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Canada Talk: Feelin’ Familiar

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Analyzing Canada’s 50 Man Shortlist for Olympic Qualifying (Again)

Soccer: CONCACAF Nations League Soccer-USA at Canada Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I don’t think any of us saw this coming. Who could have guessed last year that shortly after Canada had announced it’s preliminary Olympic Qualifying roster that a worldwide pandemic would halt all games and cause the CMNT to not hit the field in friendly nor competitive match for well over a year? My money is on probably no one. Casting our minds back to the days before zoom calls and social distancing were commonplace terms,

Canada soccer, at least in terms of the men’s game, was coming off of a high back in early 2020. Bar a semi-deflating defeat in the away leg to the United States, Canada was having a good run of games, having defeated their longtime rivals in the Nations League for the first time in a competitive match since 1985, along with a pair of victories against Barbados and an inspiring showing against Iceland in unofficial friendlies. While the overall results of these games may have felt deflating due to Canada still finding themselves trailing El Salvador in terms of FIFA Ranking and thus out of the famous Hex, changes to World Cup Qualifying meant that Canada’s outside shot now became a very real possibility to qualify.

With this renewed sentiment, faith in the CMNT is currently at an all time high in regards to expectations, and for those available to represent the country within Olympic requirements, the expectations are no different. With that being said, let’s see how the list of players has changed over the past year (Again, with Whitecaps players in italics):

Goalkeepers (6)

  • Sebastian Breza, SSD Potenza Calcio (Italy)
  • Nikola Curcija, Le Havre AC (France)
  • Thomas Hasal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • James Pantemis, CF Montreal (Canada)
  • Matthew Nogueira, CS Maritimo (Portugal)
  • Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United (USA)

The goalkeepers selected this year ring very similar to that of last year’s selections, save for the addition of Nikola Curcija. What seemed last year to be a difficult choice for the final cut due to the amount of unproven talent is not a problem anymore, rather the opposite is true; the difficult choices to be made are a result of some of these players surging despite the worldwide pandemic. The question of starting goalkeeper basically falls down to two standout performers of last season: Our very own Thomas Hasal, and Minnesota United’s Dayne St. Clair. These two players had season in which they made the most out of injury to their respective club’s primary shot stopper, and the latter was 15 minutes away from an MLS Cup final, save for a team wide meltdown against Seattle. It would be difficult to choose between these two, but I think St. Clair will probably find himself between the sticks come March.

Defenders (16)

  • Diyaeddine Abzi, York United FC (Canada)
  • Michael Baldisimo, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • Zorhan Bassong, CF Montreal (Canada)
  • Zachary Brault-Guillard​​​​​​, CF Montreal (Canada)
  • Kadin Chung,Pacific FC (Canada)
  • Derek Cornelius, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • Julian Dunn, Valour FC (Canada)
  • Mohamed Farsi, Cavalry FC (Canada)
  • Marcus Godinho, Heart of Midlothian FC (Scotland)
  • Cristian Gutierrez, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, Pacific FC (Canada)
  • Callum Montgomery, FC Dallas (USA)
  • Chrisnovic N’Sa, York United FC (Canada)
  • Antonio Romeo, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Karifa Yao, CF MONTREAL (Canada)
  • Frank Sturing, NEC Nijmegen(Netherlands)

Down to 16 from 19 selections last year, the list of defenders is mostly the same outside of seven subtractions and the additions of Baldisimo, Gutierrez, Farsi, and N’Sa. I think that it’s an overall net improvement, with many of these players having reached higher levels of play over the past 12 months. Within the Whitecaps camp, it is good to see that Cornelius will get some competitive action before the season begins mid-April, and although weird due to the choice of position, the same goes for Baldisimo, as he was a valuable asset at the end of the 2020 season. It is also reassuring to see that Cristian Gutierrez is also among the names called up, and I’d be surprised to see him left at home come march, as it would be good to get him more acclimated with the Canadian National Team for when he (Hopefully) decides to commit to them. Outside of the ‘Caps’ camp, I would keep an eye out for Frank Sturing, who recently had his first camp with the national team in January and looks like a promising asset that is following a recent trend of dual nationals committing to Les Rouges.

Midfielders(17)

  • Clement Bahiya, CF Montreal (Canada)
  • David Choiniere, Forge FC (Canada)
  • Aidan Daniels, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USA)
  • Lucas Dias, Sporting CP (Portugal)
  • Liam Fraser, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Patrick Metcalfe, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • David Norman Jr., Free Agent
  • Noble Okello, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Benjamin Paton, Blackburn Rovers FC (England)
  • Harrison Paton, Ross County FC (Scotland)
  • Ralph Priso, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Ryan Raposo, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • Shamit Shome, FC Edmonton (Canada)
  • Steven Simpson, Barnsley FC (England)
  • Ballou Tabla, CF Montreal (Canada)
  • Noah Verhoeven, York United FC (Canada)

Midfield has received a major roster boost as compared to last year, with only two players not making the cut, Mathieu Choiniere replaced by his brother David, and disappointingly, Tristan Borges not present. In their place were 7 additions, with Dias, Marshall-Rutty, Patton, Priso, Simpson, and Tabla joining the aforementioned Choiniere. The plan remains the same as last year, although I do see competition being much more stiff than previous positions. Raposo and Metcalfe have their work cut out for them, as many equally talented, or more so, players find themselves in this list. Liam Fraser seems like a lock-in for the qualifiers, and I have a feeling the same could be said for Ralph Priso. Following the trend of convincing young talent to commit to the CMNT, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Sporting CP midfielder Lucas Dias get significant minutes in order to sway his decision. Whatever way this midfield ends up looking, I expect it will be entertaining how they manage to synergize in order to assure Canada’s place at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Forwards (11)

  • Theo Bair, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada)
  • Charles-Andreas Brym, LOSC Lille (France)
  • Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution (USA)
  • Terran Campbell, Pacific FC (Canada)
  • Theo Corbeanu, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC (England)
  • Malik Johnson, Real Monarchs SLC (USA)
  • Jayden Nelson, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Easton Ongaro, FC Edmonton (Canada)
  • Jordan Perruzza, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Jacob Shaffelburg, Toronto FC (Canada)
  • Kristopher Twardek, Bohemian FC (Ireland)

The list of forwards, compared to the rest, holds the highest number of cuts percentage wise, with 3 players from last year removed and only one player added to make up for it. (To be fair, one of these removed players, Tabla was listed as a midfielder this year, but the point still stands) Luckily, this one added player seems to be one holding a lot of promise, that being Theo Corbeanu, who is another dual national John Herdman is hoping sees Canada as a viable option. Corbeanu was called up to the training camp last month, but declined to participate due to being named on the bench for Wolves around that time. Canada could certainly use a player of his talents up top, considering the surprising omission of Liam Millar, who is on loan at Charlton Athletic from Liverpool and seems to have found a groove in the English lower divisions. Along with Corbeanu, someone who brings excitement is Tajon Buchanan who, although playing at right-back for the Revolution, became a mainstay of Bruce Arena’s squad in the 2020 season, putting on many impressive displays and adding the the already crowded position of right-back which Canada finds itself in abundance of.

As things are, Canada find themselves in a much better position right now in terms of Olympic Qualifiers than they did last year, and they weren’t in a bad position to begin with. Once the rosters are trimmed down and we can figure out the final roster, we can go in depth with which players look to have a standout 2021, but until then, let’s keep our fingers crossed that come March, we’ll see the Canadian Men’s National Team take the field once again.

Think there was somebody missed? Someone better suited for the full national team rather than Olympic Qualifiers? Sound off in the comments!