Who is the next great Canadian?
It is a fait accompli. There was no need for a vote. One player stood head and shoulders above the rest and is well on his way to become the greatest this country has ever seen.
When Dwayne De Rosario is named 2011 Canadian Player of the Year later this week, he will have scooped the annual award four times in the space of seven seasons. His performances for club(s) and country were, by and large, professional, proficient and impactful.
Approaching his 34th birthday, DeRo remains a game changer. If it's getting harder to chase a ball or get by an opponent it is barely noticeable. The years have been kind to a man who has kept himself in great shape and who has been spared serious injury for much of his career.
2011 was his finest campaign to date. The stats don't lie. 16 MLS goals and 12 assists for three different clubs, plus four goals in 11 appearances for Canada tell their own story. The international goals were all from the penalty spot, but someone has to take responsibility.
The recently named MLS MVP is showing no signs of slowing down. Why should he? De Rosario still has pace, power and the guile to fool defenders into a mistake. The hairstyle may have changed many times but not his uncanny ability to make a difference.
So well done, Dwayne. You thoroughly deserved it, so enjoy it.
By the way, where is your successor? Who is the next great Canadian? Maybe we do need a vote for this one. Some qualified candidates wouldn't do any harm. There are plenty of Canadians playing professionally but who is the next icon ready to stand out and steal DeRo's crown?
We could try composing a shortlist. I fear the list would be very short indeed. Being Canadian and playing regularly does not cut it. I am talking about a reliable, media savvy, inspirational leader on the field who commands respect from team-mates and opponents alike.
That shortlist is shrinking by the second. Surely there is one prepared to step up and beat his chest for Canada. Just one who can take on the level of responsibility required and proclaim the importance of Canadian international soccer from the rooftops once DeRo's day is done.
From the rank and file, I believe Canada has some contenders. All but one, Atiba Hutchinson, are nominees for the Canadian Player of the Year. Hutchinson, last year's winner, would surely have made the list again but for a succession of knee injuries which cut short his playing time.
Once he is fully fit early in the New Year, Hutchinson will be back pounding the beat for PSV in Holland and Canada in the next stage of World Cup qualifying. At 28 the tall, strong, versatile midfielder should be at the peak of his powers. Hutchinson is a proven winner with several good years ahead of him.
Only Simeon Jackson knows what he's really capable of. In little more than two years he's completed the journey from Football League basement to English Premier League. He scored the goal which secured Norwich City's return to the top flight, not to mention a hat-trick for Canada in October. He's a likeable, bubbly character and at 24 has time to mature into a regular scorer for club and country.
When it comes to making an impact, Josh Simpson is usually involved. He's a tricky, pace-y winger who not only supplies the ammunition but is confident enough in his own ability to take on the shot when the chance presents itself. He is also playing regular club football in Turkey - a nation not for the faint of heart when it comes to professional soccer. Let's just say Simpson knows how to handle himself.
Will Johnson is another with time on his side. Success has come early for the 24 year old Torontonian. Having returned from Europe to settle in Major League Soccer, he was an MLS Cup champion in his first full season with Real Salt Lake. His gritty determination occasionally gets him into trouble but he's an effective ball winner capable of driving the team forward.
They are all very good footballers. But are any of them stars in the making? Do they possess the X-factor to take international soccer in this country by the scruff of the neck and make it relevant for the average Canadian sports fan?
Maybe they're not here yet. The repeated calls to Junior Hoilett have so far gone unanswered. The tantalizing prospect of Jonathan de Guzman representing the country in which he was born merely adds to the intrigue at a critical time for Canada's national team.
Dwayne De Rosario won't be around forever. The next face of Canadian soccer needs to be found. Someone organize a search party
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