Canada’s Scott Kennedy dribbles the ball during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 preliminary match between Canada and Suriname at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Soccer

Canada’s Scott Kennedy dribbles the ball during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 preliminary match between Canada and Suriname at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Soccer

Canadian centre back Scott Kennedy turns heads in debut with national team

70th-ranked Canadian men play No. 83 Haiti on Saturday in Port-au-Prince

As first impressions go, Canadian defender Scott Kennedy hit it out of the park.

Canada coach John Herdman, who had talked up the uncapped Kennedy in the leadup to Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Suriname, started the 24-year-old from Calgary in a back three with veteran Doneil Henry and Alistair Johnston.

He was not disappointed.

“That was as strong a debut as I’ve seen for this country,” Herdman said after the 4-0 win, which moved Canada into a second-round playoff against Haiti.

The 70th-ranked Canadian men play No. 83 Haiti on Saturday in Port-au-Prince with the rematch Tuesday at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill. Canada is 7-2-2 all-time against Haiti but lost last time out, blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in the 2019 Gold Cup quarterfinals.

The Canada-Haiti winner moves on to the so-called Octagonal, the eight-team final round of qualifying in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. The Canadian men have not made the final qualifying round since the buildup to France ‘98.

Kennedy, who plays his club soccer for SSV Jahn Regensburg in the German second tier, is no overnight sensation. The six-foot-three 174-pound defender left home at 18 to go to Europe, working his way up from the lower levels in Austria and Germany to the Bundesliga 2.

Making his Canadian debut was a “special moment.”

“It actually hit me when we were singing the national anthem,” Kennedy said in an interview. “The hairs on my arms stood up a bit because I realized how far I’d come. It’s altogether six years now that I’ve been working for it … I just soaked it all up.”

His road in Europe took him from SB Traunstein to FC Amberg in Germany and then SV Grodig and SK Austria Klagenfurt in Austria. He joined Regensburg in 2020.

“I’ve enjoyed my time there,” he said of his European experience. “I think it’s definitely shaped who I am as a person, being away from home and having those difficulties maybe. Not having the help from family or friends. Having to get through things on your own.”

Kennedy caught Herdman’s eye during Regensburg’s German Cup run this season. The club made it to the quarterfinals, with Kennedy scoring in an upset win over top-tier FC Cologne before losing to Werder Bremen, another Bundesliga team.

“They were the moments that helped me understand that when he’s with better players and playing against better players, he can really rise up,” said Herdman.

The win over Cologne marked Regensburg’s third consecutive penalty shootout victory.

Herdman describes Kennedy as a “no-nonsense guy” who gets the job done.

“Just the way he’s handles himself from the day he came into this environment, (he’s) just a consummate pro,” Herdman said.

Kennedy has two more years on his contact with Regensburg, which finished 14th in Bundesliga 2 this season with 9-14-11 record.

“I’m very happy so far,” he said of his time at the club. “It was a great step in my career, especially this past year to get so many games in.”

Herdman talked to Kennedy about bringing him in to camp ahead of March World Cup qualifiers against Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. But Kennedy picked up a knee injury and was unable to go.

“That was when I realized that they were looking at me and were watching my games,” Kennedy said. “So it was definitely a nice thing to hear and I definitely wanted to jump on the next opportunity, which was now. I’m happy it worked out this time.”

Regensburg normally employs a four-man backline but presses aggressively. He says that eased the transition to the back three with Canada.

“Doneil and Alistair played great. We had a good understanding of what we had to do,” said Kennedy. “I felt comfortable.”

Good on the ball, Kennedy was a midfielder growing up. In his later teenage years he switched first to fullback and then centre back.

“I grew a little bit later,” he explained. “I wasn’t always 6-3, so I wasn’t needed back there. I just sort of grew into it and I love to defend. I love people needing to count on me. I love that pressure.”

He played club soccer for Calgary West, Calgary Chinooks and William Aberhart High School.

Kennedy started his European club journey after his Chinooks team went on tour in Germany. His coach had German connections, inviting some of them to come see his team play.

One liked what he saw. The scout, Rainer Horgl, became his agent. “We’ve worked together ever since,” said Kennedy.

It wasn’t easy at the beginning.

His first club, SB Traunstein, was a semi-professional side in Germany’s sixth tier and only trained three or four times a week. Kennedy didn’t speak the language. Back home, meanwhile, his friends were going to university “and having fun.”

“Of course there was doubt — and thinking that you’re missing out on things,” said Kennedy. “But I just remembered why I was there, what I wanted. I’ve always had the idea if you want something, you have to sacrifice other things in your life. And I was willing to do that.”

While he worked to improve his game on the field, he learned German off it and is now fluent.

Regensburg is located in the southeast of Germany, some 125 kilometres north of Munich. Filled with history, it’s a popular tourist destination outside of the pandemic.

“I haven’t been able to investigate to much. but I love it there,” he said. “The scenery’s nice. It’s got a lot of culture, a lot of history. But I’m still scratching the surface when it comes to figuring it all out, just because of the situation going on.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

soccer

Just Posted

The Sylvan Lake Gulls celebrate a sixth inning home run from Nolan Weger on Sunday during a game against the Edmonton Prospects. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Historic opening weekend for Sylvan Lake Gulls

It wasn’t perfect, but perhaps that was the beauty of it. Fans… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

Three Hills RCMP recovered stolen copper wire during recent investigation near Kneehill. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Fatal ATV rollover near Innisfail Saturday

A 77-year-old man from Red Deer County died Saturday after an ATV… Continue reading

Firefighters and emergency services workers helped celebrate Barry Young’s 85th birthday at Timberstone Mews on May 29. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters in central Alberta make birthdays special

A fire truck arriving outside your house is not normally good news.… Continue reading

A view of Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park is shown in this undated handout photo. More Canadians are expected to leave their passports at home this summer and hit the road in Canada as the weak loonie and low gas prices prompt a deeper exploration of their own country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Travel Alberta *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Report: Alberta losing residents to other parts of Canada

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly winds down in Alberta, residents are continuing… Continue reading

A large number of supporters were out Saturday at a rally intended to bring awareness about including Hinduism in the grade 2 portion of the K-6 draft curriculum. As it stands now, Hinduism won’t be taught until grade 6 in the proposed draft curriculum. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Video: Rally to support adding Hinduism to draft curriculum draws crowd in Red Deer

The Hindu community in Red Deer came out in droves on Saturday… Continue reading

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Germany's Robin Gosens, left, celebrates Germany's Mats Hummels after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between Portugal and Germany at the football arena stadium in Munich, Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Matthias Hangst/Pool Photo via AP)
Germany clicks at Euro 2020 with 4-2 win over Portugal

MUNICH (AP) — Germany finally clicked into gear at the European Championship,… Continue reading

Fans cheer on their team during the pre-game warmup of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal with the Montreal Canadiens facing the Vegas Golden Knights, in Montreal, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
COVID-19 concerns give way to Habs Fever in Quebec as Montreal continues playoff run

MONTREAL — The sun hadn’t yet risen in Montreal on Friday morning… Continue reading

Coronavirus cases are on the rise from India to South Africa and Mexico, in a May 19, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
As Brazil tops 500,000 deaths, protests against president

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Anti-government protesters took to the streets in… Continue reading

A black bear cub forages for food along a salmon stream below a bear viewing spot for tourists in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in Juneau, Alaska.  (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Bandit responsible for vehicle break-ins is a black bear

THORNTON, N.H. (AP) — Surveillance video helped police get to the bottom… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 25, 2019 file photo, Editor Rick Hutzell, center, gives a speech to his staff including Chase Cook, Nicki Catterlin, Rachael Pacella, Selene San Felice and Danielle Ohl at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. The editor of the Capital Gazette, which won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its newsroom, is leaving the Maryland newspaper. Hutzell, who worked at the Annapolis paper for more than three decades, authored a farewell column that was published on the paper's website Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Ulysses Muoz/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Editor of paper that endured newsroom shooting says goodbye

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The editor of the Capital Gazette, which won… Continue reading

Most Read