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Straith, Canada go in search of CONCACAF gold

With 14 Gold Cup debutantes announced Tuesday for Canada’s team, Adam Straith of Victoria can be excused for feeling like an old man of the national side as the defender was named for his third CONCACAF Gold Cup. The thing is, he is only 26.
With 14 Gold Cup debutantes announced Tuesday for Canada’s team, Adam Straith of Victoria can be excused for feeling like an old man of the national side as the defender was named for his third CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The thing is, he is only 26.

“I’m asked that a lot these days,” he said, with a laugh.

“I am happy with my role as one of the veteran leaders of the national team. With this new group of exciting young players, this is the most excited I’ve been for a Gold Cup. They have the kind of flair that will help us succeed. There is a good mix of the young players and a group of us more experienced guys.”

It’s odd to feel on the far side of the generation divide at 26.

“I feel I can help bridge that gap. We can’t put too much pressure on our young guys,” said Straith, by phone, as he made his way to Alliston, Ont., for the start of camp today.

The Bays United and Lower Island Metro product is among nine players named to the 23-man Canadian roster who have previous Gold Cup experience. Marcel de Jong of the Vancouver Whitecaps will play in his fifth Gold Cup and Patrice Bernier of the Montreal Impact and Tosaint Ricketts of Toronto FC in their fourth each. Edmonton FC pro Straith, along with Milan Borjan, Jonathan Osorio, Dejan Jakovic, Samuel Piette and Russell Teibert, will each appear in their third Gold Cup.

The youth brigade is led by the electric 16-year-old Whitecaps sensation Alphonso Davies.

“We have a dynamic team that has speed and offensive weapons,” said new Canadian head coach Octavio Zambrano.

“We have a balance between offence and defence. We want to go forward and have a high tempo, but we also have to make sure we have the defenders that are up to the task in our end.”

That back half of the field is where Straith’s steady presence has been felt over his 43 caps.

There was bad news, however, for Simon Thomas of Victoria. The seven-time capped goalkeeper, like Straith out of Bays United, was the third Canadian goalkeeper for the last Gold Cup in 2015. The Norwegian Premiership pro Thomas was among four goalkeepers shortlisted by Zambrano this time around, but the three selected Tuesday were Borjan, Maxime Crepeau and Jayson Leutwiler.

Canada opens July 7 in New York against French Guiana and then concludes pool play in Dallas on July 11 against Costa Rica and July 14 against Honduras.

“Everyone knows how multicultural New York is — and then with our final two games in Texas, there will be huge fan support for Costa Rica and Honduras — so the atmosphere is going to be fantastic,” said Straith.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com