• Daniel Squizzato

      As a kid, Squizz spent a lot of time playing soccer, writing and getting overly excited about frivolous things. Not much has changed: he still plays (badly), he still writes (having been published in outlets such as Maclean's and The Globe & Mail) and still has plenty of irrational passion (just wait until the next time the men's national team plays against Honduras).

    • Grant Surridge

      Grant has no soccer playing career to speak of, and probably hasn't been following Canadian soccer as long as you have, but he does spend vast amounts of time reading about soccer online. A proud, self-loathing ex-Winnipeger, Grant also supports Chelsea FC. He writes about the Canadian mens' national team, as well as Canada's rivals in Central America and the Caribbean.
    • Morgan's call-up and the dreams of Canadian kids

      In its brief existence, Toronto FC has seen over a hundred players come through its roster turnstile. Now, about a month before the team's fifth season wraps up, I'm prepared to anoint one individual as the most important player to have ever suited up for the Reds.

      It's not Danny Dichio. It's not Jim Brennan. It's not even the fabulous Rohan Ricketts.

      It's a 20-year-old fullback named Ashtone Morgan.

      This is not to say Morgan will bloom into the best player TFC has ever seen. In fact, this has nothing to do with where his career goes from here. His importance comes from the fact that he is the first graduate of the Toronto FC Academy to be called up to the Canadian men's national team.

      Now, hold on, west coasters, I can already hear you typing your angry responses, so let me say that of course the Whitecaps have had a functioning academy for much longer than Toronto FC has, and yes, one can certainly say that Vancouver has had a much deeper connection to the national team in terms of serving as a talent pipeline.

      But Morgan's ascension to the national-team level represents the culmination of what many of us dreamed possible when Toronto FC first came into being: That a kid born in Toronto could play in Toronto, be scouted by Toronto FC's academy, find their way to the senior side and, if they have the talent, represent Canada on the international stage.

      Not only that, but that a kid with eligibility for other nations would choose to represent Canada without thinking twice -- which is the case with Morgan, as he told Red Nation Online earlier this month.

      Sure, none of this is unique in the world of soccer -- or even within Canada. The difference is that when it comes to giving kids a clear pathway to the national team (community club, pro club academy, pro club, national team), the geographical area we're now talking about is the Golden Horseshoe, with a population of over eight million people and tens of thousands of soccer-playing kids.

      Jonathan de Guzman and David "Junior" Hoilett both grew up in the Toronto area, but scuttled off to Europe as young teenagers in an effort to forward their careers. Though both have brothers still in the Canadian system, most observers are under the assumption that neither will ever play for Canada. Would things have been different if they had stayed at home longer?

      No one knows for sure. Given that Hoilett is a Premier League starter at age 21, it's safe to guess he'd have outgrown MLS years ago. But would having the chance to play with and against other young Canadians, before moving to Europe, have made his thoughts on his international future a little clearer?

      Now, I'm not saying Morgan is bound for Europe. I've got no idea where his club career is headed.

      But many have looked at Hoilett's decision on his international career to be critical not just to the on-field performance of Canada over the next few years, but in setting an example to future generations of kids -- that, in essence, "it's OK to play for Canada."

      Morgan's call-up, though, sends a message of its own: playing for Canada is not just "OK", it's something worthwhile, an achievement. Indeed, head coach Stephen Hart said that Morgan wouldn't get a run-out in either of Canada's next two games simply for the sake of it; he'd have to earn on-field time.

      Here's hoping that he does. Here's hoping that his hard work is rewarded.

      And here's hoping that all across populous, multicultural southern Ontario -- fertile ground for budding, passionate soccer talent -- kids who follow TFC are also keeping their eyes on Morgan and thinking "hey, that could be me -- and I know just how to make it happen."

      Comments 6 Comments
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Just like JDG2 will soon, Junior Hoilett will rue the day he chose the brass ring instead of the right thing. Its only a matter of time. JGD2 has one more chance to make the dutch senior squad and make a world cup, but there is too much depth ahead of him in the dutch lineup, and his best days in Europe are quickly disappearing in the rear view mirror. Hoilett will never see the inside tof the England dressing room, but he may choose Jamaica. But as Jamaica is on the way down Canada is on the way up.

        Ashtone is and will be labeled a pioneer in every sense of the word when ushering in the newest era of Canadian soccer. Kids once again have something to aspire too when deciding to chase a professional football career in Canada. Thats good for everyone.

        This Whitecaps fan thinks that a call up for Ashtone is a very good thing for soccer in Canada on the whole.

        Great work TFC and Ashtone!
      1. Grant's Avatar
        Grant -
        ...and his best days in Europe are quickly disappearing in the rear view mirror.
        Not sure I agree with that entirely as he did just secure a move to Villarreal. But I do agree with your overall sentiment. The JDG2's and Hoilett's of this world should consider the potential exposure, sponsorship dollars and chance to leave a legacy that would come with being the first big-time Canadian soccer star. We're not talking David Beckham-level stuff here but I think we're approaching an era when starring for Canada would be preferable to being a squad player with a European country.
      1. Registrado's Avatar
        Registrado -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        This Whitecaps fan thinks that a call up for Ashtone is a very good thing for soccer in Canada on the whole.

        Great work TFC and Ashtone!
        Great, and let's hope all of our pro academies can both learn from each other's successes and mistakes as well as even work with and support each others' efforts. At those levels, that's a win-win for the clubs and Canadian football/soccer in general.
      1. Bubba's Avatar
        Bubba -
        I'm impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very kwnolegdebale?
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