The Impact now has 26 players on its roster, with the announcement that Jamaican national-team defender (and former captain) Shavar Thomas has signed with the club for its first MLS season. Thomas has a green card so he won’t cost the Impact an international roster slot.
Thomas is a longstanding MLS veteran; he’s played 170 career games. But he’s 30 — and he only played three games over the past season with Sporting Kansas City. He’s a depth player now. SKC left him unprotected for the Re-Entry Draft and no one claimed him. Yes, he will bring the team some leadership, as he’s been through many MLS campaigns. But doesn’t the team get the same from its coach, Jesse Marsch?
Of the 26 signed players, only midfielder Patrice Bernier and keeper Greg Sutton are Canadian. And, Sutton starts the season as the No. 3 goalie on the depth chart.
The team needs to have three Canadians, so it looks as if it is heading towards carrying the minimum. As Vancouver showed us this past season, carrying the bare minimum of Canadian players is surely the key to success. In fact, being free of having too many Canadian prospects helped the Whitecaps to a sterling last-place finish in MLS.
The Impact, unfortunately, look to be on the same course.
The Impact has five Canadian passport holders in camp, holdovers from last year’s NASL team looking to stick with the team. It also has two Canadians taken in the Supplemental Draft. But there aren’t enough spots to take them all. One will likely stick, but you have to wonder if that’s more of a PR move than anything else.
It’s frustrating to see chances for Canadian players extinguished by the need to bring in depth players who likely won’t see much time on the pitch. Let’s take the patriotism out of this equation and replace it with pragmatism; wouldn’t a young expansion team like the Impact be better served by bringing in a young, roster-rule friendly domestic player and training him, rather than having an American/Jamaican 30-year-old to help on the bench?
Sooner or later, something has to give. And sooner or later, fans of certain Canadian MLS teams will have to ask themselves this question: If you have a Canadian national jersey and a Whitecaps/Impact jersey hanging in your closet, are you being a hypocrite?
When Toronto was awarded MLS Cup back in 2010, MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke of how much he wanted to see Canada make a World Cup, how MLS would judge its success by not just having the U.S. be a power in CONCACAF, but having Canada up there as well. It’s time for him to back his words with actions. Some phone calls have got to be made.
Montreal looks to be following the same path as the Whitecaps. Yes, it is early in both franchises’ MLS lives, but once a teams gets set in its ways, once the prejudices set in, they’re awfully hard to break.