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How Tajon Buchanan became Canada’s fastest rising star

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On a warm August night at Toronto’s BMO Field, Tajon Buchanan pounced again.

Converting a wonderfully executed header, Buchanan opened the scoring for the New England Revolution against Toronto FC. The eventual Supporters’ Shield winners went on to win 2-1 in what was the Brampton native’s first appearance in his hometown, with dozens of loved ones in attendance.

Just 10 days later, Buchanan secured a club-record transfer to Club Brugge in January, capping off a memorable summer for the 22-year-old.

With just 14 caps to his name, the Canadian forward has taken 2021 by storm. All 14 of those appearances and three goals have come in 2021, including the equalizer against Mexico in the Gold Cup semifinals this past July. Buchanan’s other two strikes came at BMO Field in Concacaf World Cup qualifying, where the majority of the crowd was cheering instead of jeering.

Watch Canada’s quest for a World Cup berth on Sportsnet and SN NOW
At home in Edmonton, Canada is set to face Costa Rica in a match that could shape its World Cup fate. Live coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.

Even after a strong 2020 campaign with the Revolution, few could’ve foreseen Buchanan going full supernova with the national team.

Buchanan hadn’t received an invite to a Canadian youth national team until the Concacaf Olympic qualifiers in March. Fresh off an impressive 2020 campaign with the Revolution, the ninth overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft received a call-up to the U-23 squad to help guide Canada to the Tokyo Olympics. With European scouts in attendance, it took Buchanan just 17 minutes to make an impact.

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The winger completed a four-minute brace, en route to a 2-0 victory over El Salvador. They were his only goals of the tournament, but he put on a show in every other game until Canada fell to Mexico in the semifinals – sound familiar? – thus failing to qualify for the Olympics.

Buchanan clearly left a lasting impression on the scouts, though. Several European clubs reportedly fought for his signature in the following months before he was rewarded with his first senior cap in June’s World Cup qualifier versus Aruba, racking up two assists in the process.

It was after that game when head coach John Herdman stated that Buchanan had “Phonzie (Alphonso Davies) potential.” It was pretty clear to see why. The technique, pace and fearlessness when driving at defenders were off the charts.

Then, Buchanan’s time to shine arrived at the Gold Cup this past summer. Davies and Jonathan David were injured, meaning there was room for another attacker to take the reigns.

Whether it was at left wing back or right wing, Buchanan did exactly that.

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“Tajon’s bringing that excitement for the crowd and for the fans back home,” Herdman said of Buchanan during his breakthrough at the Gold Cup. “Every team needs a player like that. Every fanbase loves that type of player, that plays carefree.”

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It probably helped that Buchanan scored a cracker of a goal against Mexico in Canada’s first Gold Cup semifinal in 14 years. He was threatening the Mexican defence, then one simple tweak unleashed the youngster onto the unsuspecting defenders.

“We had a plan to shift him into higher positions during the first half and when we did, you could see it impacted him,” Herdman recalled after the 2-1 loss. “But moving him into that higher position, shifting into a more defined 4-4-2, 4-1-3-2 defensively, it helped … and they couldn’t handle him on the flanks.”

As heartbreaking as the loss was, Buchanan could take solace in the fact that New England was on a tear in MLS when he returned. Picking up where he left off with Canada, he played a leading role for the Revolution and all but guaranteed the Supporters’ Shield in August, a full two months before the regular-season finale.

It was a foregone conclusion that Buchanan was heading for Europe long before the transfer to Club Brugge was finalized. It was just a matter of when it would be completed.

He finished the regular season with a career-high eight goals and five assists in 27 appearances (19 starts). His underlying stats highlight a complete attacker who is ready for a European challenge.

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With Cyle Larin returning to the fold and Ike Ugbo – ironically another Belgian-based player – committing to the national team this month, there is an even larger glut of forwards available to Herdman in this window. That means someone will inevitably have to start the Costa Rica and Mexico games on the bench. If that ends up being Buchanan, though, that is quite the weapon to have as an impact substitute.

It hasn’t always been easy for Buchanan. He lost his father when he was seven years old. He made the tough decision to leave home at 15 years old to join his best friend and his father and former coach, Chrys Chrysanthou, in Colorado. After playing for Real Colorado academy and at Legacy High School, Buchanan eventually went to college and was drafted into MLS.

The rest is history.

Now the next step of Buchanan’s journey awaits in Bruges. Belgium has been kind to Canadians, with Jonathan David and Tomasz Radzinski starting their professional European careers in the Jupiler League, so the Revolution man will be hoping to emulate that pair.

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Club Brugge spent a reported $7 million, a fee which is often reserved for established players with strong European pedigrees. That speaks to how much the club valued Buchanan and how competitive the bidding war was for his services.

The secret is out ahead of these November qualifiers. Buchanan is a rising star, and it may not be long before the “rising” is omitted.





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LeBron James on whether Kyrie Irving can help Lakers: 'Duh'

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LeBron James has no doubt that Kyrie Irving would make the Lakers a contender, but he noted that he’s not in the team’s front office.



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NBA Roundup: Gilgeous-Alexander drops 42 in Thunder win; Clippers top Knicks in OT

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points and Oklahoma City set a Thunder record for points to rout Houston.

Oklahoma City surpassed the 150 it scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 in a loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night. He bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals in the rematch, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists.

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Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points for Houston.

NETS 125, WIZARDS 123

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NEW YORK — Cam Thomas scored a career-high 44 points off the bench and short-handed Brooklyn overcame a 23-point deficit to beat Washington.

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Edmond Sumner also set a personal best with 29 points. Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving was out with what the team said was right calf soreness a day after he told the Nets he wants to be traded.

The Nets, who also played without Kevin Durant (right knee MCL sprain), T.J. Warren (left shin contusion) and Ben Simmons (left knee soreness), also lost Seth Curry (left adductor) and Markieff Morris (sore left knee) in the game.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 38 points.

SUNS 116, PISTONS 100

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DETROIT — Deandre Ayton had 31 points and 16 rebounds to help Phoenix beat Detroit.

The surging Sungs have won eight of 10 games, including a victory at Boston on Friday night, and have help on the way with Devin Booker nearing his return. The three-time All-Star guard has been out since Christmas with a groin injury, but dunked in warmups in another sign that he’s close to coming back.

Chris Paul had 14 assists for a balanced offence that didn’t need him to make shots, finishing 0 for 7 and without a field goal for the first time since March 18, 2017, when he helped the Los Angeles Clippers beat Cleveland by 30 points.

Mikal Bridges scored 24 points, Cameron Johnson had 20 points and Torrey Craig added 14 points for Phoenix. Saddiq Bey had 25 points for Detroit.

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BUCKS 123, HEAT 115

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double with 35 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists and Milwaukee beat short-handed Miami for its seventh straight victory.

Jimmy Butler scored 32 points and Tyler Herro added 24 for the Heat, who had just nine available players. Notable injured Miami players included Kyle Lowry (sore left knee) and Victor Oladipo (sprained right ankle).

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Antetokounmpo had his third triple-double of the season and 32nd of his career. The 11 assists matched his season high.

Antetokounmpo’s latest triple-double came two nights after he scored 54 points in a 106-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. During the Bucks’ six-game winning streak, Antetokounmpo is averaging 39.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

WARRIORS 119 MAVERICKS 113

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SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds before injuring his left leg defending a drive and Golden State beat an undermanned Dallas team missing injured star Luka Doncic.

The Warriors said X-rays for Curry were negative, and he will have an MRI exam.

Draymond Green added 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Golen State.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 25 points for Dallas. Doncic bruised his right heel in the third quarter of 111-106 home victory against New Orleans on Thursday night.

PELICANS 131, LAKERS 126

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NEW ORLEANS — LeBron James moved 36 points away from breaking the NBA career scoring record in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 131-126 loss to New Orleans on Saturday night that ended the Pelicans’ losing streak at 10 games.

James had 27 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists as he continued to close in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record total of 38,387 points.

Brandon Ingram scored 35 points for the Pelicans.

CJ McCollum had 23 points, highlighted by a late 3 to help New Orleans close out the final 3:14 on a 9-5 run that kept the Lakers at bay.

Anthony Davis had 34 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers.

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CLIPPERS 134, KNICKS 128, OT

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NEW YORK — Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points, Paul George added 30 and Los Angeles beat New York in overtime.

After the Clippers lost a 17-point fourth quarter lead, Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer tied it at 115.

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The Clippers scored the first four points of overtime and never relinquished the lead. Leonard connected on all of his eight free throws in the extra session, finishing 12 for 12 from the line.

Norman Powell added 24 points for the Clippers and Marcus Morris Sr. had 17. Los Angeles has won seven of nine.

Jalen Brunson, who returned after missing a game due to a non-COVID illness, led the Knicks with 41 points. Julius Randle had 28.

BULLS 129, TRAIL BLAZERS 121

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CHICAGO — Zach LaVine scored 36 points, DeMar DeRozan had 27 and Chicago topped Damian Lillard and Portland.

Nikola Vucevic added 23 points and 11 rebounds as Chicago won for the third time in four games, erasing a 17-point deficit in the second half.

Lillard scored 40 points for Portland, and Anfernee Simons had 27. But the Trail Blazers looked a little tired in the second half of their third game in four nights. Portland had won five of six, including a 124-116 victory at Washington on Friday night.

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Tre White's 22 points leads USC to hard-fought 80-74 victory over Washington

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Tre White led the USC Trojans to the hard-fought 80-74 win over the Washington Huskies. White led all scorers on the night with 22 points and added eight rebounds on the night.



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