Tajon Buchanan did not become a regular starter for the Revolution until last September. But he quickly earned a reputation as one of Major League Soccer’s most dynamic right wingers, and now he has earned a $7 million transfer to Club Brugge KV in Belgium.
Buchanan, 22, will remain with the Revolution on loan for the rest of the season, then move to the Belgian Pro League club. He finalized the deal Tuesday after a visit to Belgium, skipping a chance to participate in the MLS All-Star Game in Los Angeles Wednesday.
“I am excited to take this next step in my career and am grateful for the New England Revolution for giving me the opportunity to grow as a player and showcase my abilities,” Buchanan said via a team release. “I will continue to give my all to the Revolution this season and hope to end my time in MLS by lifting a trophy with my teammates.”
This has been a meteoric rise for Buchanan, who played two years at Syracuse before joining the Revolution as a first-round draft choice in 2019.
Last year, Revolution coach Bruce Arena used Buchanan as a late-game substitute before installing him in the lineup as a right back/right winger during the team’s run to the Eastern Conference finals. By the playoffs, Buchanan was scoring highlight-reel goals, outdueling former Manchester United star Nani in a 3-1 win over Orlando City.
Buchanan took a major step forward this year, gaining a starting role with Canada’s Olympic and national teams, and earning the Gold Cup Young Player Award. After returning from international duty, he emerged as the Revolution’s third-leading scorer with six goals; he will take a three-game scoring streak into a visit to New York City FC Saturday.
With this move, Buchanan breaks the Revolution record transfer fee of $4 million, set by Clint Dempsey in a move to Fulham FC in 2007.
The Revolution retain 10 percent sell-on rights for Buchanan, should Brugge transfer him to another club. Brugge is regarded as a “selling club,” usually investing transfer fees into purchasing players. Brugge has sold 37 players for a total of $175 million in the last five years. If Buchanan is transferred from Brugge, the Revolution would collect 10 percent of the transfer fee.
“Tajon has grown tremendously during his time in New England and has earned this opportunity to prove himself at the highest levels in Europe with this Champions League club,” Arena said.
“We are pleased to facilitate this move for Tajon as he takes the next step in his professional journey. We look forward to his continued contributions with the Revolution as we compete for a championship this season.”
Before joining the Revolution, Buchanan had to overcome obstacles to get to the collegiate level.
“It was an atypical recruitment,” Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre recalled Tuesday.
Buchanan had taken the four-hour ride with his Mississauga Falcons club teammates to visit Syracuse but did not attract the Orange’s attention, so he paid to attend an ID Camp on campus.
“His coach reached out and said he was sending a couple guys out for our ID camp,” McIntyre said. “And when he got here it didn’t take a genius to realize he was a very talented player.”
There was a problem, though. Buchanan did not qualify academically, but he improved his grades at Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo. in time to enroll at Syracuse in 2017.
“He had lot to do in 18 months, and he really turned around his academic success,” McIntyre said. “He’s a smart guy, and he really had the bit between his teeth.”
At Syracuse, Buchanan started on the wing, then moved to striker.
“If we’d have played him as a right back or left wingback, like he plays for Canada, he would’ve looked at me kind of strange,” McIntyre said. “The first year we played him wide, but we quickly realized he should be a central player for us and as high up the field as possible. He has an ability to score goals and he creates individual matchup problems for opponents. He was almost like a street ball player, he went right to the ball, but now he’s maturing and realizing where spaces are on the field, where to run without the ball.
“He is playing and practicing with [Carles] Gil every day, the [Designated Players] and some wonderful domestic players, as well. He’s like a sponge, he’s very coachable, no ego, no edge. What you’re seeing now is he is confident and with that confidence he is adding to his game.”
Not many go from an unrecruited high schooler to astarring role in MLS, and fewer still to well-compensated European professional.
“It was not a normal path, certainly not an easy path,” McIntyre said. “And I think that is part of who Tajon is, his makeup. The other side is you won’t hear anyone say anything negative about him. He’s an awesome guy, hard-working. He does Zoom calls to Syracuse players, when we go there to play at BC he’s talking to our players. It’s been a new challenge for him with the Revolution and the next challenge is to go overseas to a different country, different language. But if anybody can handle that, Tajon can, because of his experiences.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.