midfield position, where he thrived throughout the tournament. His play caught the eye of LAFC manager Bob Bradley, who brought him in for this season.
Through two games for the undefeated expansion team, his first two ever at the MLS level, Kaye has already looked more than comfortable. He assisted on LAFC’s first ever goal in a 1-0 win over the 2017 MLS Cup finalist Seattle Sounders in the season opener.
LAFC is currently very low on numbers as they start their inaugural season, so Kaye is going to get a lot of minutes in the early going as one of the few midfielders on the roster. That might change as the club brings in re-enforcements over the summer, but safe the say the Canadian has made a positive first impression.
Others to keep an eye on: Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas), Richie Laryea (Orlando City SC), Sam Piette (Montreal Impact), Michael Petrasso (Montreal Impact), Amer Didic (Sporting Kansas City), Kwame Awuah (NYCFC), Jordan Hamilton (Toronto FC)