Keep those fingers crossed and those lucky socks on because if you whisper quietly enough, we might actually be able to see the Canadian Men’s National Soccer team in action once again, at least in some capacity.
The official roster for the players who will be donning the Red and White in order to fight for a place at the Tokyo Olympics has been revealed, and there have been interesting choices made both in inclusions and exclusions.
GK- James Pantemis | CAN / CF Montréal
GK- Matthew Nogueira | POR / CS Maritimo
GK- Sebastian Breza | ITA / FC Bologna
FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | CAN / CF Montréal
FB- Zorhan Bassong | CAN / CF Montréal
FB- Marcus Godinho | GER / FSV Zwickau
CB- Thomas Meilleur-Giguère | CAN / Pacific FC
CB- Derek Cornelius | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
CB- Callum Montgomery | USA / Minnesota United FC
M- Michael Baldisimo | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
M- David Norman | CAN / Cavalry FC
M- Aidan Daniels | USA / Oklahoma City Energy
M- Ryan Raposo | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
M- Patrick Metcalfe | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
AM- Lucas Dias | POR / Sporting CP U-23
F- Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla | CAN / CF Montréal
F- Kris Twardek | POL / Jagiellonia Białystok
F- Tajon Buchanan | USA / New England Revolution
F- Theo Bair | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
F- Charles-Andreas Brym | BEL / Royal Mouscron
MLS players make up the majority of those selected among the 23 Olympic hopefuls, with five of them being Whitecaps. Notably though, there is one glaring TFC sized hole in the roster, as not a single player from Canada’s flagship MLS franchise features on this list. This more than likely is due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak among members of their squad, which leaves key players Liam Fraser, Jayden Nelson, and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty out, among other notable names. This makes Canada potentially weaker than they could be, but also provides opportunity for those who were included in their place to make a name for themselves and audition for a place in their respective team’s starting lineup or the full Canadian National Team.
There’s a lot to juggle, as some European teams opt to keep their players in their respective countries (Frank Sturing and Theo Corbeanu come to mind), World Cup Qualifying on the horizon taking some of the more promising young players the way of the full national team, and the quarantine requirements for leagues causing teams to not want to risk the depth shortage that comes with letting players leave.
In terms of keepers this is consideration is clearly seen, as the two players who seemed like lock-ins- Thomas Hasal and Dayne St.Clair- are both missing from the list, which could be perceived as them being good enough to fight for a spot on the full national team. (Along with a sneaking suspicion that Milan Borjan may not be available for selection until his season wraps up in Serbia) Out of the three keepers left, it’s most likely that Pantemis gets the nod to start for the upcoming games.
Defenders seem straightforward as well. The MLS players bring stability to the side, and these matches especially provide a stage for Derek Cornelius to hone his skills, something he was only able to do sporadically under MDS on the Whitecaps last season. Staying on the Whitecaps page, it is interesting to see Cristian Gutierrez miss out, but again, it could also be due to an attempt to cap tie him through a full national team selection.
Lucas Dias está convocado para a Selecção de Sub-23 do Canadá que irá disputar o Torneio de Qualificação Olímpica em Guadalajara, no México! ⚽ #ADNSporting— Sporting Clube de Portugal (@Sporting_CP) March 4, 2021
A decorrer entre 18 e 30 de Março. pic.twitter.com/hf3GaS2z1Z
While Gutierrez may be a deal that is almost closed, the opposite is true for young starlet Lucas Dias, who is beginning to shine on Sporting’s U23 team. He is the definite highlight of the midfield selection, and work must be done in order to convince the 18 year old to commit for Les Rouges as early as possible, since Portugal’s head may be turned as his form improves. The lack of TFC midfielders could also give Michael Baldisimo some hope on being able to demonstrate that shine as the main man in holding midfield, and the connection between him and Dias may be something to keep an eye on for the future.
Kris Twardek and Charles-Andreas Brym are the two non MLS forwards included in the roster, and although the latter has had a less impressive season stats wise as compared to this time last year, I expect them both to get considerable game time as dynamic wingers for the team. Tajon Buchanan seems to be the player in the best form out of the selection, and it will be interesting to see if he is played in defense or in attack come the qualifiers. Tabla and Bair are both players who have shown promise in the past, but haven’t quite demonstrated that they were on the same path as of recently, and there’s no better way bring optimism back than with qualifying to this tournament.
This squad looks interesting at worst, and promising at its best. It’s hard to gauge the selections with World Cup Qualifying happening so close, as choices here could be just part of Canada soccer’s larger puzzle. Whether sacrifices in terms of personnel were strategic or oversights will be seen once the bigger picture is revealed, but for now it will be good to just see this hopeful country take the pitch once more.
Canada takes on El Salvador in group stage action on March 19th(3:00pm PT), before following up with potential rival Haiti on the 22nd(3:00pm PT), and finishing with Honduras on March 25th(6:30pm PT). If all goes well, Canada could find itself in knockout action, but as always, the group stage must be decided first. Catch all the action on OneSoccer as it happens.