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Canada Talk: A New Hope (And A Way Too Early Analysis)

Analyzing Canada’s 50 Man Shortlist for Olympic Qualifying

Canada Soccer

While we are all still recovering from the blow that was the first game of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2020 season, it would be good to focus on something positive in the world of Canadian Soccer as a whole. What better way to do this than to look at the crop of players selected for the 50 man Olympic Qualifying shortlist, as there are many exciting talents included along with various players on the Whitecaps roster.

It seems that Canada is at a turning point in terms of soccer both in popularity and competitiveness, and given that their best team probably won’t be in full effect for another four or five years or so, looking at these players could give a glimpse into the potential continental powerhouse of the future. (Fingers crossed.)

Here is the full list below, with Whitecaps players in Italics:

Goalkeepers

  • Sebastian Breza, SSD Potenza Calcio
  • Thomas Hasal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  • Matthew Nogueira, CS Maritimo
  • James Pantemis, Montreal Impact
  • Dayne St. Clair, San Antonio FC

Defenders

  • Diyaeddine Abzi, York 9 FC
  • Zorhan Bassong, Cercle Brugge KSV
  • Gabriel Boakye, FC Koln II
  • Robert Boskovic, Toronto FC II
  • Zachary Brault-Guillard​​​​​​, Montreal Impact
  • Derek Cornelius, Vancouver Whitecaps FC​​​​​​
  • Kadin Chung, Pacific FC
  • Julian Dunn, Toronto FC
  • Marcus Godinho, FSV Zwickau
  • Daniel Kinumbe, Halifax Wanderers FC
  • Yohan Le Bourhis, Valour FC
  • Emile Legault, Free Agent
  • Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, Pacific FC
  • Kamal Miller, Orlando City SC
  • Terique Mohammed, Toronto FC II
  • Callum Montgomery, FC Dallas
  • Rocco Romeo, Toronto FC
  • Frank Sturing, NEC Nijmegen
  • Karifa Yao, Montreal Impact

Midfielders

  • Clement Bayiha, Montreal Impact
  • Tristan Borges, Oud-Heverlee Leuven
  • Mathieu Choiniere, Montreal Impact
  • Aidan Daniels, Colorado Switchbacks
  • Liam Fraser, Toronto FC
  • Patrick Metcalfe, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  • David Norman Jr. , Inter Miami CF
  • Noble Okello, Toronto FC
  • Harrison Paton, Ross County FC
  • Ryan Raposo, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  • Shamit Shome, Montreal Impact
  • Noah Verhoeven, Pacific FC

Forwards

  • Theo Bair, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  • Charles-Andreas Brym, Lille OSC B
  • Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution
  • Terran Campbell, Pacific FC
  • Malik Johnson, Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Aramis Kouzine, Free Agent
  • Liam Millar, Liverpool FC
  • Jayden Nelson, Toronto FC
  • Easton Ongaro, FC Edmonton
  • Jordan Perruzza, Toronto FC II
  • Jacob Shaffelburg, Toronto FC
  • Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, Montreal Impact
  • Kris Twardek, Bohemian FC
  • Dario Zanatta,​​​​​​​ Partick Thistle

As a refresher for those not aware, the ruling for Olympic Qualifying is that men’s teams are only able to field U-23 players until the actual Olympic Tournament itself, which is why you’re not seeing the Canadian staples of Lucas Cavallini or Samuel Piette. A lot of the players on this list are to be expected in terms of their inclusion, yet there seems to be two glaring omissions among these young players.

The names Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David are becoming increasingly more commonplace in the soccer hotbed that is Europe, and given that they’re both going to be under 23 for at least another two years, they would not look out of place surrounded by the rest of these names. A big reason for this is due to the fact that FIFA does not enforce clubs to release their players for these such qualifying tournaments, and given that both players have cemented their places as integral parts of their respective teams, it’s not a surprise that they weren’t let go.

On paper, since these two players are already European caliber superstars, this could be seen as a major blow to these qualifying hopes, but you could also see this as a blessing in disguise, as there are still many questions on who will be their supporting cast come the 2022 World Cup and beyond.

Here are some players looking to make the final 20 man cut and keen to fill in those roles in the future:

Goalkeepers: Everyone (But Specifically Hasal)

Whitecaps Academy Saskatchewan

With none of the players listed being regular starters for their respective teams, whoever cements themselves at the goalkeeper position will be able to get the precious game experience that they are lacking on their regular teams. For the Whitecaps’ own Thomas Hasal, this could be great news, as most people took the arrival of Brian Meredith as a huge blow to Hasal’s already limited game minutes. The qualifying games could be the perfect place to gain some confidence and show the coaches that Hasal is ready for the big moments.

Defenders: Derek Cornelius & Zachary Brault-Guillard

United States v Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Derek Cornelius has become a name the Whitecaps faithful have grown accustomed to. A strong central defender who is prone to the occasional mistake, he has formed a strong bond with former Whitecaps Doneil Henry on the Senior National Team. Cornelius was a consistent name on the team sheet during Canada’s 2019 Gold Cup run and could be a strong contender to fill the ‘experienced veteran’ role that many youth teams lack.

Zachary Brault-Guillard on the other hand is poised for an interesting season under new manager Thierry Henry. The departing Bacary Sagna left open a spot at right back which Brault-Guillard has taken full advantage of. Being featured in all of Montreal’s competitive games of the 2020 season, Zachary Brault-Guillard can take this opportunity to show that he can fight for the senior roster spot against Toronto FC’s Richie Lareya.

Midfielders: Liam Fraser and Tristan Borges

CPL: Canadian Premier League Finals Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports for CPL

Liam Fraser has big shoes to fill at his current club Toronto, as skipper Michael Bradley is out in recovery for the foreseeable future and thus his staple position at CDM is up in the air at the moment. Fraser has shown his class in the recent friendlies against Barbados and Iceland and has stepped up for his club previously during Bradley’s absence in last year’s Gold Cup. He will be hoping that high level performances like these at the international stage will show his club that he is the answer to Bradley’s position after his eventual retirement.

Tristan Borges (Pictured Above) has a uniquely Canadian success story. The Canadian Premier League MVP and Golden Boot recipient has proven that a player in a new league can draw attention from outside of the continent. His performances at Forge FC landed him a historic deal to join Belgian second division side, OH Leuven as the first outward CPL transfer to Europe. With Atlético Madrid having recently transformed the Fury into Atletico Ottawa, Borges will hope that his high level of play can translate on a world stage and give the league the legitimacy of developing class players that it deserves.

Forwards-Charles-Andreas Brym and Jayden Nelson

(Liza Rosales/Canada Soccer)

The last two featured players to watch on this list both impressed greatly in the previous friendlies against Barbados and Iceland,the first of which is Charles-Andreas Brym (Pictured above). Far from a household name, Brym stormed onto the scene during Canada’s unofficial friendlies, having never played for the side in the past. His quick pace and technical ability allowed him to be a positive force going forwards in attack and he was even able to nab himself a goal in the second game. Brym will want to keep performing at the level he had during these games to prove that he holds the right to play on the senior roster one day.

Closing out our list is Canadian Youth International Player of the Year, Jayden Nelson. Nelson has had an outstanding year in 2019, having scored five goals in the CONCACAF Men’s U-17 Championship to help Canada qualify for the U-17 World Cup for the first time since 2013. His performances proved such a spark for his career that he earned himself a call up to the senior team in January of this year and a deal with his club’s senior side as well. Nelson looks to be the talisman for the attack in this youth side for the foreseeable future, and he has the skill set and stage to back that up.

Come March 13th, this 50 man list will go down to 20 and it will be interesting to see who makes the final cut. The senior national team has their friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago scheduled during the qualifying tournament as well, so a lot of strong youth performers could be called up for the senior team instead with World Cup qualification on the line. The roster share could also involve more than the two Canadian teams, as the Whitecaps have five players eligible for this qualifying tournament. It will be hard to say what the repercussions will be for the ‘Caps until the 13th when the 20 man roster is revealed. All we can do until then is wait and enjoy what seems to be a new dawn for the history of Canada Soccer.