Home CONCACAF Floro: Akindele, Roberts and Johnson all “new” to me

Floro: Akindele, Roberts and Johnson all “new” to me


Canadian national-team coach Benito Floro is working with three “new” players as the team prepares to begin its qualification process for the 2018 World Cup.

FC Dallas striker Tesho Akindele, FC Edmonton defender Mallan Roberts and, um, Portland Timbers midfielder Will Johnson are all new players, in Floro’s eyes.

Wait? Will Johnson? The Canadian national-team veteran?

Floro put him in the “new-to-me” category, because Johnson has just come back from a broken leg; and that injury has kept him away from the national side since Floro took over as the boss.

And Johnson’s role could be all the more important, considering that midfielder Atiba Hutchinson will be out of the June 11 qualifier at Dominica and the return leg June 16 at Toronto’s BMO Field. There is no plan to bring in a player to take Hutchinson’s roster spot.

“It is possible for all players [on the roster] to play some minutes,” said Floro. He said it was vital for the three players he has yet to see before to get integrated into the Canadian system, and learn how the team plays.

Benito Floro
Benito Floro

The curve will be especially steep for Roberts, the big centre back who was also a major football (as in, with the helmets and tackling) out of high school. Roberts, who came to Canada with his father from Sierra Leone, got his Canadian citizenship earlier this year. He was called into the national side on Saturday, as a late replacement for the injured Dejan Jakovic.

“I saw him play two or three games,” said Floro. “I was talking with Colin [FCE head coach Colin Miller], and he gave me a very good impression, that Roberts was a player who could play with us. He’s a young boy, physically good, technically it is possible for him to increase his level.”

Veteran midfielder Julian de Guzman said that Canada will take Dominica very seriously, but the players will also look at this as an opportunity to further adapt to Floro who, after a year, is essentially still new on the job.

“It’s something we don’t want to overlook; these are very important moments for our team, in terms of improving things we have to work on.”

The Canadian Soccer Association is hopeful that a stream will be available for the match in Dominica on Thursday, but nothing will be known for certain till the team and officials arrive in the Caribbean nation.

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  1. Madmonte

    June 9, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    You are someone very familiar with Mallan, Mr. Sandor. Respectfully, I would ask your opinion. Roberts when I first saw him at a season opener a few years ago immediately stuck out to me as potential, potential, potential. I thought he played a little hoofball and needed to get more comfortable with the ball at his feet, while others I know thought he was a red card waiting to happen.

    I haven’t seen him play as much this year, spending my time trying to get Foothills support rolling. How would you rate his composure and technical ability this year as opposed to when I might have first seen him?

    • Steven Sandor

      June 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      If anything, when Roberts first came to NASL the big challenge was to rein in his aggression. He threw himself around the pitch a lot, and his positional awareness has improved greatly. (As has his overaggression, which used to get him in trouble). He had one real problem game this year — the loss to San Antonio, where he was caught a couple of times. But he has become more comfortable trying to play the ball forward, but a lot of that also has to do with improvements in Edmonton’s midfield and the speed on the wings.

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