Terry Dunfield will be the only Vancouver Whitecap representing his country at this summer's Gold Cup. Who else could have gone? (Pepe/Canadian Soccer Association)
As we all know, Canada's roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup came out yesterday after much anticipation and speculation. Vancouver Whitecaps central midfielder and vice-captain Terry Dunfield was the only Whitecap to make any Gold Cup team, as Canadian supremo Stephen Hart selected Dunfield in his bid to take Canada's third CONCACAF championship.
This has to be a major moment for the 28-year-old Dunfield, who has made only two international caps in his career. Nobody reading this will need to re-hear Dunfield's amazing story: how he was once Canada's U-20 captain and greatest prospect only to be derailed by injuries and his own hubris. Working his way back up from the bottom of the pile, Dunfield has now made it back almost to the top: he'll represent his country in the second-biggest tournament we play mere years after it seemed his career might be over.
Losing Dunfield for the tournament is a blow for the Whitecaps, of course; he'll miss at least three games. But it's a great honour for a fine player and fans would be foolish to begrudge Dunfield (or any other Vancouver player) the chance to represent their home and native land. Besides, in Dunfield's case, it's singly appropriate that he represent our country, since Vancouver only got him thanks to the Canadian national team: Stephen Hart called Dunfield for a friendly in Venezuela out of desperation and informed Dunfield that if he wanted more caps, he'd have to play at a higher level than League Two. Dunfield promptly engineered his release from Shrewsbury Town, came to Vancouver, and the rest, as they say, is history.
So congratulations, Terry, who truly deserves it. But let's spare a thought for the guys who might have deserved it almost as much and didn't get the call. There's a few Whitecaps who I thought might have had a chance to play for their countries this Gold Cup, yet who'll be staying in MLS for the duration. After the jump, I take a look at those who didn't make the cut and speculate about why we're lucky enough to still have them.
It's a bit of a surprise that Jay DeMerit didn't get called up to the United States national team. In a post on the Southsiders forum, I figured that DeMerit had a 95% chance of being called up to the Gold Cup team. Um, obviously that didn't quite come through. Although that's not the only surprise Bob Bradley made on his roster, and if you were following the reactions of American supporters on Twitter you'd have seen a lot of calls for his sacking just because of his roster selection.
There's no problem finding reasons why the Americans might not have called DeMerit. If they viewed the tournament as a bit of a developmental opportunity, then there'd be no reason to call upon him: he's 31 years old and, with 25 international caps under his belt, he's definitely a known quantity. Plus DeMerit hurt his groin the last time the Americans borrowed him, and though he seems to be more-or-less fully recovered they may well have not wanted to take the chance in a long tournament (that, or Teitur Thordarson called Bob Bradley and threatened brutality to his family if Bradley dared touch his captain again).
I also gave Omar Salgado an outside chance of appearing in the American camp. Well, why not? Juan Agudelo got the call and, while Agudelo is obviously ahead of Salgado at present, they're both similar sorts of players: teenaged strikers playing in MLS, getting results, and demonstrating loads of promise. Salgado is younger than Agudelo, bigger, equally athletic, and there's a significant minority of American soccer observers who consider him a better prospect. Bringing in Salgado for the tournament might have appealed to the youth-oriented Bradley. I never thought it was likely, but definitely thought it possible. And while I'm glad for the Whitecaps' sake that Salgado will be staying in Vancouver, I admit I would have enjoyed seeing what he could do in the Gold Cup against every team but Canada.
Russell Teibert would have filled a similar role for Canada had he been called, which I figured was possible. The 18-year-old Teibert has made four appearances for the Canadian U-20 team and is waiting for his senior national debut. He would have filled a position of slight need for Canada, which is why I gave him a decent chance of making the team: Canada has Josh Simpson as a very formidable starter at left wing but had Simpson faltered or suffered an injury the backups aren't too appealing. Dwayne De Rosario could play the position but I think he'll have better things to do. Even apart from the obvious opportunity to gain experience at a high level, Teibert could have helped Canada immediately by spelling Simpson: I don't think anybody will argue that he isn't one of the three best options in the national pool on the left (if we don't count Tomasz Radzinski).
Well, Stephen Hart didn't name Teibert to the team. Then again, he didn't name many young players. The youngest player on the squad is 22-year-old goalkeeper/midfielder Jonathan Bourgault, followed by 23-year-old midfielder/forward Tosaint Ricketts. Bourgault is probably going to be relegated to the taxi squad when the fighting starts to boot. A teenage Teibert obviously would have stood out in a selection that is, on average, over twenty-seven years old. Hart is in this tournament to win it and has called the best roster he can lay hands on: I agree fully with this philosophy, but apparently it didn't leave much room for Teibert to ride the bench.
If I strain my mind, I can come up with some players who could have snuck in. I wouldn't have been completely blown away to see Jonathan Leathers get onto the American team in a depth role (for God's sake, Tim Ream made it!), for example. But they were all very, very long shots. Teibert, Salgado, and DeMerit are the only guys who really had a chance. Their staying in Vancouver is probably good for the Whitecaps, but it's still a shame for the players.