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'Nowhere near where I want to be' - Why Tajon Buchanan will be Canada's next superstar

9:10 PM GMT+8 16/11/2021
Buchanan Canada 2021
The 22-year-old winger is ready for bigger things after truly breaking out for both club and country in 2021

It's not often that a player can truly capture your imagination with what will technically be counted as a miss.

Picture this: it's the 54th minute of Canada's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, a match that is pivotal to the former's World Cup qualifying hopes. It's been nearly 40 years since Canada played in their first and only World Cup and a win would put them one step closer to what will be a culture-changing moment.

With the score tied 0-0, Tajon Buchanan nearly does the impossible. A shot is blocked high into the air and comes down right on top of the 22-year-old winger. He takes a second, leaps up and unleashes a picturesque bicycle-kick, floating as his left-footed missile nearly destroys the crossbar.

Moments like that are why Canada believe they're so very close to something special, and moments like that are why many believe that Canada has already found its next superstar.

Canada went on to win that game against Costa Rica on a goal from one of their current superstars, Jonathan David, putting them comfortably in third place as CONCACAF's World Cup qualifiers reached the midway point.

And, as he prepares to join the likes of David, Cyle Larin and, most notably, Alphonso Davies in Europe, Buchanan is already emerging as a player that is vital to both the present and future of Canadian soccer.

As a kid, Buchanan never would have believed such a thing possible, having grown up in a Canadian landscape where soccer was an afterthought. It probably even felt incredible just a year ago, given he only made his first appearance for Canada at youth-team level earlier this year.

However, Buchanan has the utmost faith in himself now and this is only just the beginning, as far as the New England Revolution ace is concerned.

"This is just something I've been working for and there’s still a long road ahead," Buchanan tells GOAL. "I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet, but it's definitely nice to see that, as a kid dreaming about moments like this, that I'm starting to achieve some of those things."

Buchanan has already achieved plenty this year, having truly broken out both in MLS and with the national team.

Nominated for MLS' Best Young Player award alongside Ricardo Pepi and Julian Araujo, Buchanan has emerged as a key cog in a record-breaking New England Revolution machine, earning an All-Star appearance with eight goals and five assists during the regular season, after scoring just twice and assisting just four times in his first two MLS campaigns.

With Canada, Buchanan has already earned 15 caps despite debuting in January. He's scored three goals, two of which have come in World Cup qualifiers, while also being recognized as the Best Young Player and as a member of the tournament's Best XI at this summer's Gold Cup.

Through the first seven games of World Cup qualifying, Buchanan and Canada remain unbeaten. They're the only team in CONCACAF that hasn't tasted defeat through the first half of this Octagonal, with Buchanan, David, Davies and the rest of Canada's young guns showing that they're truly ready to take on and take down the U.S. men's national team and Mexico.

"We're a team that knows that we could be one of the best in CONCACAF," he says. "That's what we're pushing for. We're trying to finish on top, to qualify for the World Cup and we have the ability and the players to do that. We've been showing it a lot over these last couple of years. We're a team that's improving whenever we're on the field.

"Every time we take the field, we show another level, and we're just trying to gain the respect that we deserve."

Canadian soccer, as a whole, is beginning to gain that respect. You have Davies at Bayern, arguably the world's best fullback, Larin plays in the Champions League with Besiktas, while David is a Ligue 1 champion with Lille.

Stephen Eustaquio is shining in Portugal, Liam Millar recently joined Basel from Liverpool and veterans like Steven Vitoria, Atiba Hutchinson and Junior Hoilett are all still doing their thing. And that says nothing of MLS stars, with the league having elevated Canadian players massively with the rise of Toronto FC, CF Montreal and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

During Buchanan's childhood, that rise seemed unfathomable. There were Canadian stars, players like Dwayne de Rosario, but there was nobody reaching the heights of Davies or David in Europe. And, having not played for the Canadian clubs' academies, Buchanan took the road less traveled, going the college route and proving himself every step of the way.

"Growing up, it was a little tough," he says of the Canadian soccer scene. "We didn't know it was possible at the time. We didn't have a professional league and stuff like that and then, if you weren't playing for those MLS academies, a lot of kids felt like they wouldn't make it."

And Buchanan is the next Canadian player looking to make it in Europe. It was announced in August that Buchanan will join Club Brugge in January, giving him the opportunity to play in a league responsible for producing some of the sport's top talents.

"I just want to take another huge step forward and show that I can go farther," he says. "Obviously getting in that national team environment and playing with guys in Europe like Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, it just makes you want to raise your game and push for higher standards."

"I just want to take my game to another level," he continues. "I like seeing where I stand. I'm trying to improve every year and always have higher standards for myself, so just going over there and playing in a European league, playing European competitions, is going to be huge."

It's not just huge for him, but for Canadian soccer in general. The perception is starting to change, and those around the game are starting to take note of players like Buchanan.

Davies isn't just a flash in the pan, a lone superstar emerging from a country that doesn't produce many of them. Rather, the Bayern Munich star is just the tip of the iceberg for a team that plans to be truly competitive both in the short and long terms.

Who knows where Canada will be when the country serves as World Cup co-hosts in 2026? Davies and David are both 21, Buchanan is 22, and there are talented young stars like Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty on the way, products of a road that this current generation is continuing to pave.

And Buchanan is ready to keep paving it, to keep pushing things further and further until he feels that his country gets the respect it deserves.

His career is just beginning and the biggest tests are just beginning. A move to Belgium is on the horizon as is a battle for Qatar. But, at just 22, Buchanan is already thinking long term and pushing for something bigger than himself and his teammates.

"I think we're all playing for that next generation," he says. "We want to compete and play with clubs to give the next generation a dream of doing that. We want to show that it is real and that they could achieve that. That's what we're all playing for.

"You play for many things when you put on that national team jersey and when you make a move over to Europe from MLS, so it's all super-exciting and I'm looking forward to it."