KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This week, Doneil Henry is completely devoted to the Canadian Under-23 team as they look to qualify for the London Olympics.
But on Wednesday night, he was frantically trying to find an online stream of the CONCACAF Champions League, as his club team, Toronto FC, hosted Santos Laguna in the first leg of the semifinals. He's hoping the technical staff at TFC is doing the same during the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
Henry, signed by Toronto FC in 2010 as the first Homegrown player from the club’s academy, has featured in the center of the Canadian defense in two of the three games of the tournament. The 18-year-old defender has formed a solid pairing in the center of the back four with former Toronto player Nana Attakora, and the pair helped Canada stymie a potent American offense last weekend in a stunning 2-0 victory.
With Toronto needing some help on the backline, especially since Torsten Frings went down with a hamstring injury, Henry can feel his chance coming at the club level. While he’s yet to regularly crack the TFC starting lineup, he thinks he's making progress.
“I think that I’m performing well; I just want to go higher and higher up the ladder,” Henry told MLSsoccer.com at the team hotel before the Santos game. “I definitely hope that I can go back and get some more minutes.”
Canada are the underdogs heading into Saturday’s semifinal against Mexico at Livestrong Sporting Park (9 pm ET, Sportsnet, CONCACAF.com), the winner of which will secure a berth in London. Earlier in the day, Henry's club team will be playing its third game in eight days.
With a grueling stretch of games so early in the season, TFC are likely looking forward to getting their squad numbers back up, so Henry and Matt Stinson, another player with the Canadian squad, will likely be welcomed back with open arms. But for now, Henry is focused on the task at hand with the national side.
“Right now, I’m with the Olympic squad, so I just want to focus on us and our game coming up on Saturday,” Henry admitted. “Definitely I root for the boys back home and I hope we get good results. I wish I could be there, too, but I’m 100 percent right now with the Canadian team.”