Timbers’ Zac McGraw makes international debut with Canada at 2023 Gold Cup

Zac McGraw reflects on opportunity to represent Canada as he makes his international debut in Group D opener of the Concacaf Gold Cup.

A breakout 2023 season for Timbers defender Zac McGraw continues to reach new heights. McGraw was named to Canada’s Gold Cup roster earlier this month and, on Tuesday night, the center back made his international debut at BMO Field in Toronto.

Drafted by the club in 2020, McGraw has already set career highs in starts and minutes played this season, ranking among MLS leaders in clearances (116) while leading the club in interceptions (33) and blocks (20). His performances on the field led to an international call-up and the opportunity to fulfill a dream.

"It means everything to me,” McGraw said of his first international call-up. “Because two-three years ago, I never really thought this was even a possibility on either level [with United States or Canada]. It all happened really fast, and it's just a true testament to the work I've put in; [the work] my family and my parents and the Timbers have put in.”

So how did it come to be that McGraw, born in Torrence, Calif., and who attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, would suit up for Canada?

"My Mom is 100 percent Canadian,” McGraw said. “She grew up in British Columbia. She went to high school in the Vancouver Island area and then relocated to Edmonton, Alberta, in her late 20s to be with her family.

"[Growing up] I would always go to Canada. I'd go in the summers and Christmas breaks because my Mom missed home. My favorite NHL team became the Edmonton Oilers, and I went to the 2015 Women's World Cup; I've spent a lot of time there."

McGraw gets his first taste of international competition as Canada contests Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Cuba the Gold Cup’s Group D. As one of several newcomers to Canada’s senior national team during this competition, he’s taking the experience in stride.

"I want to gain the group's trust, because I know they're a tight-knit group,” McGraw explained. “[Canada was] top qualifier in Concacaf for the last World Cup, so they're definitely on the come-up. I think the biggest thing [for me] is just familiarizing myself with the coaches and the players this window."

While there is work ahead for Canada, the joy in the journey is not lost on McGraw.

"I appreciate everyone following me on this journey, because I really didn't anticipate this,” he said. “Coming this far, I know the Canadian side of my family is really happy about this opportunity and I just hope that I can make them proud."