PHILADELPHIA — Ali Gerba has always been a soccer nomad, looking for a home. He seems to have found it with the Canadian national team and hopes Toronto FC will be an equally comfortable fit.
It’s been a long road getting there for the 27-year-old from Montreal.
He is Canada’s top gun at the Gold Cup with two goals in three games heading into Saturday’s quarter-final with Honduras (Rogers Sportsnet, 3 p.m.).
“He’s always been effective in the striking position,” interim coach Stephen Hart said. “He’s done it fairly consistently for Canada at the international level, and I think he’s playing with players who understand his strengths. We try to play to everybody’s strengths, and it’s worked out for him so far.”
Gerba appreciates that kind of insight and hopes his national team success can be recreated at the club level when he heads to Toronto after the CONCACAF championship.
“Hopefully things are going to turn my way,” he said. “Sooner or later I’m going to find a coach or a club who’s going to use me for my talents. And Stephen’s been showing that. He trusts me, he knows what my quality is and he’s asking for the guys to play on my qualities.”
That means avoiding long balls and getting the ball to him with short passes near the penalty area.
Gerba was drafted by the Miami Fusion in the second round in 2001 with the MLS team trading up to get him. Unable to crack the squad, he spent 2002 to 2005 with the Toronto Lynx, Montreal Impact and Pittsburgh Riverhounds before heading to Europe.
There he spent time with GIF Sundsvall and IFK Goteborg (Sweden), Odd Grenland B.K. (Norway), AC Horsens (Denmark), FC Ingolstadt (Germany) and MK Dons FC (England).
“I can’t really say what’s the best, what’s the worst because all those places, they brought something different to my game,” Gerba said. “At the end of the day, it’s just I didn’t stay long with any of them so I’m just looking to find my place to establish myself — like a home. All those places gave me great experience and people can see it on the field.”
In his third tournament, Gerba has a Canadian-record six career Gold Cup goals. Overall, he has 15 goals in 27 international matches, tied for fourth with Dwayne De Rosario. Only Alex Bunbury (16), John Catliff (18) and Dale Mitchell (19) have scored more for Canada.
Gerba has also been on a tear of late, with five goals in his last four international games.
“For a forward you always have ups and down,” he said. “You just have to learn how to keep your balance, to try to manage your form to the best. I think now I’m finding more form and I have more experience.”