Signing foreign-based players can be tricky, but by now it should be well known regulars for the Canada national team are almost always going to be a safe bet for MLS.
Samuel Piette is the latest example of a Canadian national team player arriving from abroad who’s done very well. After signing with the Montreal Impact in early August, Piette required very little time to show his class. In four games, he’s helped revitalize a veteran-heavy side by offering much more assurance both in possession and in the defensive phase.
Signing with his hometown club obviously made Piette's acclimation easier. But his overall quality shouldn’t come as a surprise, even though he arrived from CD Izarra, in the Spanish third division, a league he has characterized as a definite step below MLS. That he’s already carved out a starting spot with the Reds was a strong indication of his readiness.
Looking ahead to next season, we could see more Canadians plying their trade in MLS. Here are three who would be great fits, and who all have contracts that expire at the end of next May.
Also just 22 years old, Toronto native Michael Petrasso is owned by Championship side Queens Park Rangers and has had several brief -- but successful -- loan spells with League One English sides. Mostly a winger, Petrasso has five goals in 40 appearances (27 starts) between the Championship and League One. He would have more games under his belt if he hadn't missed almost all of the 2016-17 season with a thigh muscle injury.
With Canada at the Gold Cup, Petrasso featured at fullback, but he’s more comfortable at right wing or right wing back, and he could also play on the left. Petrasso started out as a more attack-minded winger, but he also showed at the Gold Cup that he can provide swift, overlapping runs along the touchline and deliver crosses.
For a team that likes to switch between a back-three formation with wing backs, to a back four formation with more advanced wingers (like the New York Red Bulls or Toronto FC), Petrasso would be a great fit. And like Piette, he’s very mature for his age.
One of the very best players in the Championship, Hoilett is hoping to help steer Cardiff City back to the Premier League. He's already scored twice during Cardiff's perfect 5-0-0 start to the season. A winger who can also play as a second forward, Hoilett is well above average on the dribble, and he also demonstrates good defensive responsibilities and a knack for recovering possession.
It might difficult to lure Hoilett way from England, where he’s spent most of his career, but there’s no question he would be an excellent MLS signing. He would fit well for a team like the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are still missing quality in their attacking third, particularly someone who can come inside and play closer to Fredy Montero.
The 34-year-old has been Canada’s best player for several years now, and would be a star midfielder in MLS. Although he'll turn 35 in February, Hutchinson is a regular starter for Turkish giants and UEFA Champions League entrants Besiktas, and still has two or three very good years left.
Two teams Hutchinson would be perfect for: New York City FC and Montreal. City are just one, maybe two big pieces away from closing the gap with Toronto FC in the East, and what they need the most is a Patrick Vieira-type player in front of the back four, which is essentially who Hutchinson is.
The Impact might miss out on the playoffs this year, but they are positioning themselves well for next season with the Blerim Dzemaili and Piette acquisitions. But they still need a big piece in central midfield, and although Hutchinson wouldn’t make them younger, he would give them a huge boost in the short term. Signing the Toronto native would also be a welcome jab at TFC, and more importantly, introduce someone who could match Michael Bradley in midfield.