Victoria’s Adam Straith up for Canadian soccer player of the year

Adam Straith of Victoria, who has started for Canada in all six of its CONCACAF World Cup qualifying games so far for Russia 2018, is one of nine players nominated for the Canadian Soccer Association’s male player of the year award.

“It’s a great honour. Looking back at the year, I would say it was a largely positive 12 months for the national team, and I’m proud to have played a role in that,” said Straith.

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Canada defeated Dominica and Belize in two-game second- and third-round CONCACAF World Cup qualifying sets and currently has four of a possible six points in the ongoing fourth round following a 1-0 victory over Honduras at B.C. Place and a scoreless away draw at El Salvador.

At the club level, Straith played professionally in 2015 for Fredrikstad in Norway.

Also nominated were Julian de Guzman of the Ottawa Fury, Atiba Hutchinson of Besiktas JK of Turkey, Dejan Jakovic of Shimizu S-Pulse of Japan, MLS rookie of the year Cyle Larin of Orlando City, Samuel Piette of Racing Ferrol in Spain, Tosaint Ricketts of Boluspor FC in Turkey and goalkeepers Milan Borjan of Ludogorets in Bulgaria and Kenny Stamatopoulos of AIK in Sweden.

Six of the players hail from Ontario, Piette from Quebec, Ricketts from Edmonton and Straith, the lone British Columbian.

“There is a good mix of experienced players on this list, players I have not only looked up to in the past, but still do to this day,” said 25-year-old Bays United-product Straith, back on the Island during the Norwegian off-season.

“These are the players that will lead us into what is hopefully a very successful [World Cup] qualifying campaign. But there are also a few young players I have had the pleasure of watching right from their first few games for the national team, and seen how much they have grown in such a short period of time. They all are players who will be part of the program for a long time and are all players that supporters of the national team can be very excited about.”

There is a palpable sense of anticipation surrounding the current blend of players that national team head coach Benito Floro has assembled for World Cup Russia 2018 qualifying.

“It’s nice to be individually recognized for my efforts this year. But for me, the greatest prize will be the team moving on to the Hex [final CONCACAF] round and still moving toward qualifying for a World Cup at this time next year,” said Straith, who is evolving into a stalwart defender in Floro’s flat-four back-line system.

The Canadian women, meanwhile, are coming off a 2015 World Cup quarter-final appearance as tournament host. Nominated for national female player of the year are Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Erin McLeod, Ashley Lawrence, Allysha Chapman, Kadeisha Buchanan and Josee Belanger.

Online balloting began Monday and concludes Dec. 11 through the CSA website. It is open to Canadian media and soccer coaches. The winners will be announced later this month.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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