What an incredible year 2021 has been for Tajon Buchanan.
The 22-year-old native from Brampton, Ontario has burst rapidly onto the radar of the general North American soccer imagination over the past year or so — although certain pockets of the Canadian community have had a close eye on the winger for some time now. Still, to consider that at the beginning of this calendar year Buchanan was still uncapped with the senior national team is almost unbelievable.
Since then, he’s starred for Canada at the U-23 Olympic Qualifiers, made a massive impact at the senior level (including scoring against Mexico in the Gold Cup), and helped lead the New England Revolution of MLS to first place. He’s also secured his move to Europe, with Club Brugge in Belgium set to acquire his services come the January transfer window.
In his recent interview with CanPL.ca’s Kristian Jack on Beyond the Pitch, Buchanan took some time ahead of this month’s World Cup Qualifiers to reflect on that meteoric rise, and how he’s tried to keep a level head among the whirlwind of the past year.
“It’s always going through my mind to be extremely thankful that everything is going the way I want it to go right now,” Buchanan said. “It’s just the type of person I am, I’m always trying to work towards my goals and stuff like that, trying to reach that stuff, trying to finish this season extremely strong and trying to win a trophy and then get to Belgium, but also stick to the basics again.”
Buchanan had to fight hard to get to the place where he is now, having come up through a USSDA youth system with Real Colorado before joining fellow Canadian Kamal Miller at Syracuse University. He eventually entered the MLS SuperDraft in 2019, where eight teams passed on him (including his hometown Toronto FC) before the Revolution took him ninth overall — since then, he’s been one of the Revs’ top young players and a major part of why they look like championship contenders now.
“A lot of teams passed on me,” Buchanan said of his draft day. “Eight teams. It’s just something that happens; I was just wanting to prove everyone wrong at the end of the day. I’m happy I came to this club, I was really able to show my quality… When it comes to Canadians, yeah there’s a lot of guys that are always overlooked. We kind of just have to work twice as hard to get the respect we deserve.”
At the international level, Buchanan has really managed to make himself a fixture in John Herdman’s squad. Just a few months ago, however, it wasn’t clear how or when he might fit into the senior team; when he got the call to the U-23 squad for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament rather than the simultaneous World Cup Qualifying camp for the senior team, Buchanan took advantage of the opportunity to try and prove himself worthy of a call-up for the next WCQ window.
He scored two goals in the first half of Canada’s first game in that Olympic Qualifying Tournament against El Salvador, which really sparked the tremendous hype that’s grown around the young winger in national team circles ever since.
“I think they really got me involved in the right way, playing with the 23s at the time and getting those games in,” Buchanan said. “Becoming familiar with the culture and tactics and stuff like that was huge; it just made the transition into the full team a lot easier. I knew I could be with the full team at the time when I was with the 23s, but for adjusting and learning tactics and stuff like that, going with the 23s was the right thing to do.”
And then, just a few short months later, he was scoring in front of 70,000 Mexican fans in Houston in a Gold Cup semifinal.
Now, Buchanan is sure to be a huge part of yet another big international window for Canada, with games against Mexico, Jamaica and Panama coming in quick succession that could have a massive impact on the Canadians’ odds of qualifying for Qatar 2022. With some key injuries to the squad, Buchanan’s role may even grow with the squad this time as he continues to become more comfortable with Herdman’s setup.
Buchanan, like the rest of his Canada teammates, is intensely focused on helping this side get to the World Cup.
“Everyone’s on the same page, we’re here to win,” he said. “We’re not here to just be happy that we’re here finally. In this next round, you know we’re here to win games and to qualify for the World Cup, that mission is clear in the group.”
To watch the rest of Tajon Buchanan’s interview on Beyond the Pitch, click here.