Canada’s World Cup Is Over But Tajon Buchanan’s Journey Has Just Begun


Al Rayyan, Qatar – It was a sequence Tajan Buchanan Have practiced thousands of times. He collected the ball on the right wing, looked towards goal and surveyed his options.

But it wasn’t a training session in Ontario, Canada. This wasn’t a high school soccer match in Colorado or an ACC fixture in upstate New York. this was it world Cup, So, as three teammates headed towards the Croatian goal, it was understandable that global sport’s biggest stage would produce a moment of panic.

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Then again, Buchanan isn’t wired like that.

he got to his feet and walked out Bayern Munich Star Alphonso Davis Made a late run and delivered an inch-perfect cross for the oncoming header. target. The uproar history. Just 66 seconds into the match against the tournament’s defending runners-up, Buchanan and Davies teamed up to give up the first World Cup goal in Canadian history.

“When we first took over this program, we talked about it from that moment,” said John Herdman, the Canadian coach. “That moment connects people, connects families. It ignites passion.”

after mostly outplaying belgium one in tough-to-1-0 loss A few days ago, it was a stunning display of skill from two players in their early 20s that forced the world to ask: what is Canada for real?

Not at all, as it turns out. Croatia methodically tturned things around to win 4-1Mathematically eliminating Canada by only two games in their first World Cup appearance since 1986. However, before its final match against Morocco The impression that was made on Thursday cannot be denied. Canada has, perhaps naively, sought to impose itself on the two international powers and, in the process, displayed exciting attacking flair, which bodes well for the team’s potential in 2026, when Canada co-hosts the tournament. United States of america And Mexico,

Herdman said, “You can come to the World Cup and not score goals. You can come to the World Cup and build a bunker and defend for 90 minutes.” “But I think the younger generation is what we wanted to inspire in this country. These football fans across the country who have been waiting for this moment to see it and feel it, to be on the touchline, just an absolute It was a privilege.”

In many ways, Buchanan epitomizes the meteoric rise of Canadian football. A mostly unknown prospect for the last two years, Buchanan earned a move to 2021 major league soccer for the power of belgium club brugge – who has reached Champions League Round of 16 — and, after two exceptional performances in Qatar, looks set to take his career to an even higher level.

In 2016, the idea that Buchanan had the potential to develop into a global star would have seemed silly. He had moved to Colorado with a close friend and his father a year earlier to pursue soccer at a higher level, but was initially ruled ineligible to play for the Colorado Rush at the United States Soccer Development Academy.

He could still train with the club, but his absence from high-profile competitions limited extensive exposure. A workout at Syracuse University’s identity camp led to an opportunity to play for the Orangemen, and to stay sharp, he chose to play high school football in his senior year. At a time when his future World Cup rival and Ballon d’Or winner luka modric was winning the Champions League title next to Cristiano Ronaldo with real madridBuchanan was burning up suburban kids all around the Denver area.

When the State Player of the Year was named, his coach at Legacy High, Tony Romano, stood before the other coaches and listed the names of the best players to come through the state.

“Tjon,” he said, “is better than them all.”

For Romano, though, it wasn’t Buchanan’s record-setting goal tally or next-level athleticism that was foremost in his mind. It was Buchanan’s unique perspective and grasp of the moment. In a state playoff match, Legacy earned a penalty and being one goal shy of Buchanan’s single-season school goal record, he was the obvious choice to take the shot.

“There was a player on our team, and he says to this kid, ‘Hey, why don’t you take a penalty kick,'” Romano said. “Which is just a testament to a few things. One, his character. And second, his confidence in knowing that ‘this is not the end for me.’ He knew he was bound for big things on a very big stage, but for all that sophistication, that was perhaps the greatest moment of his playing career.

Big steps, indeed.

When he arrived at Syracuse, Buchanan immediately got into the starting lineup for special teams. Kamal Miller, who also started Canada’s first two group-stage matches. “His first year, he was good,” said Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre. “The second year, he was great, and the third year would have been awesome, but that’s when we lost him to Major League Soccer.”

For McIntyre, watching both of his former players progress through the college system and start roles with the World Cup has been unreal.

“To see those guys go up against Kevin De Bruyne from pre-season games on campus? Yeah, it’s very special,” he said. “It’s a long way from playing Cornell midweek. But I think the path is different for each player.”

In 33 games in his two years at Syracuse, Buchanan scored 12 goals with six assists. The potential was there, but, even then, the general consensus about what it has become may be grossly underestimated. new england They drafted him No. 9 overall – bypassing him with their first selection in the process – and he was unable to immediately slot in as an every-game starter.

When Bruce Arena and his staff replaced Brad Friedel in May 2019, it was Buchanan’s defensive ability that made the first impression in practice, but did not lead to much playing time. Assistant coach Dave Van den Bergh said that it took some time for the staff, and especially him, to learn how to coach Buchanan. Van den Berg learned that what Buchanan needed was that he responded well when the coaches showed confidence in him and that they cared about him.

During the COVID shutdown in 2020, Arena instructed his assistant to write individual player evaluations and present them to those he worked most closely with. Buchanan was in Van den Bergh’s circle.

“I called him and I was like, ‘Listen, I feel like I’ve [messed] Up with you,” van den Berg recalled to ESPN. “I didn’t know how you would last and didn’t know long enough to find out [in 2019], I see you now. I see what you are capable of. And now I’m going to help you in any way, shape or form that I can. And I need 100 percent commitment from you. And he was like, ‘You got it.’

It may have sounded like a typical coach-player conversation, but van den Bergh said from that point forward — when it felt like real trust had been established — he noticed a difference. Climbing quickly followed. The New Englander fielded some low-ball offers from European teams after the 2020 season before his breakout season in 2021, when he helped guide the Revolution to the MLS single-season point record.

As Buchanan’s development path traveled through the levels, mostly completely sidelined by those who advance to the top of the sport, he remained unaffiliated with the Canadian national team program. He was notably omitted from the U-20 roster for the 2018 CONCACAF Championships, before being called up for the U-23 Olympic qualifying tournament in 2021.

“What an amazing story from that young man,” Herdman said Wednesday. “His composure, his resilience, his focus, I think again, is born out of an amazing story of resilience.”

Herdman handed Buchanan his first full-team cap at the start of 2021 and he has since become an integral part of the team, making 28 appearances – including 17 times in all stages of World Cup qualifying – scoring four goals and six assists. with.

It was this early spell as he leaves for Canada and New England in 2021 that has generated significant interest from overseas, which has led to his move to Club Brugge. The deal was accompanied by a reported $7 million incentive that could earn New England another $3 million and included a 10% sales fee. Buchanan has been slowed down by injuries at times since the film, but when healthy he is a key player – evidenced by his four Champions League starts.

Herdman said, “What you see on the world stage now is, to me, a 20-year-old young complete player. He is a moment-to-moment player.” “He’s just as committed to his defensive responsibilities as he is to his offensive. But I think in both games, he had one of those ‘oh-wow’ moments where only the top, top players in the world Let’s show those moments in the cup.”

“I think he showed them whether it was touching down from the corner or getting blown by a player. It’s been a great two games and there’s a lot more to come.”

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