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The official Canuck Soccer thread

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PAUL JAMES Here we go again. The Canadian men's soccer team may have to face the ignominy of losing out on the services of yet another potential talent - only this time it has an awkward twist. The player has already played for Canada at the under-17 and under-20 level and this time it could be our neighbour to the south who comes calling.

Teal Bunbury, son of former Canadian international Alex Bunbury, is being closely monitored by Bob Bradley, the U.S. men's national team coach. By all accounts, Bradley is well aware of the talented 19-year-old who recently won the Hermann Trophy as the top collegiate men's player in the United States.

Bunbury has just completed his sophomore season as a forward for the Akron Zips, scoring 17 goals in leading them to the NCAA Division I national final. He is now a hot property, at least in the North American soccer market.

Forgoing his remaining years of eligibility, Bunbury has signed a contract with the Generation Adidas program and will almost certainly be a first-round selection at Thursday's Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Talent aside, Generation Adidas players are highly sought after by MLS clubs because they do not count against the salary cap.

Sources watching him perform at the MLS Combine in Florida this week say he was one of the top three players on show. Just 19, competing against players two and three years older, Bunbury is already giving a good indication he has the pedigree required to perform at the professional level. That should be sufficient to alert our own national men's team coach, Stephen Hart, to move quickly to get him to commit to playing for Canada at the senior men's level. Including him in the squad for Canada's game against Jamaica (Jan. 31) might be a worthwhile first step, but it will not be an easy task.

This undertaking becomes more onerous still if Bunbury has his heart set on playing for the United States. As opposed to the criticism some other Canadian players have received after turning their backs on Canada (Owen Hargreaves and Jonathan de Guzman being the most prominent) it is a little different in this instance because Bunbury has spent the majority of his life south of the border and that is unlikely to change with his family settled in Minnesota. So even though he has already played for Canada at the junior level, one has to feel that if he gets the call from the United States the temptation will be great.

Handling the Bunbury file will therefore be an interesting test for Hart, who needs a good strategy in order to be successful. Pointing to the depth of the U.S. team and the reduced opportunity for a lengthy international career may be a good start.

Similarly, appealing to his father Alex, as an alumnus of the Canadian men's national program, would also help but there is no easy solution to this problem.

And while Canada may have to accept losing Bunbury as a national tea, prospect it will be with a sliver of regret as opposed to the boatload of contempt generally reserved for homegrown players who decline to play for the country of their birth.

And for Toronto FC fans anticipating his potential arrival in Southern Ontario, don't count on it. With TFC not picking until the second round, unless director of soccer Mo Johnston can engineer a trade, Bunbury will almost certainly be long gone by then.

Whitecaps continue prepping for MLS entry Reports coming out of Vancouver are that the Whitecaps will soon announce the signing of Tommy Soehn, the former D.C. United head coach, as technical director. It certainly represents a smart move for an organization seemingly doing all the right things. Soehn is no stranger to the Canadian soccer environment having played a couple of seasons in Ottawa and Hamilton in the old Canadian Soccer League.

His experience playing and coaching in the MLS will be an important asset for the Whitecaps technical staff to draw upon as he is well liked and connected throughout the United States. Streetwise knowledge is a very important ingredient for a new franchise looking to cultivate relationships within the league while simultaneously developing savvy strategies to compete for playing assets from the get-go.

Soehn brings that knowledge to the Whitecaps.

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SOCCER Canadian players show alarming pattern

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PAUL JAMES Ali Gerba's recent interview with Kristian Jack from The Score television network should be displayed in the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame as testament to how difficult it can be to coach soccer players in this country in the 21st century.

Gerba regurgitated what many disgruntled Canadian soccer players do when they have been cut or released. It's the hard training, the coach, the coaching style, the tactics and the creme de la creme of reasons - too much running.

The sense of entitlement Gerba displays in the interview is unrealistic.

His assertion that director of soccer Mo Johnston and head coach Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic would likely be fired by Toronto FC and that he would in fact return to the club highlights an unrealistic perspective but one that is remarkably consistent with how some Canadian players view playing for their country, as though it is their right instead of an honour.

Ironically, this interview took place a day after TFC's designated player, Julian de Guzman, reportedly pulling in more this year than most of his teammates combined, cowardly jumped out of the way of a free kick that ostensibly prevented Toronto FC from gaining any points in their encounter with the Colorado Rapids.

Not that all Canadian soccer players have the same mentality as Gerba but really, it is an alarming pattern. The next thing we know Gerba's mother will be calling Johnston for an explanation of what is happening or de Guzman's father will be relaying tactical information gleaned from his son's playing time in Spain.

When viewed objectively, Gerba's naive and audacious suggestion of his imminent return to Toronto FC illustrated a delusional way of thinking. Never once does he take responsibility for himself or suggest why he has been through 11 teams in 10 seasons.

He was right on one issue though - Johnston has made mistakes during his tenure with Toronto FC. He sure has and the signing of Gerba was one of them.

Johnston clearly has put the Toronto FC team and squad in place without too much thought beyond listening to the wrong people and without any understanding of what it takes to create the right culture.

The signing of de Guzman could well be the biggest mistake of his tenure, as the return on the high-priced investment so far is bordering on zero.

Preki, meanwhile, appears to have a better understanding, but having inherited such a dysfunctional group to begin with, he was forced to move players out. However, moving so many players out at one time could prove to be a mistake because without sufficient talent you cannot win either. It really is a balancing act. Eventually Preki could assemble a team in his image but it requires some patience and smarts.

Many years from now, when Canada eventually qualifies for a senior men's World Cup finals again, history will show that the watershed moment for the change in attitude, within our soccer culture, came from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's decision to enter Major League Soccer. The Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact following suit will be viewed as professionalizing the game from coast to coast with the right attitude and mentality.

Blame Johnston for a lack of due diligence, for signing the wrong players, for moving out the Jeff Cunninghams, the Edson Buddles and Conor Caseys of the world - after all, that is what the fans wanted - but to blame him for signing Preki as the new coach, well, it is very premature.

Likewise, blaming Preki for his training being too hard or for demanding too much would merely be a microcosm of how our industry has devolved over the past 25 years. The tail has wagged the dog for far too long.

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I thought the boys looked pretty good last night, all things considered. I just wish they had some killer instincts with regards to goal scoring because there were 4 solid chances (three off headers) although Honduras had the best chance of the night and scoffed it.

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Yeah so close off set pieces in the 2nd half.

I was a bit dumbfounded at Canada's positional play at times. They looked alright in their own third, by and large (in no small part due to McKenna and Huneault), but going forward there were huge gaps in the middle of the park, De Ro taking up central positions sometimes, out wide at other times, De Guzman flying out to the left, never anyone taking up a position at the far post... didn't seem to be rhyme or reason for some of the "fluidity".

Only 4 months til the next match though.... onward!

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I would attribute those gaps to being the wind and being winded because I was rather impressed how well the team was moving the ball as a collective while remaining positionally sound for much of the first half.

McKenna is awesomely solid. I'm gonna miss him when he retires.

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Was stoked to see that the Canada/Honduras game was still on when I got home from work. Then I saw the scoreline. Fuck off. Listening to Craig Forrest try to draw on the positives of the campaign is depressing as hell.

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I think I feel even worse this morning following that loss than I did yesterday when I decided to pull the chute early while watching to do chores instead. That defense was abysmal and in that environment you knew it was over at 3-nil.

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