The allure of playing soccer in Europe is often hard for young North American players to resist. As the place where the game is the centre of the sporting universe, players have gone abroad to find their place -- but not all leagues are created equally.
Tosaint Ricketts has had more than his share of misadventures playing in Europe, joining Toronto FC after a problematic stint with Boluspor in Turkey. Boluspor simply wasn’t paying Ricketts, which is similar to his situation with Romania’s Politehnica Timisoara, with whom he played from 2010 to ‘12. That time, Ricketts had to fight the Romanian Football Federation to become a free agent.
There were good times for Ricketts as well, but he knows well the dangers of certain leagues over in Europe.
“There are places that you should avoid and places that are amazing for young players,” Ricketts told Yahoo Canada Sports, after his debut last weekend against DC United. “I can give advice on where to go. I can also give them advice on how good they have it here and how they should appreciate the conditions that TFC provides and MLS provides for its players. It’s a great environment for players to grow and conditions are top-notch.”
Throughout his issues with club football, Ricketts has always found stability in the national program as he’s been a regular call-up, especially under current head coach Benito Floro.
Listed as “unattached” for the last two Canadian camps, Ricketts maintained the faith of Floro, which seemingly has been rewarded as Ricketts has found some stability close to his national team coach and teammates.
“Before I signed (with Toronto) we were watching a lot of the games together and he was giving me tips for the national team and what I could be here in Toronto to be successful,” said Ricketts. “His advice is priceless to me and I’ll take his advice as well as Greg (Vanney’s) and make myself a better player.”
With Ricketts joining a number of experienced Canadians coming home, the national team stands to benefit. In just over a month, Canada has those vital World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and El Salvador.
With the likes of Ricketts, David Edgar and Marcel de Jong signing up in MLS, they’ll all be in better condition and have better match fitness for the national team than if they were flying in from Europe at the very start of a new European club season.
No rest for WNT
After two games in France against China and France, Canada’s women’s soccer team has arrived in Brazil and will be the first Canadian Olympians in action when they play Australia in São Paolo at the Arena Corinthians on Aug. 3, two days prior to the Opening Ceremony.
A whirlwind pre-Games trip to France included a 1-0 win over China and a loss by the same scoreline to their hosts. They departed France Sunday, checked into the athletes’ village on Monday and then two days later were off to Sao Paolo.
With Zimbabwe and Germany also in the group, that game against Australia will go a long way in determining where they finish in their group and just how tough the knockout rounds will be for them.
Maximum points against Zimbabwe is mandatory as they’ll be the only team where Canada will be favourites. Anything else they can scrape away from the other two games will go a very long way to easing what will be a very difficult path to repeating the podium performance of cour years ago.