Adam Straith is a 25 year old defender currently playing for Fredrikstad of the Norwegian First Division. Formerly a member of the Whitecaps Residency, Straith spent 6 years playing in Germany, mostly within Energie Cottbus’ system. A Canadian international player, he’s become a staple of Benito Floro’s roster having earned 29 caps. We spoke to him about everything from Benito Floro’s faith in him, the Gold Cup (both hosting and qualifying), MLS rumours and Norway.
*SSPC: You’re 25 and you’ve earned 29 caps for Canada, more than double what most guys near your age have and almost as many as some guys 5 years older than you and you’re just reaching your prime. Do you see yourself becoming the first Canadian male to join the 100 caps club?
AS: To be honest I haven’t thought that far ahead in the future. It’s something that I’m very proud of already to have 29 caps, but you never really know how the next years are going to go. Getting to 100 would put me ahead of some of Canada’s best ever players, guys that I have looked up to since I was a kid, and I don’t belong in that kind of company as of now. It’s the biggest honour in my opinion to put on the Canadian jersey, and if I can continue to do it for the rest of my career, I’ll be more than satisfied.
SSPC: Since Benito Floro’s arrival you’ve become a staple of the Canadian men’s team, after largely being a bench player for Stephen Hart and Colin Miller. What kind of impact has his confidence in you had on the way you view your ability as a player?
AS: It definitely helps me as a player knowing that I have confidence from the coach. I felt that I have grown as a player in the time since Benito has been around, and have taken on a bigger role in the team in comparison to the past. It’s something that I have really enjoyed but know that I can’t take for granted, and need to have good performances to stay in the team. A coach plays a very significant role in a players career, so I hope I can return the favour by helping make this team win.
SSPC: You had a good run at Wehen Wiesbaden but eventually lost your spot due to a combination of players returning from injury and a coaching change. Can you take me through what you were going through at that time?
AS: That was probably the most frustrating part of my career. As I said before how important a coach can be for a players career, I was unfortunately on the wrong side of that equation in Wiesbaden. The coach that brought me in only lasted for a couple of games and I found myself out of favour right away when the new coach came in. But that is also part of the game and it’s something most every player goes through at a point, you always want to be playing regardless of where you are. I found myself playing reserve games for the second half of the year to keep in game shape, so I was still able to come into a couple of national team camps. But it’s definitely a situation I hope not to be in again in the future.
SSPC: Between your time at Wehen Wiesbaden and Fredrikstad, there were rumours of you joining all three Canadian MLS clubs, Toronto and Vancouver especially. Was there any substance to the rumours? If so what lead you to not sign with one of the three?
AS: It’s true that I was training at both clubs to also keep fit and see if there were any opportunities to get in with the teams. It was in the middle of their season though so both teams decided not to pursue anything further. I would have loved to and still would love to play for a Canadian team one day, but at that time it was just the simple answer of none of the clubs being interested enough for a contract. They were both good enough to let me come in and train with them when I was without a club for a period of time, and I am still grateful to them for that.
*SSPC: Do you see yourself playing in the MLS in the future?
AS: Yes. It’s something that I would like to do one day. I keep a pretty close eye on the league and have seen how much it has grown recently and would love to be a part of it. But it’s a matter of timing and seeing when the best opportunity comes up. There is obviously a good number of Canadian players in the league, and I hope we get more and more of us playing in the MLS. I think it would not only be beneficial to the players but also to the national team having a bigger number of its players playing regularly in the domestic league here.
AS: After my time at Wiesbaden, I felt like I needed a fresh start in a new country, and wanted to see what was available for me. So after going on trial in a few countries I had the Chance to sign in Norway. I think it was something I was in need of, I got to a point in Germany where I was not happy and thought that if I changed my surroundings then it would lead to me playing better overall. I’m glad I made the decision, although I do miss playing in Germany and would be open to a move back someday if the opportunity came up.
*SSPC: So far this season you’ve scored three goals in 17 games. What’s lead to such a strong offensive performance?
AS: I wish I had a reason for it! I played a couple of games in the midfield and scored 2 goals there so maybe being a bit higher up the pitch had something to do with it. It’s a part of my game that I have wanted to improve on in the past, getting a couple goals here and there. I’m still waiting on my first goal for Canada though, so I’m hoping that it comes sometime soon!
SSPC: What do you think needs to be done to make Canada a stronger soccer nation in terms of both player development and knowledge of the game?
AS: First and foremost I think Canada having its own national league would do wonders for not only player development but it would also give more youth coaches more opportunities to teach kids at a higher level. It’s something that nearly every country in the world has and it’s something that we are unfortunately too far behind in. If you had a league of 10 or so teams in it, along with all of the youth programs of those teams, I would create a football culture which we have never really had. Coaches would have an end product right in front of them to coach towards, and not just playing in certain tournaments and having to travel down to the states to get good competition. This is obviously not something that can be done overnight, and it’s easier said then done to get going, but I think if so many countries in the world have made it work in the past and many of them not as strong economically as us, why couldn’t we as a nation put forward a competitive domestic football league? Hopefully this is something that will come sooner rather than later so that kids in Canada growing up have the desire to play for a Canadian league, and not feel like they have to move out of the country to play professional or semi professional soccer.
SSPC: There has been some criticism recently directed at Floro over some of his tactics and player selections. Not expecting you to name names but has anyone on the team expressed such criticism of him or is he pretty well trusted by the team?
AS: I don’t think there is one professional coach on this planet that does not get criticism at some point or another from people who follow his or her team. This is part of the game and something I’m sure Benito has experienced in the past. My job as a player is to play, and not to get caught up in what people who are not directly involved in our team are saying. We as players have trust in Benito because we have been with him for a few years now and we all have a common goal which is to get to the World Cup. That won’t be possible if we as players don’t buy in to what he wants us to do and put our trust in him.
SSPC: This past Gold Cup saw Canada host a game for the first time in the history of the tournament. Despite the disallowed goal and the game ending in a draw and Canada’s elimination, did the experience leave you hoping the CSA will make an attempt to host the tournament solely in Canada or maybe even host the World Cup in the future?
AS: I think the game itself can definitely be looked at as a success from a logistical point of view. There was a good turnout on a night with pretty horrible weather, so this shows that there is a lot of interest there. I think continuing having future Gold Cups in both Canada and the US is the right way to go forward. Speaking to some of the Costa Rican players after the game they said they really enjoyed coming up to Canada to play, so I think it’s smart for all sides to try and continue having a dual-hosted Gold Cup. You saw with the women’s World Cup this past summer how much interest there is and how the whole country really bought in to what was going on, and I can even imagine what would happen here if the country was able to host a Men’s World Cup.
SSPC: Speaking of the Gold Cup, some fans have begun complaining that Canada’s automatic qualification spot is actually hurting the men’s team and preventing it from gaining valuable points that could result in an easier route to the World Cup. Would you be in favor of Canada giving up its spot and qualifying another way, maybe with a play-off or even by taking part in the Copa Centroamericana?
AS: I’m not sure why we would want to give up a direct qualification into the Gold Cup. It is a very good tournament to be in every 2 years and something we all look forward too. In terms of gaining more points, I would rather focus on winning every other game we play (ex. Friendlies, qualifications) rather than have to think about what would happen if we wouldn’t directly qualify for the Gold Cup, that’s the best way to gain points.
AS: I had heard of interest from the club and had asked some players who has played in the country before and people I knew who were linked to Norwegian football how it was, and they all had very good things to say about the club. I had a chat with the coach at that time and he was a very young, exciting coach who I felt was exactly the kind of coach I would want to play for. Unfortunately he only lasted for a couple of games early this year, but I am still happy that I signed where I did and have played consistently this year. Which for me is the most important thing. It is a very different league from what I was used to in Germany. You meet a big variety of teams who play different styles of football, where as in Germany it seemed like the majority of the teams played the same general way. But like I said before I have enjoyed my time up until now, and look forward to playing the last few games of the season.
*SSPC: Is there any form of camaraderie or socializing between you and the Canadians you’ve played against in Norway or Germany?
AS: Yeah I think there is. I’m lucky enough to live only an hour away from Lars Hirschfeld who has been my roommate with the national team for a number of years now, so it’s nice to have someone who I’m good friends with so close. But there is also a number of Canadians who have passed through Norway in their careers and those are the kind of guys I spoke to when deciding to play in Norway. The football community in the end is not a very big one, so after a few years of playing you make contacts with old teammates and form a sort of camaraderie especially with those guys who have shared the same experiences as you.
*SSPC: With Junior Hoilett, Tesho Akindele and Fraser Aird selecting to play for Canada and Lucas Cavallini returning to the Canadian program, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the so-called ‘Canadian fence sitters’. Is there any such player that you would like to play alongside in the near future?
AS: First of all, I think it’s great that these players decided to play for Canada, and it’s something that Canadian fans will rightfully be excited about once they see them suit up for us. But I try not to focus on who may or may not join us in the future. I’m more interested in the boys we have now, and the guys that have decided that they want to play for us. There is no better feeling than playing for your country, especially with a group of players that really want to be a part of it.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @JAStraith and instagram at @jastraith
This is an extended version of the interview from Red Nation Online.
*Some Soccer Playing Canadians exclusive