Not your average pro

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Greg Sutton balked at Germany and he never has made it to England's premier league. Instead he found a wife, their seven-month old daughter, Maya, and a home in Major League Soccer.

In life, this is what is called a fair trade.

"If you had asked me 10 years ago where I would end up I'm not sure what I would have said -- probably not Toronto," says Sutton, who has taken a twisted path to find happiness.

"Sometimes I do think about what might have happened if I'd signed in Germany. I think everyone wonders how life would be if they'd done certain things. But I have no regrets. If I had done that who knows if I would have met my wife. Would I still have my wonderful baby daughter? Some guys are always trying to go overseas because of the monetary values. For me, that's never been a persuasive argument. I was comfortable here," says Sutton, who has hung up his shingle in Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.

In his third season in Toronto, he has been capped 11 times as a goaltender with Canada's national team.

His road to the national team was another path he didn't even realize existed. He grew up more American than Canuck. It wasn't until he got to college that his coach Mike Toshack informed him he was eligible for Canada's national program even though he'd grown up in Bethel, Connecticut.

That is the thing about Sutton -- he has always come from the shadows to do unforetold things.

The story starts in Hamilton where he was born but his father got a job in Bethel when he was a year old. His father is from Oshawa; his mother from Calgary. He lists his home town as Montreal. He is, shall we say, complex or at least well-travelled. "In life you never know what to expect. I went to a small university (St. Lawrence University) in up-state New York ... When I got drafted nobody knew who I was," says Sutton, laughing. "There aren't many guys from Division 3 schools in the MLS."

But it was while at St. Lawrence that he met Toshack and got involved with the national program. That got him a bit of international exposure and even led to an offer from Werner Bremen, which thought it could develop him. He might have even stayed except his "shining moment" in life came when the Chicago Fire surprisingly drafted him. "Getting drafted is probably the biggest moment I've had in soccer."

He suddenly had a place to play, not just watch other German guys play. He earned a shutout the first game he played. There were stops including New York and he made his national team debut in 2004.

Call it a victory for "The Little Guy" -- although at 6-foot-6 he is hard to miss. Ask some of the best goal scorers in two leagues. He won a USL championship in Montreal in 2004 and in 2006 he won his fourth consecutive league goalkeeper of the year award. In Toronto, he has been a stablizing force in the expansion franchise's ever-changing landscape.

He is now 32. "I think I'll know when it's time to quit and go -- and not just get released because I'm too old and frail." He believes he has another five years left. Those could be in Toronto, where he is facing the challenge of first-round draftee, Stefan Frei. It may be elsewhere -- but it likely won't be overseas. Not now. Not anymore.

"I've really never pushed myself to get serious about finding a place overseas. I've enjoyed wherever I have played. Great cities and I like the MLS and that has been an important factor."

There was a brief fling in 2004 when he had a trial with Bolton, an English Premier League club. It was never really meant to be. "There were work permit complications to start and them being in the Premier League at the time it would have been a tough squad to make."

He has instead become one of the pioneers in a sport still elbowing its way into the conciousness of North America. That, in retrospect, isn't a bad legacy.


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