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Jason de Vos, TSN.CA

Jason de Vos
Canadians To Watch
TSN.ca has asked the soccer experts what fans can expect from the 2012 MLS season. Coverage continues today with a look at notable Canadians around the league with TSN analyst and former Canadian International defender Jason de Vos. Where does Dwayne de Rosario rank among the best players in the league? Read on for Jason's take and be sure to check out TSN.ca's team previews, featuring Toronto FC by TSN Radio 1050's Gareth Wheeler, the Vancouver Whitecaps preview by TSN Analyst Luke Wileman and the Montreal Impact by TSN Radio 990's Noel Butler.

The 2012 MLS Season will see the introduction of the third Canadian team as the Montreal Impact join both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC in the league. There has also been great individual success as for the first time in MLS history a Canadian - DC United forward Dwayne De Rosario - is the reigning league MVP. As the game continues to expand nationally, TSN soccer analyst Jason de Vos takes a look at six Canadian players to watch for this season.

Dwayne De Rosario
Forward- DC United
Age: 33
Place of Birth: Scarborough, Ont.
HT: 5-9 WT: 164
MLS Seasons: 10
Former Teams: San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls

The Scarborough, Ontario native is not just the best Canadian player in Major League Soccer – he's the best player of all. De Rosario has won just about every award going since beginning his MLS career with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001.


He is a four-time MLS Cup winner, two-time MLS Cup MVP, two-time MLS Goal of the Year winner and six-time MLS Best XI player – the list is endless. In 2011, De Rosario added two more trophies to his impressive cabinet – the MLS Golden Boot as the league's top goal scorer, and the coveted MLS MVP as the league's top player. Both of these awards came in a year where he was traded – not once, but twice. In April, he was shipped from Toronto FC to the New York Red Bulls, who in turn sent him to DC United a few months later.


His departure from his hometown club was particularly contentious, as many supporters saw him as the club's only bona fide star. De Rosario's now-famous cheque signing celebration – a show of frustration at the lack of progress on contract talks - polarized TFC supporters. Many felt his gesture was selfish and petulant, while just as many felt the club should have paid him what he felt he was worth.


He now appears to be earning just that at DC United, where he recently signed a new contract that sources say will make him the highest paid player at the club. With the addition of Hamdi Salihi up front, DC United won't be entirely reliant on De Rosario to score the goals, but will be hoping for another MVP-calibre season from the Canadian as they look to make the playoffs after missing out in 2011.


Will Johnson
Midfielder - Real Salt Lake
Age: 25
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ont.
HT: 5-10 WT: 160
MLS Seasons: 5
Former Teams: Chicago Fire

Since joining Real Salt Lake in 2008, Will Johnson has steadily established himself as a vital component of Jason Kreis' team. Johnson has started all but seven of his 88 games for RSL, and has proven to be a reliable component of what many believe to be the most balanced midfield in Major League Soccer.


While he is listed as a forward, Johnson is happy to play whatever role is required in order to help his team succeed, and he has blossomed into a tenacious, box-to-box midfielder. His work-rate is second to none, and Kreis can always rely on Johnson to defend, as well as to get forward and join in the attack.


Like his countryman, De Rosario, Johnson has also tasted success in MLS. He won the MLS Cup in 2009, was named to the MLS All-Star team the same year (as a replacement for the injured Shalrie Joseph), and won MLS Goal of the Year in 2008 for his tremendous volley against FC Dallas.


More production in front of goal is probably the one thing that Johnson needs to add to his game to be a perennial league all-star. In 88 games for Real Salt Lake, Johnson has found the back of the net on just 6 occasions.


With Real Salt Lake expected to challenge the Los Angeles Galaxy for top spot in the Western Conference, head coach Jason Kreis will look to Johnson to once again play a significant role for his team in 2012.


Dejan Jakovic
Defender - DC United
Age: 25
Place of Birth: Karlovac, Croatia
HT: 6-2 WT: 178
MLS Seasons: 3
Former Teams: NONE

Tough-tackling defenders who are comfortable on the ball are hard to come by, especially in a league that has a restricted salary cap. But DC United has found one in Canadian Dejan Jakovic.


Born in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Jakovic and his family moved to Canada when he was just six years old. After a successful youth soccer career in Toronto, Jakovic accepted a scholarship to the University of Alabama Birmingham, where he stayed for four years.


In 2008, the central defender moved overseas, signing with Red Star Belgrade. After playing only three games for the club over the first half of the season, Jakovic opted to continue his career stateside, signing for DC United in February 2009.


That season, Jakovic established himself as a key defender for the team, playing every minute of the 23 games he started. 2010 and 2011 were both interrupted by injuries, and Jakovic will have a fight on his hands in 2012 to secure one of the two central defensive positions in the starting eleven after the arrival of Argentine defender Emiliano Dudar.


Andre Hainault
Defender - Houston Dynamo
Age: 25
Place of Birth: Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que.
HT: 6-0 WT: 175
MLS Seasons: 3
Former Teams: NONE

A native of Vaudreuil-Dorion in Quebec, Hainault began his career with the Montreal Impact of the USL in 2004 before moving to the Czech Republic to play for SIAD Most. He joined the Houston Dynamo in April 2009, where he soon established himself as a tough, reliable defender for Dominic Kinnear's team.


When the Montreal Impact selected Houston's Brian Ching with the first pick in the 2012 Expansion Draft, many saw it as an attempt to acquire Hainault via a trade – Ching had previously expressed his desire to see out his career in Houston.


The two upsides for the Impact of a possible trade were that Hainault is a Canadian – from Quebec, no less – and he plays a key position that needs to be filled. Unfortunately for Montreal, the Dynamo drove a hard bargain and managed to re-acquire Ching without having to give up Hainault.


However, Hainault remains a valuable commodity in Major League Soccer. With three Canadian MLS clubs needing to roster at least three Canadian players on their squads, Hainault's name will always crop up when trade discussions take place between the Dynamo and any of the three Canadian clubs.


Hainault is aggressive, good in the air and strong in the tackle. If, like me, you subscribe to the belief that first and foremost a defender's job is to prevent the opponent from scoring, then Hainault ticks a lot of the boxes. He also has the versatility to play as a central defender or as a fullback, which only adds to his value in Major League Soccer.


Teal Bunbury
Forward - Sporting Kansas City
Age: 22
Place of Birth: Hamilton, Ont.
HT: 6-2 WT: 175
MLS Seasons: 2
Former Teams: NONE

Fans of Canadian soccer cringe at the very mention of Teal Bunbury.


Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Bunbury is the son of former Canadian international Alex Bunbury, who represented Canada in 66 games, scoring 16 goals. While his father was proud to represent Canada, Teal Bunbury chose to tie his allegiance to the United States, where he spent much of his childhood.


That decision was made despite Bunbury saying, in 2010, that he felt it would be an honour to play for Canada and that it would "feel wrong" to play for the United States.


While Bunbury isn't the first athlete to say one thing and do another, his about-face left a sour taste in the mouths of Canadian soccer fans, who have seen a long list of talented players choose to represent other nations over Canada.


One thing you can be sure of: whenever Bunbury plays in Canada, the home supporters will voice their displeasure at his decision.


After winning the 2009 MAC Hermann Trophy – the top prize handed out in U.S. college soccer – Bunbury was selected fourth overall by the Kansas City Wizards in the 2010 MLS Superdraft.


Over the first two years of his professional career, Bunbury struggled to find consistency. While this is common for young players, Bunbury will need to deliver the goods on a weekly basis if he is going to claim a spot in Peter Vermes' starting lineup at Sporting KC.


When Bunbury is on form, he is a real handful for defenders. When he's not, he'll find himself watching from the bench, as Vermes has options up front in both Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong.


Ashtone Morgan
Defender - Toronto FC
Age: 25
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ont.
HT: 5-11 WT: 165
MLS Seasons: 1
Former Teams: NONE

2011 was quite a year for Toronto FC youngster Ashtone Morgan. Not only did he make his MLS debut for TFC, he also earned his first cap for the Canadian Men's National Team.


A product of the TFC Academy, Morgan has made the left fullback position his own over the last 12 months. He is expected to be in the starting lineup when the Reds take on Seattle in their first MLS game on March 17.


A tireless worker, Morgan is at his best when he is rampaging down the left flank. A willingness to get forward into advanced positions, coupled with a cultured left foot, allows the youngster to deliver a steady supply of crosses into the box for the likes of Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson.


Defensively, Morgan is quick enough to deal with most of the players that he will face this year, but he must continue to work on his one-on-one defending and positional awareness. If he can continue to progress in these areas and find a level of consistency in his performances, he might start getting a few mentions when it comes time to vote for the MLS All-Star team.



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