From Oak Bay soccer to Team Canada honours

It’s been quite a journey from Bays United youth soccer and Oak Bay High to RFK Stadium tonight in Washington, D.C.

Defender Adam Straith and goalkeeper Simon Thomas, both 25, are on the Canadian roster for the men’s soccer friendly against Ghana. The Black Stars are FIFA world No. 25 and should provide No. 104 Canada with just the preparation it needs for its CONCACAF Russia World Cup 2018 fourth-round qualifying-round openers against Honduras on Nov. 13 at B.C. Place and Nov. 17 at El Salvador.

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“To have two players come out of not only the Bays United system, but also the Oak Bay High School team, onto the Canadian national team I think is something people in the area should be proud of,” said Straith.

“I have confidence that not just Oak Bay but [the Island] can continue to produce players that can one day make the step to professional football. That could then lead to them playing for their country, which is the biggest honour any of us who do what we do can have.”

Straith, a regular on the Canadian backline during this summer’s Gold Cup and earlier rounds of CONCACAF qualifying play for Russia World Cup 2018, is after his 30th cap tonight and Thomas his third. Thomas returns to dress behind veteran ’keeper Milan Borjan for the first time since his inaugural two caps with the national team in 2013. Both Straith and Thomas play professionally in Norway.

“It was great hearing from Simon when he got the message that he was coming into camp,” said Straith.

“He’s a fantastic keeper who has done very well this year in Norway. Playing every week has noticeably done very good things for him, and you can tell just in the training sessions here that he is in really good form. We’ve been playing together for years now, and it’s great to see him with us because I’ve experienced first-hand how hard he has worked throughout his career, and he deserves every opportunity that is going to come his way.”

Ghana has qualified for the last three World Cups, making the round of 16 in 2006 at Germany, the quarter-finals in 2010 at South Africa, but not advancing from group play at Brazil in 2014.

“It’s nice to finally get to Washington after having a week-long camp in Orlando, and to do the final preparations for the game,” said Straith.

“We know Ghana is a very good international team, and have a number of players playing in the top leagues in Europe. We have a number of new, very exciting players added this camp, with the likes of Junior Hoilett [from Queens Park Rangers], Fraser Aird [from Glasgow Rangers] and Lucas Cavallini, as well as a good group of very young and hungry guys looking to make their first cap. Obviously, with the upcoming qualifying games coming up in November as our main goal, we can use this game to test ourselves against a world-class team, and give some of the boys needed experience.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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