“We have a team now that really not just believes.”
Words by Tyler Green | Photos by Bob Frid
Beginning with a a ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver followed by flights to Germany and Norway, Adam Straith has travelled a long way to find his way onto Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team.
Before his debut with Canada, the British Columbia boy started playing soccer at the age of five for his older brother’s team.
“My mom, at the time, was the coach of my brother Luke’s team and she took me with her to training as a way of looking after me. All the kids were two years older than me, so right away I started off playing against kids who were bigger and stronger than I was.”
Playing with older and bigger kids was something that the now 25-year-old relished.
“I always wanted to challenge myself playing against kids who were more physically mature than I was. I had to learn a lot faster. I think it’s the best way for kids who really want to get better to be taken out of their comfort levels at an early age and be put up against older players. It definitely helped me.”
Following a youth career on Vancouver Island, Straith was looking at going to college in the United States, but was given an opportunity to join the then newly-established Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program.
“The coach outlined the program and the chance to eventually get a shot playing in Europe, which was the biggest draw for me. The program put together a group of players who realistically had little to no idea what a professional environment was like into a situation where I was able to get a sense of what young European professional youth set ups were doing.
“I was able to finish and receive my high school diploma, something very important to me. I think without the program, it would have made moving away to Europe a lot more challenging.”
A move to Europe was Straith’s next big adventure, joining German side Energie Cottbus, where he again was forced to take his game to another level.
“Moving into the German system, they were known for developing world-class players. The part I had to step up the quickest was how to play with players that were technically better than what I was used to, but also to their understanding of the game. That helped me moving forward in my career.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, after five years in Germany with Energie Cottbus, FC Saarbrücken and SV Wehen Wiesbaden, Straith moved to Norway in January 2015 to play for Fredrikstad in Norway’s first division (1. Divisjon).
“I felt I needed a change, a different culture, a different country, a different challenge. The opportunity came up and it was something very interesting to me and the biggest thing was I wanted to get playing again and being in Norway has given me that.”
All that experience has ultimately led to the Victoria native’s inclusion on Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team, but Straith’s experience with the national program began earlier in life starting with the U-17 program.
“I remember getting the email and I can’t even describe the feeling of getting that first opportunity. It’s been the greatest honour professionally, but that first time as a young kid was a proud moment.”
After moving through the ranks of the national program, Straith made his international “A” debut on 24 May 2010 against a very tough Argentina side.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to get my first cap.”
Despite the memorable experience against the Albicelestes after four years in the youth program, Straith’s first official match in FIFA World Cup™ Qualifiers against St. Lucia was something on a different level.
“Back when you are 17 years old, you don’t really know a whole lot and you are just kind of taking it as it comes. With the senior teams, the games mean so much more. It’s always an honour, but playing in actual FIFA World Cup Qualifiers is the next level.”
Still young despite having already accumulated 35 international appearances, Straith sees Julian de Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson as the true leaders and captains of the team. He also views himself as a veteran and leader, passing on his knowledge to the younger players and playing a role of go-between for the younger and less experienced players.
“I feel like I’m at an age where the younger players might feel it is easier to speak or can relate to a 23-, 24- or 25-year old as opposed to some of the more experienced guys, so I like being the guy that bridges the gap.”
With two matches remaining in this round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifiers, this version of Canada has a different look and feel. That difference is not lost on Straith.
“The mentality. We have a team now that really just believes (and) knows it’s possible to go out into hostile environments and get results. We have a mixture of guys that have been in the last couple of cycles, but a bunch of younger players that weren’t and they have a lot of confidence. That mix has been positive for us and of course, Benito has instilled some good tactics and philosophy that gives us that extra belief that we can go get wins.”
Canada’s final match in this stage will be played against El Salvador in Vancouver. With the game at BC Place and so close to his home, the former Bays United player believes it will be a truly special experience.
“That first game against Honduras (in November at BC Place) was probably the happiest game, happiest day, the happiest win of my life so far. Moving away from home at such a young age, to have my closest family and friends come out to a very important FIFA World Cup Qualifiers game, that was something I’m never going to forget. It’s something I definitely don’t take for granted. It’s the proudest I’ve ever been.”
With destiny in Canada’s hands, Straith knows that the next two games, especially the one in Vancouver, are matches that could further ignite a nation’s belief in this team. Straith hopes he can do his part to awaken the passion for soccer in Canadians everywhere.
“Coming to the game against El Salvador, it’s the chance to see something that hasn’t been done in a long time. We have some fantastic young players, great experienced veteran players. It’s an opportunity to come out and watch a moment of history and something that we hope is going to be very special.”
Tickets for the crucial Canada v El Salvador 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifier are on sale now via canadasoccer.com/tickets starting at just $25 (plus applicable fees). A special ME+3 discount offer on ticket four-packs is available in select sections while groups of 10 or more are eligible for discounts of up to 30% off regularly priced tickets. In addition, BC Place Club Seats are available for fans looking for a premium match day experience and include a complimentary Canada Soccer scarf with each ticket.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) 21 July 2016
Canada Soccer outlines return to soccer guidelines. The return to soccer guidelines provide member organizations with a five-step process, including a checklist of weighted questions known as the Return to Soccer Assessment Tool.