Attakora an anchor for TFC

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:24 PM ET

TORONTO - Nana Attakora is already one of Toronto FC’s best home-grown success stories, but his journey is by no means complete.

The North York native, who signed with TFC as an 18-year-old in 2007, has emerged as one of the club’s steadiest performers this season, anchoring the backline along with fellow Canadian national team member Adrian Cann.

That isn’t much of a surprise. After all, Attakora was twice named Canada’s under-20 player of the year, has represented his country at various levels (he made his senior team debut this January) and was TFC’s player of the month last June, about a month after working his way into the starting lineup.

He has been a fixture there ever since, even though his teammates have been anything but.

The defenders that once surrounded Attakora have either departed via trade (Marvell Wynne, Adrian Serioux) or retirement (ex-captain Jim Brennan) or have been relegated to the bench (Nick Garcia).

Attakora admits adapting to new faces, including one, Maxsim Usanov, who is struggling to learn English, has been a challenge.

“It’s a lot different than last year, everything has changed” Attakora said after training with his teammates in Oakville on Tuesday.

Still, the 21-year-old product of Robert F. Hall high school in Caledon said the lines of communication amongst the defenders are improving every day.

Surprisingly, Attakora said bettering his knowledge of the tendencies of the team’s midfielders has become more important than gelling with the rest of the backline.

“(It’s) not so much the backline, but what’s in front of us that we need to get used to,” he said.

“We look up and there’s no options sometimes. People in the midfield need to (present themselves).

“Knowing where the midfield wants it and where they don’t want it ... If we don’t get it to them, they don’t get it to the strikers.”

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who has the best seat in the house to watch the defender, says Attakora had progressed steadily last season and has taken things up a notch in 2010.

“He has the potential to be extremely good,” Frei said.

“He wants to improve and tries to improve every day. If he realizes how good he is, he’s going to be our leader in the back.”

TFC head coach Preki also was complimentary about his young pupil.

“He’s good in the air, good on set pieces defensively and offensively,” Preki said.

But Attakora shouldn’t rest on his laurels just yet.

“(His play) doesn’t really mean he can relax,” Preki said.

“I don’t want anybody relaxing here, thinking they have a spot for sure.

“I expect him to be more confident on the ball. To find a hole and gaps when he has the ball and not to panic,” continued the former MLS coach of the year.

Attakora doesn’t disagree.

“I’m doing well, but I can always do better,” he said.

“I do think I need to speed up my game, especially at the international level. It’s a lot different than MLS. Preki is helping me with that. As I get older, I’ll get more comfortable.”

Attakora is pleased Preki is hard on him.

“If he wants more from me, that means I have a lot more to offer, especially if people think I’m doing well,” Attakora said.

“If the head coach thinks I can do more, that’s great. I need to come on and work hard every day to get better.”


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