The smile stretched from ear to ear. Adrian Cann couldn’t contain himself, and why should he?
The Toronto-area native had just come off of a strong performance in central defense to help his hometown Toronto FC beat the expansion Philadelphia Union 2-1 in their home opener before a record crowd on Thursday night.
“It’s like a dream come true, with the fans, winning that game, those three points,” he said after the match. “And just the atmosphere—I can’t describe it, it’s wonderful.”
With family and friends watching him live in Toronto for the first time, Cann provided some stability in an area that has plagued the team for quite some time.
It was sorely needed in the aftermath of a meltdown against the New England Revolution that saw the defense concede four goals in the first 19 minutes of the second half of a 4-1 loss on Saturday.
The timing couldn’t be better for the 6-foot-3 native of Thornhill, a suburb north of Toronto.
After TFC lost their first two games of the season while conceding six goals, head coach Preki was looking for somebody, anybody, to step up and provide some solid play at the back.
The Canadian international did exactly that.
He won most of the battles in the air, but more importantly, he didn’t make the type of critical errors that led to Toronto’s deterioration last weekend. The performance likely earned him another starting nod at Colorado on Sunday.
“Overall I thought Adrian stepped in and did a good job,” Preki said. “He’s a very strong player in the air and won most of the challenges. We’re looking to build on that.”
The University of Louisville product practiced with the club during training camp, and Toronto's director of soccer Mo Johnston finally inked him to a deal earlier this week. He joined other recent signings Maksim Usanov and Raivis Hscanovics in the starting backfield against the Union.
Cann was drafted 16th overall by the Colorado Rapids in 2004, but released after just two games. Since then, he spent time with the Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps and most recently Esbjerg of the Danish Superliga.
He has eight caps for Canada and has been a call-up to Stephen Hart’s side since 2008.
While with Vancouver, Cann won the club’s Most Outstanding Defender award in 2007. Some of the stellar play behind that accolade came to the fore against Philadelphia, but Cann didn’t revel only in the positives.
With only three days until the match against the Rapids, he felt both he and the team had room for improvement.
“I think initially I could have improved on the back line with regards to positioning wise, but other than that I thought I did quite well, so it’s good,” Cann said. “Over the course of a couple of games, we’ll get used to one another.”