MLS

Get primed for the 2013 MLS season with a look at some of the top Canadian players in the league. TSN soccer analyst Jason deVos breaks down six Canadians that will be very influential during the year for their respective teams.

Dwayne De Rosario - DC United

Injury limited Dwayne De Rosario’s impact towards the end of the 2012 season, and the 34-year old will be looking to bounce back stronger than ever in 2013.

‘DeRo’ is the main scoring threat for DC United, and head coach Ben Olsen will again rely on him to provide scoring punch from either an attacking midfield role or as a winger cutting inside. De Rosario can operate as a striker, but I don’t feel that this is where he best operates. He needs to be able to run at defenders, rather than playing with his back to goal.

De Rosario is a real threat from open play, but is also deadly from set pieces. Any free kick within 30 yards of goal is a legitimate goal scoring opportunity for the perennial all-star. Teams would do well to avoid conceding time and space to DeRo around the box, or free kicks, as they could very well find themselves picking the ball out of the back of the net.

Critics will suggest that De Rosario’s age will affect his ability to contribute this season. This criticism is wide of the mark, though, as De Rosario looks after his body, and should be able to carry on playing at a very high level in MLS for a few years to come.

Dejan Jakovic – DC United

DeRosario’s teammate at DC United, Jakovic has all the tools to be an excellent defender in MLS; he is big, aggressive, quick and decent on the ball. The 27-year old played 23 games for DC in 2012, starting in 21 and scoring one goal.

Jakovic has been hampered by injuries since joining DC in 2009, but has still managed to make 80 appearances over four seasons. In 2013, he will be relied upon as a defensive mainstay for DC United, but must remain healthy if he is to keep a regular place in the starting line-up.

Internationally, Jakovic is a player that Canada should look to as it rebuilds its entire men's squad. Failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup means that Canada has time to give younger players experience. Jakovic should retain his place in the squad, and at the age of 27, is coming into his most productive years as a defender – where he has the correct balance of athleticism and experience to bring to the team.

Will Johnson - Portland Timbers

Real Salt Lake needed to move players in the offseason, in order to avoid going over the salary cap this year. Some big earners were deemed surplus to requirements, among them Canadian international, Will Johnson.

Johnson is one of my favourite players in the Canadian men's national team pool. He epitomizes what a Canadian soccer player is all about; a never-say-die attitude, technically proficient, tactically aware, mentally resilient and physically fit. The Portland Timbers have picked up a very good player, and I'm expecting Johnson to be a key component of Caleb Porter's midfield this season.

Offensively, Johnson had his best year for RSL in 2012, with 3 goals and 3 assists to his credit. Defensively, Johnson is a tireless workhorse, but his offensive production needs to improve if he is to challenge the league's best for all-star billing.

Patrice Bernier - Montreal Impact

It would have been easy for hometown boy, Patrice Bernier, to throw in the towel and spit out his dummy when head coach Jesse Marsch dropped him from Montreal's starting line-up early on in the Impact's debut MLS season. It is embarrassing enough to be dropped from the line-up, let alone in front of family and friends.

But Bernier showed what a true professional he is as he got his head down, worked hard, and forced his way back into Marsch's plans. Once he was back in, a place in the starting eleven was something Bernier would not relinquish. At the end of Montreal's first MLS year, Bernier was crowned Impact player of the year.

New head coach Marco Schällibaum would be wise to pencil Bernier into the heart of his midfield. The Canadian international has the experience to cope with whatever tactical formation Schällibaum chooses to employ, and will contribute goals when called upon, either from open play or from the penalty spot.

Ashtone Morgan - Toronto FC

Toronto FC's incumbent left fullback is coming into a crucial stage of his career. At the age of 22, Ashtone Morgan can no longer be considered a 'youngster' - he has come of age and needs to show significant progress this season if he is to keep his career trajectory on course.

I see a big future for Morgan, if - and this is a BIG if - he can improve the defensive side of his game. An outstanding athlete with a cultured left foot, Morgan is able to make lung-bursting runs forward and deliver precise crosses into dangerous areas. But Morgan has a tendency to get caught out of position defensively, and his man-marking from set pieces leaves a lot to be desired.

If Morgan can improve these aspects of his game - defenders should, first and foremost, be good defenders - then I can see him becoming a fixture at left fullback for both TFC and the Canadian men's national team for years to come. If he can't, then Morgan may become one of those players who fails to live up to his undoubted potential.

Kyle Bekker - Toronto FC

Drafted third overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Kyle Bekker might not be a regular fixture in Toronto FC's starting line-up this year - but I'm going to be keeping a close eye on his progress all the same.

I spoke with Bekker for a good 45 minutes the night before the draft, and was immensely impressed by his attitude and demeanour. Humility, honesty, talent and hard work are characteristics that lead an athlete to a lengthy career, and they are all clearly evident in Bekker.

At 22, Bekker is getting his professional career under way at a relatively late stage. After spending the last four years at Boston College, it will be interesting to see how Bekker adapts to the physical rigours of playing with the pros. He is technically very good, and every coach I have talked to who has worked with him feels he can make this step up with ease. That will make watching Bekker in 2013 something to look forward to.



Podcasts

TSN FC with Luke Wileman, Jason deVos & Kristian Jack - October 21

Luke, Jason & KJ look ahead to the final week of the MLS season, plus break down what went wrong at Toronto FC this year and if the club can recover.

TSN FC with Jason deVos & Kristian Jack - October 14

Kristian Jack and Jason deVos recap the disaster at Toronto FC this season and what needs to change, plus discuss the Whitecaps playoff run.

TSN FC with Luke Wileman, Jason deVos & Kristian Jack - September 30

Luke, Jason and KJ recap a huge weekend for Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps, plus talk Barclay's Premier League and Chelsea's form.


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