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5 TFCers Called for Jamaica Friendly
January 15, 2010, 9:08 AM
Filed under: Canada, Dwayne DeRosario, Julian De Guzman, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Toronto FC

Canadian soccer coach Stephen Hart has opted for youth in selecting his squad for a friendly in Jamaica on Jan. 31.

The roster, drawn primarily from players who are out of season or whose clubs are currently on a winter break, includes a recall for Toronto FC star Dwayne De Rosario, who had been on the outs with the national team.

“It’s sort of unique opportunity for us to take a look at quite a few players that we have not seen for quite a while or have never seen at the international senior level,” Hart told a media conference call Thursday. “And to blend that in with some of our senior players in an international game.”

New to the senior squad are goalkeeper David Monsalve of FC Inter Turku (Finland), defender Nana Attakora of Toronto FC, midfielder Carlo Rivas of Club Deportivo Universidad de Concepcion (Chile), and midfielder Massih Wassey of FC Schalke 04 (Germany).

“As I said when I was hired, I would like to use 2010 to do a fair amount of experimenting,” said Hart. “My first priority is to try and create as much depth as possible in the squad.”

Six players come from Canadian clubs: five from Toronto FC and one from the Montreal Impact.

Rosario, who has been out of the picture since speaking out against former coach Dale Mitchell, returns to the national team fold.

“He was selected and Dwayne accepted, ” Hart said. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

De Rosario has not played for Canada since September 2008.

Hart, named permanent coach in December after a run as interim coach, said he had talked to Toronto FC veteran defender Jim Brennan last year, but elected not to call him in if he could not give him “a good go.” But the coach said he will continue to keep in touch with Brennan.

The players will come together at a camp that opens Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and runs through Jan. 29. The team will then move to Kingston, Jamaica.

Canada is ranked 56th in the world, compared to No. 81 for Jamaica.

A goalie will be added to the roster.

Hart said discussions continue with Toronto striker O’Brian White about his international future. White was born in Jamaica.

Teal Bunbury, son of former Canadian international Alex Bunbury, was invited to the Canadian under-23 camp in Florida but declined “due to commitments,” Hart said.

Teal Bunbury was selected fourth overall by the Kansas City Wizards in the MLS SuperDraft Thursday.

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Attakora-Gyan and Gala called up
February 24, 2009, 8:28 AM
Filed under: Canada, Gabe Gala, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Toronto FC

Toronto FC youngsters Nana Attakora-Gyan and Gabe Gala have been named in the Canada U-20 squad for the final training camp ahead of next month’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Trinidad and Tobago. They will join up with the Canada squad in Florida later this week.

Attakora-Gyan was named the recipient of the Canadian U-20 Player of the Year Award for the 2008 season. Both Attakora-Gyan and Gala were members of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup team. They were also involved in three friendly matches in various locations in 2008 that saw Canada face opponents such as Argentina, the Swiss Confederation, and the United States.

The U-20s will meet in Sunrise, Florida before heading off to Macoya, Trinidad & Tobago on March 4th. Canada’s first game in the tournament is March 7th against Trinidad & Tobago. The top two teams in the four-team group advance to the March 13th semi-final. They also qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009. Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago are the four teams in Group B.

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TFC needs two centre backs – now
February 6, 2009, 11:14 PM
Filed under: Kevin Harmse, Marco Velez, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Toronto FC, Tyrone Marshall

Toronto FC coach John Carver doesn’t mince words when asked what he feels is the team’s top priority before the 2009 Major League Soccer regular season kicks off in late March.

“I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to work it out,” Caver stated bluntly. “If you look at the defence … it’s more or less the same people that we’ve had the past two seasons when we’ve conceded a lot of goals.

“Now, I’m not blaming the back four entirely for that problem, but we all know there is an issue in the centre of defence, so we have to address it.”

Simply put, Toronto’s central defensive pairing of Tyrone Marshall and Marco Velez was dreadful last season, and their inept partnership was a major reason why the Canadian club allowed 43 goals, one of the worst defensive records in the league.

The Marshall-Velez tandem was a complete train wreck, a fact not entirely lost on Carver and general manager Mo Johnston. Although Carver and Johnston have stopped short of pointing the finger of blame at Marshall and Velez, both have not hidden the fact that the team is actively searching for reinforcements and hopes to sign a pair of new central defenders to bolster the back line.

“I’ve been honest and straight with [Marshall and Velez] and told them to their faces that I’m looking to improve this team, [that] I’m looking to bring in a central defender — if not one, possibly two. So, they’re under pressure. They have to realize the situation,” Carver said.

Toronto acquired Marshall, an 11-year veteran of MLS, midway through the 2007 season in a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy, hoping the Jamaican would anchor the club’s defence and offer a steady and stabilizing presence at the back.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way, though. Marshall, a physical player and a tough tackler, has looked way over his head. He’s slow and plodding, lacks pace and is routinely burned by speedy forwards.

Marshall, Velez not threatened by competition

Velez has been just as disappointing.

Signed by the club prior to the 2008 campaign, Velez spent the previous six years playing in the USL First Division — a league below MLS — and it showed. The Puerto Rican struggled to keep up with the pace and higher level of play of the game in MLS and often looked completely out of his depth.

He also lacked discipline (he earned two red cards last season), and the fact he chipped in with two goals hardly disguised the fact that he was a defensive liability.

Curiously, Marshall and Velez thought their partnership was a success, all things considered.

“We weren’t always paired together due to international commitments, but when we were, I thought we played well [considering we didn’t] have a full year together,” Marshall said.

“I thought we connected really well at the beginning of the season. Hopefully, we can continue that in the season coming up,” offered Velez.

Velez said he is confident he’ll be able to win one of the two starting positions in the middle of defence this season, and Marshall claimed he isn’t bothered at all by the prospect of having some competition for his job.

“From day one when I came into the league, I’ve been fighting for my job because you don’t have a guaranteed contract, so you have to go out and prove everyday that you belong on the field, so it’s not anything different,” Marshall stated.

An unshakable confidence in their abilities notwithstanding, it’s clear that Carver and Johnston don’t think Marshall and Velez are up to the task. Why else would the coach and GM publicly state the club is trying to sign two new central defenders?

One can only hope that they are successful in their search because Toronto FC cannot survive another season of Marshall and Velez; nor does it have any viable options.

Carver revealed that midfielder Kevin Harmse, who played a few games as a central defender last season, and youngster Nana Attakora-Gyan could see action in place of Marshall and Velez, but both would be stop-gap measures. Harmse’s recklessness and propensity for picking up yellow cards and Gyan’s lack of experience rule them out as long-term solutions.

Midfielder Carl Robinson also played in the middle of defence in emergency situations last year, and Carver declared he wouldn’t shy away from using him again in that role this season.

Robinson said he would do it if called upon, although doing so would rob Toronto of one of its best midfield generals.

“I’ve done it before; I’ve done it many times,” Robinson said. “John said he wants to address the centre of defence, and until he does it, I’m quite happy to play where I need to play. And if it means playing in the middle of defence, then I’ll play there, but I want to play in midfield.”

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Attakora-Gyan Wins CSA Award
January 6, 2009, 5:37 PM
Filed under: Canada, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Toronto FC

Toronto FC announced Tuesday that defender Nana Attakora-Gyan has been named the recipient of the Canadian U-20 Player of the Year Award for the 2008 season. Fifty percent of the votes were compiled by national team coaches and the other half by Canadian coaches who have taken the Canadian Soccer Association’s national course at the B and A levels.”It’s a great testament to Nana and how hard he worked last season,” said Toronto FC head coach John Carver. “It’s a great start to the season for him, and we’re delighted he’s been given that honour.”

Attakora-Gyan made his first MLS start on Saturday, August 8 in Colorado in a 1-0 TFC victory over the Rapids. He logged 318 minutes making five appearances, three of those in a starting role. The defender also started in each of Toronto FC’s two international friendlies, July 5 against Pachuca of Mexico, and July 15 versus Independiente of Argentina.

The native of Orangeville, ON is a member of the Canadian U-20 team that has begun preparing for next year’s CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championship. He took part in all three U-20 camps.

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