Most Canadian soccer fans got a first glimpse of goalkeeper Michal Misiewicz a few weeks ago. The 21-year-old burst on the scene for Canada at the Olympic qualifying tournament and, despite the team's eventual failure to qualify, he was the major reason why it had any fighting chance at all. He stood on his head against El Salvador and gave his teammates the confidence to power past the Americans, the pre-tournament favourites.
But for Misiewicz, this has been far from an overnight success story and, like most outliers, his story was being formed far away from the prying eyes of the public. Misiewicz's story starts with him leaving his home in Alberta at the age of 14 to pursue a football career in Europe.
"I didn't think about [moving to Europe] that much," he said. "It was just I knew I wanted this badly.
"I wanted to play soccer. I moved out when was 14.
"It was a decision I made with my parents and they knew, at that time in Canada, it was hard. At that time, there weren't any pro teams in Canada.
"There weren't any professional teams, there wasn't an opportunity. I had to go elsewhere."
"Elsewhere" meant a journey that would take him from Germany to Poland and eventually to England, where he got his first real chance. But it was a coaching change in both cases that helped pave his way forward.
"My coach in Poland got a job offer in England," Misiewicz said. "And part of his conditions with coming was that he got to bring me with him, saying I had lots to offer."
It would be a risk. There were no guarantees of a starting job and he didn't have parents at his bedside to help him make such a difficult decision.
"I had to grow up much faster," Misiewicz said. "I had to mature much faster.
"You start living on your own. You're now doing things by yourself."
Right or wrong, it was a move that quickly showed results on the international stage. Within six months, he had received a call to play for Canada at the Under-17 level.
"I came home for the Christmas break and I went with the Canadian U-17 team to Mexico," Misiewicz said. "But then, when I came back [to England], everything had changed.
"The coaches were gone. Everyone was gone and everything had changed."
Without the support of the club's coaches that had brought him, he was a child out in the wilderness among the wolves of English football. But through a stroke of luck, he was able to get a hold of Plymouth Argyle -- a team with a 100-year history in England -- which signed him to a two-year, youth-team contract.
Misiewicz was an immediate standout in England and Sunderland, newly promoted to the English Premiership, snapped him up. He would play a year on the Black Cats' U-18 squad and a year with their reserves. But the problem with playing top-flight football is if you're not actually playing in top-flight football, it doesn't do much for your career.
"I wasn't on a huge team in Europe," Misiewicz said. "I mean, Sunderland is a big team, but I wasn't getting first-team football."
More than that, though, after living five years away from his home, Europe life, despite its football opportunities, had begun to lose its shine.
"I like modern life," Misiewicz said. "I like tall buildings and skyscrapers [and] Europe is mostly old brick you know?
"And I don't want to say Europeans are rude. They're not.
"It just seemed, to me at least, that Canadians are more friendly, more laid back. Some people say Europeans are more laid back, but when people go to Europe, they see Europe for two weeks, they don't live there for five, six years like I did."
Having spent a quarter of his life living away from his friends, family and Canada, Misiewicz once again found himself with decision to make. This time, the opportunity he was presented with led him back to the life he was seeking and back to the place he had originally left as FC Edmonton of the second division NASL offered him a contract. Without much hesitation, he took it.
"When you first make the move [to Europe], you don't think about the consequences that much," Misiewicz said. "And then when you do move, you start thinking I'm missing out on this, I'm missing out on that -- you miss your friends and family."
"I thought if I come back here, I knew I had to make a name for myself, I could work my way up," he continued. "When I left in 2006, there weren't the same opportunities there are here now ... When I was 14, we didn't have that chance to come up through a residency team and then go to a pro team and now players can do that."
Some of his younger teammates on the U-23 Canadian squad have though. Bryce Alderson, Doneil Henry and Russell Teibert have all found their way up that road with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC. They're on track for MLS careers, while Misiewicz now finds himself battling for a starting job on FC Edmonton -- a lower division side.
He has taken the long way to get here and, to some, he may even be a step behind his younger counterparts -- but like most outliers, he has had to go about finding his own way. And it might not look like it now, standing on the outside of North American top-flight football looking in, but make no mistake, if you ask those around Canadian soccer, after the performance he put in at the Olympic qualifiers, they'll tell you this young keeper is no outsider -- he is on the inside track.
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