Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Dear Stephen Hart: Pick up the phone and give Shaun Saiko a call

Dear Stephen Hart: Pick up the phone and give Shaun Saiko a call

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It was mentioned in Sunday’s match report on this very site, but it needs to be mentioned again… with the Canadian national team having an open roster spot due to the injury to Josh Simpson, and the friendly against the U.S. just days away (and World Cup qualifiers coming up fast), what would be the harm in coach Stephen Hart taking on FC Edmonton’s hometown star, Shaun Saiko?

For the second time this year, Saiko was named the NASL’s Offensive Player of the Week. He delivered an inch-perfect long-range cross to Yashir Pinto for the opening goal of the game, then scored his fifth goal of the season in FCE’s 2-2 draw Sunday with San Antonio. He also delivered another fantastic cross on a Paul Craig goal ruled out for offside. But, on our CBC.ca and TEAM 1260 broadcasts, play-by-play man Gareth Hampshire and myself are getting awfully used to describing yet another inch-perfect cross from Saiko.

With five goals and two assists, Saiko has been involved in more goals than any player in NASL — on a team that currently sits sixth in the standings.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Saiko is the best free-kick taker in NASL — and it could be argued that his shooting ability is better than any of the midfielders or attackers currently on the squad. In the San Antonio game, he forced Scorpions keeper Daryl Sattler into a fantastic diving stop on a laser beam 30-yard free kick.

He scored on a 32-yard drive against Carolina earlier this year. People in Puerto Rico still speak of the wonder goal he scored there last season. Opposing teams now that, from 35 yards in, Saiko is in scoring range. How many Canadian national teamers offer that kind of threat.

Yes, it’s easy for naysayers, especially those who only watch MLS but still proclaim themselves to be Canadian soccer experts, to pooh-pooh the notion of a second-division player getting the call. But fans who have watched Saiko pull the strings from midfield know about his vision. And, really, Hart shouldn’t be prejudiced against NASL — as he did call Ali Gerba, then with the Montreal Impact, to the Gold Cup squad in 2011.

And, make this clear. Saiko was an NASL Best XI player last season. Many of the guys who went to MLS from NASL in the off season were not. Saiko was and is better than many of the guys who moved, but MLS clubs are really only interested in NASL players who are out of contract. Because Saiko would have come with a price tag, calls didn’t come.

There are worse things Hart could do with that 23rd spot in the roster. Saiko deserves a look. He can go and play on that left side (Simpson’s spot) if need be. If you don’t use him… fine. But don’t limit Canada’s options by not having that spot filled. Saiko could get to camp within hours.

 

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6 Comments

  1. B to the A

    May 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    He didn’t play well enough for the U23 team in Olympic qualifying to get a look at the National Team… there are a lot of guys ahead of him on that pecking order… he is playing well… I will give him that… the NASL is not a physical league were the MLS is very physical… I think that is the biggest knock on his game… he doesn’t get around the field well enough at the higher levels…

  2. James

    May 30, 2012 at 6:49 am

    With Simpson out, it’s Saiko’s time. He’s playing better than last season and last season he was a monster.
    Skip the MLS, I’d like to see Shaun head to Europe after this summer.

  3. Jose Santos

    May 30, 2012 at 1:09 am

    For me, Saiko is a player that is developing pretty well, so he should receive the opportunity to train with the National Team. He is a good prospect with a great potential in to the future.

  4. Soccerpro

    May 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    If Saiko had a good showing at Olympic qualifying he might have played himself into contention. He was very underwhelming so there’s not much of a selection controversy.

  5. Jayson Merryfield

    May 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I’m not sure where to rate Saiko either. I love his game and the spark that he provides the Eddies, and I was there in person to watch that wonderstrike against Carolina. I’m just not sure if NASL caliber opposition is a good barometer of his abilities.

    That said, there genuinely is no harm in bringing him to the USA friendly and using him as a super-sub. He has an unbelievable engine and a nose for net that Canada could desperately use right now. If he stinks up the joint then it’s no harm no foul. If he succeeds wildly… maybe Edmonton might get a call from an MLS team looking for a spark for the playoff run, or at least the kid will get a chance at a second appearance down the road.

  6. Baldrick

    May 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I don’t rate Saiko at this level. Didn’t impress me in the Olympic qualifying; Canada played better when he wasn’t in the line up.

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