After the long drought that was the year 2020, it may seem like there’s an overload of information and news about Canadian Men’s soccer, and it’s a welcome change. Two different rosters of Canadian players are playing competitively at the same time, (With a full retrospective on the group stage Olympic qualifying games coming as soon as the game against Honduras is over) which is certainly beneficial for those players who have begun to turn up at club level and are now demonstrating that they can also perform on the international stage, rather than just being hypotheticals in conversation.
These are exciting times for Canada soccer, and even more so now that there is a confirmed roster. Take a look for yourself below:
Canada Soccer Announces Men’s National Team Roster for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Qualifiers— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) March 23, 2021
STORY https://t.co/u6kRUFYHw1#CANMNT pic.twitter.com/P7kvJucLRp
Given how monumental the occasion of the first World Cup Qualifiers of this period are, an in depth look at each player selected will be able to help catch anyone who hasn’t been actively following the crop of eligible players up to speed. This might make the article a little longer than usual, so let’s get right to it:
Milan Borjan - Red Star Belgrade
After bowing out of the Europa League against a resurgent (Although currently hitting some roadblocks) AC Milan side spearheaded by former LA Galaxy great Zlatan Ibrahimović, Red Star Belgrade find themselves nine points clear atop the Serbian Superliga. The team is a constant feature in Europe and Borjan has demonstrated his class on many occasions. Him getting the nod to start these games wouldn’t be surprising, but, with no disrespect to the opposition, maybe these games could provide a somewhat proving ground for the other keepers to close the gap on the starting spot.
Maxime Crépeau - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Quebec-born shot stopper is looking for his first competitive game action since suffering a fractured thumb against the Seattle Sounders during the MLS is Back Tournament. One of the consistent sources of joy in recent ‘Caps’ teams, many people will be looking forwards to seeing if Crépeau can pick up where he left off and be just as solid of a keeper for the national team as he is for his club.
Dayne St. Clair - Minnesota United FC
An exciting prospect for the future, if current development trajectories are to be believed, then him and Thomas Hasal could be fighting for that number one spot come the latter half of the 2020’s. Demonstrating maturity and decision making that is seen in goalkeepers his senior, St. Clair took advantage of the absence of Tyler Miller and put up performances that could cast doubt on the American’s starting role once he returns, as St. Clair has already overshadowed de facto backup Greg Ranjitsingh.
Dayne St. Clair came up BIG this season for the Loons!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 14, 2020
Watch St. Clair and @MNUFC take on @ColoradoRapids on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 7:30pm ET in the @Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs. pic.twitter.com/nQWbnoYbf1
Sam Adekugbe - Vålerenga Fotbal
A fullback who’s been steadily on the rise since leaving the Vancouver Whitecaps at the end of the 2017 season, the inclusion of Adekugbe could be a positive sign for those who wish to see a certain Bayern Munich left back play further up on the field. Making up a back line that went unbeaten in their home games during the 2020 Eliteserien season, the Norwegian team came third that season losing only five games overall.
Ricardo Ferreira - Unattached FC
Having most recently played for Farense in Portugal’s Primeira Liga, the Mississauga-born center back now finds himself in a place that many Canadians used to call home, the limbo that is free agency. A promising defender in his younger days, Ferreira was called up to multiple levels of the Portuguese national team, including that of the senior squad, yet injuries hampered his chances as they became more and more frequent. Emphasizing this unfortunate history with injuries is the fact that Ferreira has not played more than ten games in a season since the 17/18 season with S.C. Braga. There were a lot of questions directed his way once he announced his one time switch of national allegiances to Canada, but even with his history, Canada fans can be cautiously optimistic about a defender with top league European experience, as he could be a solid backup or mentor to the other defenders.
Cristián Gutiérrez - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Born in Greenfield Park two years after his club and national teammate, Maxime Crépeau, Cristián Gutiérrez moved to Chile when he was very young. Plying his trade across multiple teams in the Chilean first division, the Vancouver Whitecaps signed Gutiérrez ahead of their 2020 season to function as a backup to star player Ali Adnan. What very few expected was Gutiérrez to put on impressive performances of his own when he played, causing some to consider him superior at the position given Adnan’s unorthodox defending tendencies. Already having been capped for Chile’s youth ranks a handful of times, the strong performances were rumored to have turned the head of recently replaced coach Reinaldo Rueda. Luckily for Canadians, the next two games could be decisive in terms of his international future, and if the promise shown in his stronger games last season becomes a habit, Canada may have answered their Davies covering question.
Alistair Johnston - Nashville SC
Playing for 2020 new boys Nashville SC, many people were not expecting much from the Tennessee based club, with most eyes focused on the shiny new team down in Florida. The understated signings and solid performances by the entire team led them to the conference semi-finals, knocking out previous year finalists Toronto along the way. Johnston was selected by Nashville in the 2020 super draft and quickly cemented his place in the right back position during his rookie year, putting himself in contention for what seems to be an overloaded position for the Canadian national soccer team. Given New England Revolution’s Tajon Buchanan’s strong performances in that position to close out the season, many may have expected the senior cap to go to him rather than Johnston, but this is an opportunity for the Vancouver-born defender to make the future right back position his.
Richie Laryea - Toronto FC
A consistently strong performer for Toronto, many Canada supporters are already aware of what they are getting when it comes to Canada’s starting right back. Enjoying his most prolific season in terms of goals an assists (With eight combined in league play), an attack minded, agile defender who tracks back when needed, concerns about a noticeably weaker flank can be put to rest.
Dance on em @RichieLaryea_ pic.twitter.com/dUH8d7BJWD— Canadian Soccer (@CNDYouthSoccer) September 28, 2020
Kamal Miller - CF Montreal
Kamal Miller has faced an offseason more hectic than most, having been selected by the controversial Austin FC in the expansion draft then just as quickly sold to Montreal. It is a slight homecoming for the Canadian, having never played in his home country professionally. Playing just over 800 minutes out of a possible 2070 in the league last season, Miller will be trying to justify a starting spot both his National and club sides, as cementing himself as a staple in Montreal’s back line after their turbulent offseason should be a priority for his career.
Frank Sturing - FC Den Bosch
Having also been called up for the U23s, the exclusion of Frank Sturing in the final Olympic qualifying roster seemed to be perplexing for those following the defender and familiar with his promise. Playing in the Dutch second division, his team seems to be destined for the drop yet Sturing has shown the qualities of a reliable defender on multiple occasions, now it is up to the Dutch-born centreback to put his career on track and aim for a move to a better club. For Canada, he is an exciting prospect who has a potentially good ceiling but at the same time a disappointing floor. Canada fans can hope that these games will be able to demonstrate that he is the former and a good point of reference for the future. (Cap tying him doesn’t hurt either.)
Steven Vitória - Moreirense F.C
A player for the Canadian national team since 2016, (Another player capped by Portugal at youth ranks) Vitória has played a fair number of games this season for Moreirense, even chipping in with two goals to boot, as the Moreira based team finds themselves eighth in the Primeira Liga. Not bad for someone who is in the twilight years of their career at 34 years of age. Having scored Canada’s last competitive goal back in 2019 against their bitter rivals the United States, it’s no wonder that he is considered for these upcoming crucial games for the future of Canadian football as his solid veteran presence should help a back line that looks to be experimenting with various players.
Joel Waterman - CF Montreal
Transferred from giant killers Cavalry FC, Waterman now finds himself at a Montreal club that is undergoing a complete identity change. Thierry Henry has left the helm and their classic fleur de lis shield has been replaced with a snowflake, this along with unease across the board is setting up Montreal to have the most unstable season out of all Canadian clubs. Waterman played only a small number of games for Montreal last season and the Langley native will be hoping the change of coach can also improve his chances at game time, as he is representing some of the best that the CPL had to offer.
Stephen Eustáquio - F.C. Paços de Ferreira
Quite possibly the most exciting inclusion in the midfield, Eustáquio is coming off a red hot 2020/21 season where he has shown himself to be one of the best distributors in the division. Many were doubtful of his abilities, having been injured most of his tenure with Mexican club Cruz Azul, feeling as if his potential would be quashed by recurring injuries. Yet ever since moving back to Portugal on loan, Eustáquio has impressed on all fronts, making his move permanent and sparking rumors linking him with high flying Champions League hopefuls FC Porto. Eustáquio seems well on track to fulfill and even surpass his potential, and should be seen as one of the most exciting Canadian talents outside of the juggernauts of Davies and David.
Se habla del posible regreso de Stephen Eustáquio, ojalá se pueda dar, lo prefiero por encima de Baca, Eustaquio es joven, seleccionado, con buena proyección y trazó largo al frente pic.twitter.com/Nz8vwu7Dvn— Luis_Azul ⚽️ (@LuisAzul0507) May 12, 2020
Atiba Hutchinson - Beşiktaş J.K.
Having originally called time on his international career after the 2019 Gold Cup, it a welcome surprise to see this stalwart of midfield return for one final lap with Canada. By far the most senior player on the roster, (At 38 years old!) one cannot understate what Hutchinson adds and represents to this Canadian National team. More than just a symbol, Atiba has been active in a Beşiktaş side that finds themselves at the top of the Turkish Super Lig and in their first Turkish Cup final since 2011, contributing to goals and assists plenty. Expect Hutchinson to replicate those strong performances on the field, and maybe even putting in a shift in defense if necessary.
Mark-Anthony Kaye - Los Angeles FC
Playing in an underwhelming (For their standards, at least) LAFC side last season, Kaye was in the doubters books after some dubious performances in the latter half of the regular season and playoffs, where LAFC failed to make it past Seattle for the second year running. Someone who was integral to Bob Bradley’s record setting 2019 side, it seemed the Kaye had maybe began to regress to the player not good enough to make the Toronto FC first team. Luckily, Kaye turned back on once continental games were on the cards, providing impressive performances against Mexican opposition as LAFC fashionably beat scary opposition up to the final. Being described as one of the best midfielders in MLS, Kaye will be looking to ride that hot streak both on the national stage and once again when the regular season begins, as LAFC look to finally get their hands on that elusive MLS Cup.
Samuel Piette - CF Montreal
A midfield general out east, Piette is a hard working, bulky player who has a distinguishable presence in the middle of the park. Put on the flank by Theirry Henry on multiple occasions last season, the midfielder hardly put in bad performances, even in a struggling Montreal side. His ball-winning abilities are some of the best which Canada has to offer, although competition will be starting to heat up for this midfielder who had his position on lock before.
David Wotherspoon - St Johnstone F.C.
A Scottish youth international, Wotherspoon has played sparingly for the Canadian national soccer team. Although not the most productive midfielder (Who finds himself on the wings sometimes), Wotherspoon is part of a St Johnstone side that won the Scottish league cup, contributing to four goals/assists in seven matches. Canada fans will be hoping that his form in knockout competitions carries over to the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Lucas Cavallini - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
El Tanque had a season last year. Not a terribly bad season, but not a terribly good season either. Finding himself as the striker with the most experience, Cavallini will want to put in good performances in order to secure his place in the Canadian roster as David continues to breathe heavily down his neck. Seeing how he performs in these games could also be an indicator for ‘Caps fans for what to expect from the tough striker in the upcoming season.
Theo Corbeanu -Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
Someone also seen amongst the U23 names, this is a prospect that seems to be rising in stock a lot faster than anyone was predicting. Originally finding himself under Wolves’ youth ranks, Corbeanu has been named onto the first team bench on multiple occasions now, showing that the player is good enough to be noticed by head coach Nuno Espírito Santo. A fast paced centre forward also capable of playing on the wings, the 2002-born Corbeanu could also be called up by Romania, so confirming his future to Les Rouges is a massive boost to a front line that looks to get exciting as the future becomes the present.
Alphonso Davies - FC Bayern Munich
The current best left back in the world, he’s won every trophy available to him with Bayern Munich, what more can be said? Almost completing football, the former Vancouver Whitecap just needs a Gold Cup and a World Cup. Shouldn’t be too hard to get either of those.
Junior Hoilett - Cardiff City FC
Pushing for promotion, Cardiff is looking to be back to represent Wales in the Premier League for the first time since the 2018/19. Hoilett has admittedly seen better days in the past then he is now in terms of prolificity and game time. The Ontario native will need to put in strong performances in training and on the field to keep his spot on the wings, especially as other players are beginning to hit their strides.
Cyle Larin - Beşiktaş J.K.
One such of these players is 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin. The original Alphonso Davies, Larin’s career had stalled ever since his move away from sunny Orlando. Struggling to find his feet in Turkey and even on loan in Belgium, it seemed like this promising Canadian striker was destined for a move away from Istanbul. What nobody could have predicted though, would be his stellar performances once placed on the left wing. His current tally places him at fourteen goals and four assists in twenty-eight matches this season, doubling his previous best European goal tally. These contributions put him third on the current top scorers chart as Besiktas, much to the relief of Atiba Hutchinson, who recommended Larin to the Besiktas board all those years ago. It looks like the promise he held once could possibly be reached once again, if he continues to play as he does from now on.
CYLE LARIN bags his first hat-trick in a @BesiktasEnglish shirt!#BJKvRİZ— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) January 6, 2021
CONNECT https://t.co/LRYa03w6yI pic.twitter.com/xp45vohLAY
Liam Millar - Charlton Athletic
It’s hard to not get a little overexcited when it comes to talking about Liam Millar. On loan from Premier League champions Liverpool, the young Canadian has contributed to seven goals/assists in eighteen matches this season for the League One outfit, Charlton Athletic. Originally being perceived as a striker, it appears that Millar’s most effective role will be out on the wing, and Liverpool will be hoping that this experience in the third division of England will be enough to help him break into the first team, or raise his stock enough for another Premier League or Championship team to make an irrefutable offer. It can be easy to be swept away with the hype of having a Canadian on the ranks of the champions of England, but if Millar can at the least become a top level Championship or midtable Premier League player, it would still be enough for Canada fans to get excited for. For now, one can only hope that he continues that trajectory.
Jayden Nelson - Toronto FC
A player I have highlighted multiple times before, Nelson seems to be one of the best young talents coming out of the Toronto pipeline. Agile and good with the ball, Nelson could definitely see some minutes in the latter half of games in which he will try to stamp his mark and prove that he is the real deal.
Jonathan David - Lille OSC
After a slow start to goal scoring life in France, David has found his shooting boots again, becoming an integral member of his OSC Lille side fighting for the Ligue Une title. Thus it was a little confusing to see him not featured on the list of players called up for these crucial matches. There is no need to wonder too much, as David was simply not allowed to leave the country due to quarantine requirements.
Jonathan Osorio - Toronto FC
Osorio is also someone heavily featured in Canada matchday squads, yet an injury proved to be what is keeping him on the sidelines for these upcoming dates.
Doneil Henry - Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Henry has been a strong performer in Korea, and is probably in the best form out of all of the central defenders that Canada has to offer, but is recovering from injury.
Scott Arfield - Rangers FC
The Scotland-born midfielder is coming off of a historic season under manager Steven Gerrard, in which Arfield has contributed to Ranger’s league title in under a decade following the club going into administration. Coming off this red-hot form, many would expect the former Canadian captain to be an integral figure in the upcoming matches, but Arfield declined to participate citing the exhausting travel that comes with North American qualifying.
All in all, the players who were called up will be doing their best to represent Canada on the road to their first World Cup since 1986, and the future is looking bright for Canadian talent in general. You can catch all the action on Onesoccer when Canada takes on Bermuda this Thursday March 25th at 5pm, and Sunday March 28th at 11:30 am. These two matches are the first steps on the long road to qualification to Qatar, and for the first time in ages, this feels like a real possibility.