How Tajon Buchanan became Canada's fastest-rising star

James Sharman and Stephen Brunt discuss where Canada qualifying for the World Cup on home soil ranks on the all-time sporting moments for the country, how the program has grown exponentially over the last few years and the impact of John Herdman.

On a warm August night at Toronto's BMO Field, Tajon Buchanan pounced again.

Converting a wonderfully executed header, Buchanan opened the scoring for the New England Revolution against Toronto FC. The eventual Supporters' Shield winners went on to win 2-1 in what was the Brampton native's first appearance in his hometown, with dozens of loved ones in attendance.

Just 10 days later, Buchanan secured a club-record transfer to Club Brugge in January, capping off a memorable summer for the 22-year-old.

With just 14 caps to his name, the Canadian forward has taken 2021 by storm. All 14 of those appearances and three goals have come in 2021, including the equalizer against Mexico in the Gold Cup semifinals this past July. Buchanan's other two strikes came at BMO Field in Concacaf World Cup qualifying, where the majority of the crowd was cheering instead of jeering.

Even after a strong 2020 campaign with the Revolution, few could've foreseen Buchanan going full supernova with the national team.

Buchanan hadn't received an invite to a Canadian youth national team until the Concacaf Olympic qualifiers in March. Fresh off an impressive 2020 campaign with the Revolution, the ninth overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft received a call-up to the U-23 squad to help guide Canada to the Tokyo Olympics. With European scouts in attendance, it took Buchanan just 17 minutes to make an impact.

The winger completed a four-minute brace, en route to a 2-0 victory over El Salvador. They were his only goals of the tournament, but he put on a show in every other game until Canada fell to Mexico in the semifinals – sound familiar? – thus failing to qualify for the Olympics.
Buchanan clearly left a lasting impression on the scouts, though. Several European clubs reportedly fought for his signature in the following months before he was rewarded with his first senior cap in June's World Cup qualifier versus Aruba, racking up two assists in the process.

It was after that game when head coach John Herdman stated that Buchanan had "Phonzie (Alphonso Davies) potential." It was pretty clear to see why. The technique, pace and fearlessness when driving at defenders were off the charts.

Then, Buchanan's time to shine arrived at the Gold Cup this past summer. Davies and Jonathan David were injured, meaning there was room for another attacker to take the reigns.
Whether it was at left wing back or right wing, Buchanan did exactly that.

"Tajon's bringing that excitement for the crowd and for the fans back home," Herdman said of Buchanan during his breakthrough at the Gold Cup. "Every team needs a player like that. Every fanbase loves that type of player, that plays carefree."

It probably helped that Buchanan scored a cracker of a goal against Mexico in Canada's first Gold Cup semifinal in 14 years. He was threatening the Mexican defence, then one simple tweak unleashed the youngster onto the unsuspecting defenders.

"We had a plan to shift him into higher positions during the first half and when we did, you could see it impacted him," Herdman recalled after the 2-1 loss. "But moving him into that higher position, shifting into a more defined 4-4-2, 4-1-3-2 defensively, it helped … and they couldn't handle him on the flanks.”

As heartbreaking as the loss was, Buchanan could take solace in the fact that New England was on a tear in MLS when he returned. Picking up where he left off with Canada, he played a leading role for the Revolution and all but guaranteed the Supporters' Shield in August, a full two months before the regular-season finale.

It was a foregone conclusion that Buchanan was heading for Europe long before the transfer to Club Brugge was finalized. It was just a matter of when it would be completed.
He finished the regular season with a career-high eight goals and five assists in 27 appearances (19 starts). His underlying stats highlight a complete attacker who is ready for a European challenge.

With Cyle Larin returning to the fold and Ike Ugbo – ironically another Belgian-based player – committing to the national team this month, there is an even larger glut of forwards available to Herdman in this window. That means someone will inevitably have to start the Costa Rica and Mexico games on the bench. If that ends up being Buchanan, though, that is quite the weapon to have as an impact substitute.

It hasn't always been easy for Buchanan. He lost his father when he was seven years old. He made the tough decision to leave home at 15 years old to join his best friend and his father and former coach, Chrys Chrysanthou, in Colorado. After playing for Real Colorado academy and at Legacy High School, Buchanan eventually went to college and was drafted into MLS.
The rest is history.

Now the next step of Buchanan's journey awaits in Bruges. Belgium has been kind to Canadians, with Jonathan David and Tomasz Radzinski starting their professional European careers in the Jupiler League, so the Revolution man will be hoping to emulate that pair.

Club Brugge spent a reported $7 million, a fee which is often reserved for established players with strong European pedigrees. That speaks to how much the club valued Buchanan and how competitive the bidding war was for his services.

The secret is out. Buchanan is a rising star, and it may not be long before the "rising" is omitted.

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