[MLS] Joe Cannon is going through what often surprises American players taking employment in Canada; moving and working north of the border isn’t simply a matter of loading up the moving van or hopping on a plane.
“It’s really a lot more complicated to go to Canada,” says Cannon, who grew up in the San Jose area and who played collegiately at Santa Clara and in MLS for Colorado, Los Angeles and two variations of the San Jose Earthquakes. “There are so many different issues: phone plan, car registration, health care, if my girlfriend were to move up would she need a work permit, a lot of things I wouldn’t have to think about if I was traded to Portland or Chicago or something.”
Six weeks ago, Vancouver claimed Cannon in the MLS Expansion Draft, ending a productive yet turbulent association with the team that now plays at Buck Shaw Stadium, Cannon’s home field during his collegiate career at Santa Clara University. He helped the first MLS version of the Quakes win the league title in 2001, and left the league after the 2002 season to play for six months in France. He came back to MLS in 2003 with Colorado and then went to the Galaxy, which traded him to San Jose prior to the 2008 season.
At the end of the 2008 season, though Cannon led the league with 124 saves, compiled nine shutouts (the leaders notched 10), and placed fifth with a 1.27 goals-allowed average, the Quakes declined the 2009 option on his contract that would have paid him about $225,000 in '09.
“I can’t say I’m thrilled with how they went about things,” said Cannon at the time. “But I understand it’s a business and I’ll deal with it.” He signed a multi-year deal at a lower salary ($180,500 base). Last season, the Quakes picked up former Crew and Fire keeper Jon Busch on waivers at a base salary of $84,000. Cannon lost the starting job to Busch, then regained No. 1 status only to suffer a broken ankle in training that sidelined him for the last two months of the regular season as well as the playoffs.
With Busch in goal, the Quakes knocked off New York in the first round before falling to eventual champion Colorado, 1-0. In the aftermath of the team’s most successful seasons since MLS returned to the area in 2008, San Jose decided to protect Busch and leave Cannon exposed. The Whitecaps, for which ex-RSL and -D.C. United keeper Jay Nolly played as the No. 1 keeper in the second division last season, grabbed him.
“He’s a winner,” Whitecaps’ director of soccer operations Tom Soehn said of the selection. “I’ve scouted him quite a bit, and watched him win games for his team by himself. That’s something we really thought was vital.”
Border-crossing issues aside, Cannon expresses enthusiasm for the move. “The organization is completely first-class,” he says. “They had that plan for a waterfront stadium but I guess a lot of people didn’t want it and it got voted down. The stadium issue now; I know they’d love to be in B.C. Place right away but they’re going to have to wait. I’ve heard early summer, late summer, so we’ll just have to see.”
A new roof is being installed at B.C. Place; until it is completed, the Whitecaps will play at Empire Field (formerly Empire Stadium), a 30,000-capacity facility that was the original home of the NASL Whitecaps when they joined that league in 1974. Vancouver won the NASL title in 1979, but folded along with the rest of the league five years later.
Whetted by that brush with the professional game, and with rivalries well-established by the presence of longtime foes Seattle and Portland, the ‘Caps have sold approximately 16,000 season tickets. “They didn’t tell me exactly what the number is,” says Cannon, “but whatever it is, it’s pretty good.”
Preseason training starts this weekend, so Cannon hasn’t had much time to renew the acquaintances he started up when the Whitecaps trained for two weeks in Southern California prior to Christmas. Ex-Quake Shea Salinas was also taken in the Expansion Draft; several other players were traded and more new names have been added in the SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft by Soehn and head coach Teitur Thordarson, who started with the ‘Caps in December 2007 when they were in USL-1 and won the league title the following season.
“He’s a good guy,” says Cannon of the head coach, a native of Iceland. “I got to meet him when they were down in Southern California. I was injured so I didn’t really get to train. They said I looked like sh--, and I was pleased with their assessment. I hadn’t touched the ball much since I hurt my ankle. I got to meet the physio and I’m sure they’ll get me ready.
“Jay DeMerit, I think I’m going to get along really well with him. John Thorrington, Shea was down there, and Jonathan Leathers, so I got to know them a little bit. We’re definitely really young, from what I saw down there. There are still a lot of players they want to look at since I think we traded half of our expansion picks.”
Two players were traded for extra international slots, two others were swapped for allocation money. But the team did take four players, including No. 1 Omar Salgado, last week in the SuperDraft, and three more in the Supplemental Draft Tuesday.
Nolly earned USSF D-2 Best XI and Goalkeeper of the Year honors last season. Two days after Vancouver picked Cannon in the Expansion Draft, he signed an MLS contract, so competition for the starting spot is still an issue. For Cannon, who turned 36 on New Year's Day, it’s all part of being part of a new team in a new country.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Cannon says. “It’s a challenge and an opportunity and you don’t always get those later in your career.”