There have been two differing trajectories to the career of soccer player Adam Straith of Victoria. He has been among Canada’s most reliable internationals with 41 caps on the back line. But the defender’s pro club career has been spotty and nomadic. It’s a real puzzler because the two usually go hand in hand.
FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller, however, was interim Canadian national team coach for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and saw what Straith could do. So he didn’t hesitate to sign the 26-year-old Islander this week to a North American Soccer League contract.
“I’m very excited to be coming back to Canada to play. After having a chat with Colin, I decided pretty quickly this was the step that I wanted to take next,” said Straith.
“It’s hard to say so early what this will mean for my career, but hopefully it can have a positive effect, and I feel like it is the right place for me to be right now.”
The Bays United and Lower Island Metro product began his pro career in 2009 in Germany with Energie Cottbus of the Bundesliga second division and also saw stints with FC Saarbrucken and SV Wiesbaden. Straith’s last pro club was Fredrikstad of the Norwegian second division, where he played 51 games over two seasons in 2015 and 2016, with six goals.
Straith, who has been part of two World Cup qualifying campaigns for Canada, has been called up several times to play for the national team while he was not even attached to a pro club. That is almost unheard of in soccer. He would stay fit by working out in gyms back in Victoria and scrimmaging with Island teams.
The NASL and USL are the two minor-pro soccer leagues in North America below MLS.
“At the moment, I’m just looking forward to getting started [in the NASL], meeting the rest of the boys and people at the club, and finally having that first game at the beginning of April,” said Straith.
FC Edmonton looks to have landed a coup.
“Adam could be a very important signing for us because he can play in a variety of positions,” said FC Edmonton bench boss Miller, in a statement.
“He’s a quality, experienced professional, who has over 40 caps with Canada. Adam … instantly becomes a leader in this squad,” added Miller, who was the first coach of the Victoria Highlanders of the USL Premier Development League.
In his last game, an international friendly for Canada against Bermuda on Jan. 22, Straith made headlines by playing goal for the final 35 minutes after fellow Victorian and Canadian keeper Sean Melvin went down with injury in the crease and rules prohibited starting keeper Callum Irving from coming back into the game. Straith made a couple of saves and kept a personal clean sheet in the 4-2 Canadian victory.
“That was a new one for me,” said Straith.
Despite his unexpected crease heroics, Miller, of course, has no plans to use Straith in goal.
The FC Edmonton exhibition season runs from March 9-22 in Manchester, where the Eddies will play the U-23 teams of Newcastle United, Burnley, Stoke and the Wigan Reserves.
The regular season opener is April 2 against the Jacksonville Armada.
The Eddies, who play their home games at Clarke Stadium, made the NASL playoffs last season for the first time in five years.
Meanwhile, Straith is again expected to feature on the Canadian back line in July during the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup to be staged in the U.S.