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Dec. 9, 2010
By Vijay Setlur
The holiday season is a hectic time of year with people scrambling to complete their seemingly never-ending TO DO lists. Mine, likewise, is lengthy, but the task of voting on the Canadian Male Player of the Year is something that has become a holiday rite of passage. Think of it along the lines of buying that last-minute gift or fighting with 20 cars for that one solitary parking spot at the mall. In keeping with the spirit of the season, the vote is a chance for me and my media colleagues to gift one player with this prestigious honour that goes to the player who’s made a significant contribution to BOTH the national team and his club.
That criterion is the key. It’s not just what a player has done with his professional club, but what he did for Canada regardless of how few games Canada has played in a year. I’ve always given the two equal weight, though a player may have played 30 games for his club and, say, only three for Canada. Anyone who’d listen knows my view that the Canadian men’s national team, and not a club, is the most important team and should be the no. 1 priority of soccer fans across Canada. This vote is a chance for me to reward those players that have contributed to the national team, which went 1-3-2 in six games this year.
Some skeptics may call the vote, like any, a popularity contest, but various checks and balances ensure fair consideration. The dual performance criterion is one check, while the fact media votes represent only half of the balloting is a balance. Coaches, who have taken the Canadian Soccer Association’s national course at the B and A levels (including national team coaches) have the other half. Based on their performances in 2010, the Canadian Soccer Association released the list of eligible nominees:
- D Nana Attakora – CAN / Toronto FC – North York, ON
- D Adrian Cann – CAN / Toronto FC – Thornhill, ON
- MF Dwayne De Rosario – CAN / Toronto FC – Scarborough, ON
- MF Atiba Hutchinson – NED / PSV Eindhoven – Brampton, ON
- F Simeon Jackson – ENG / Norwich City FC – Mississauga, ON
- MF Will Johnson – USA / Real Salt Lake – Toronto, ON
- MF Josh Simpson – TUR / TUR / Vestel Manisaspor – Victoria, BC
- D Adam Straith – GER / FC Energie Cottbus – Victoria, BC
I won’t review each player’s accomplishments, which you can read at www.canadasoccer.com/news/viewArtical.asp?Press_ID=4585. Instead, I’ll focus on the list overall and what these players’ performances mean for Canada’s campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brasil.
The trait that stands out the most is the relative youth of the list. Save for De Rosario, all the players are 29 or under and entering their prime with Attakora, Jackson and Straith all in their early 20s. That bodes well for Canada especially since youth and speed will be necessary to handle the youth movements of CONCACAF’s big boys – Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and the U.S. As well, the fact the list has players at all positions shows coach Stephen Hart has some building blocks to set a roster that will lead Canada into World Cup qualifying late next year. Attakora and Straith may form the nucleus of Canada’s defence for years to come, while Cann’s 6’3 frame will be an imposing presence in the middle. Hutchinson, Johnson and Simpson are key contributors in the midfield with the trio bringing a mix of playmaking, grit and wing speed. The offence is represented by attacking midfielder De Rosario and Jackson, and though “DeRo” has said this qualifying campaign will be his last, Jackson has many more years ahead of him and will likely be the go-to-guy up front in the years to come as Ali Gerba and Rob Friend get on in years.
I won’t reveal my choice for the male player of the year, but we’ll all learn the winner sometime next week. Each media member votes for a first, second and third choice with the player accumulating the most weighted votes the winner. Voting ends Dec. 10 with the winner, along with the winners of the women’s player of the year and four other awards at the U-20 and U-17 levels, announced between December 13 and 17. You, the fans, however, won’t be shut out as you’ll have a chance to vote online for two CanadaSoccer.com Fans’ Choice awards - male and female. Voting began Dec. 1, so visit canadasoccer.com to select the best male and female players from this past year.
Dwayne De Rosario