Nana Attakora

Attakora No "Flash" In The Pan

TORONTO — While dynamic NBA superstar Dwyane Wade has more than earned his “Flash” nickname with a series of highlight-reel worthy plays, one of Wade’s biggest fans impacts his club in a more subtle way.

Nana Attakora isn’t necessarily synonymous with “flash,” but like Wade, the Toronto FC defender has been one of the club’s most valuable players early in this young season.

Attakora, 21, has been a beacon in rough waters that have plagued the club much of 2010, and his strong play this season is affirmation that his breakout season last year was no fluke.

“I’m trying to do my best everyday and continue to learn and just have fun out there,” Attakora said Wednesday. “It’s been tough. We haven’t been getting our results, but the new coaching staff has been working with me before games and after games.”

TFC has won only once in four matches and has conceded 10 goals this season, but without Attakora, the situation could be a lot worse. That’s an impressive credit to a player who didn’t crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis until midway through last season.

Starting with the TFC Reserves, he went from playing zero games with TFC in 2007 to five in 2008. He upped that to 20 last year, including 19 as a starter, and added two goals and four assists.

Attakora has become a revelation in 2010, emerging as one of the defense’s most consistent players. He’s rarely out of position and has shown the poise of a veteran in not turning over the ball under pressure.

With a bunch of new teammates in the back, Attakora has been thrust into somewhat of a leadership role, despite his youth. His shift to central defense has also added new challenges, but he’s proven that he can hold his own in the lineup

“I thought his defense has been pretty solid,” TFC coach Preki said. “We don’t give up too many chances.”

Attakora initially pounced on a chance given by former TFC coach Chris Cummins, and has since used the input from his veteran teammates to speed up the acclimation process.

“Julian [de Guzman] has helped me a lot ever since Carl [Robinson] left and [Dwayne De Rosario] has, too,” said Attakora. “Julian especially does in the game. You don’t see it, but Julian does a lot of talking, keeping me in place and telling me to be composed on the ball.”

Attakora’s also thriving on the international scene, after two years as the Canadian Soccer Association’s U-20 Player of the Year. Canadian national team manager Stephen Hart noticed Attakora’s play and rewarded him by calling him up for the first time giving him his first international cap against Jamaica on Jan. 31.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Attakora anchoring Canada’s backline for many years to come. Hart, undoubtedly, has his eyes on Attakora as a possible key contributor to the squad that will attempt to qualify Canada for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986.