Alphonso Davies, come on down—you’re the next contestant on The Canadian Soccer Savior is Right!
Much like the dude who was delirious at breaking the all-time Plinko record a few weeks back, fans of Canada’s national team are positively pumped at the news that Davies, the 16-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps FC phenom, is now a full Canadian citizen.
And why not? Since debuting last summer at age 15, Davies has dazzled with his attacking instincts and his precocious poise. He’s already amassed over 30 appearances between MLS play, the Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League, popping four goals.
Born in a refugee camp in Ghana in 2000 (yeah, let that sink in), Davies has spent most of his life in Canada, but wasn’t eligible to represent Les Rouges in official competition until he was a citizen. Now, all of a sudden, we could be less than a week away from his senior-team debut.
He’ll join the national team’s training camp in Montreal, ahead of next Tuesday’s friendly against Curacao at Stade Saputo (7:30 pm ET; TSN, RDS). It’ll be the first game in charge for new Canada boss Octavio Zambrano, who’s been open about his desire to see the team play a passionate, attacking style—which will suit Davies just fine.
The wunderkind is also on Canada’s 40-man provisional roster for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, making it perfectly clear that his future is with Canada. So, to save everyone some time, FIFA may as well cancel the 2022 World Cup and just ship the trophy to Ottawa right now.
Sardonic hyperbole aside, we can’t ignore the fact that Canadian soccer has been down similar roads before. The national team has always struggled to score, prompting fans to crank the hype machine to 11 whenever a youngster with attacking talent emerges.
Four years ago, at the 2013 Gold Cup, the team’s hardcore followers were hollering for the cap-tying of Keven Aleman. It happened, but since then, Aleman’s made zero appearances for Canada.
The following year, fans were itching to see Hanson Boakai, who debuted in NASL at age 16, crack the national team. He never did; his pro career now looks in question.
That’s not a dig at those two individuals; rather, it’s a reminder that “the next big thing” doesn’t always pan out, and that no soccer team can be instantly saved by a single player. Plopping the weight of decades of disappointment onto the shoulders of a teenager is never going to turn out well for anyone—the fans, the team or especially the player.
Fortunately for Davies, most Canadian fans are no longer looking for a singular savior. That’s largely because the new arrivals have been coming fast and furious in the last few years.
From European veterans like Scott Arfield, Junior Hoilett and Steven Vitoria, to homegrown MLS stars like Cyle Larin, Tesho Akindele and Raheem Edwards, Davies is in some pretty good company among Canada’s recent recruits in the quest to reach Qatar 2022.
Could Davies ultimately have a bigger impact than any of them, when all is said and done? Hey, anything’s possible, if his career continues on its current trajectory.
But now’s not the time to worry about whether Davies will be wearing the armband as he gets heat stroke in Doha alongside his fellow Canadians five years hence.
Now’s the time to congratulate a young man on joining the Canadian family, and becoming part of what’s suddenly looking like a dark-horse contender at the 2017 Gold Cup.