The path to Qatar continues for Canada soccer. The last two games in the group stage of the World Cup qualifying process are right around the corner and things are looking very exciting for Les Rouges at the moment. Aruba and Suriname are the two teams left to play in order to reach the playoffs for the last three spots in the Octagonal (Against most likely Haiti).
Aruba currently find themselves second to last in the group, with no goals scored and eleven goals conceded. Meanwhile Suriname have been soaring, having scored nine and conceded none, one less than the Canadians. Suriname have a handful of players playing in the Eredivisie, for clubs such as AZ Alkmaar, Groningen, and Feyenoord, but most MLS watchers will probably be familiar with former Seattle Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam who plays for Inter Miami currently. With recent nationality changes to European based players such as Ridgeciano Haps from the aforementioned Feyenoord and Sheraldo Becker from Union Berlin, the CMNT will have to be wary of the punch that this side may have. Keep an eye on this game as the one that decides the fate of the group.
While the focus of the article so far has been external, it’s time to look internally at what has changed with Canada in the last two months, both in roster makeup and player trajectory. 2021 has been a great year for Canadians playing in Europe, as at least six Canadians have been winners of their respective leagues: Davies with Bayern Munich (Four Trophies on the season), David with Lille (Breaking PSGs near-monopoly), Arfield with Rangers (Invincible season), Atiba and Larin with Besiktas (League and cup double, with the latter being the team’s top scorer), and Borjan with Red Star (Invincible league and cup double). One could expect the roster to consist of many, if not all, of these high performers, and on Saturday, May 29th, John Herdman announced the roster for the qualifiers.
In total, seven positions were rotated when compared to the roster from the previous qualifiers. Outgoing were Whitecaps duo Cristian Gutierrez and Maxime Crepeau, along with Ricardo Ferreira, Atiba Hutchinson, Kamal Miller, Jayden Nelson* and Joel Waterman*, and in their places came in Tajon Buchanan, Jonathan David, Doneil Henry, Liam Fraser, Scott Kennedy, Jonathan Osorio, and James Pantemis.
Quickly looking at the players added, it’s pretty easy to see for some players why they were added, as strong performances in their respective leagues warranted an opportunity to convert it to the international stage. Buchanan, David, and Pantemis have all done their parts to find success for their club sides, meanwhile Osorio and Henry look to re-establish themselves as regulars to this side.
Fraser and Kennedy have not been as resurgent as their peers so questions on why they were chosen above the red hot Kamal Miller and Atiba Hutchinson may be raised. (Even though the latter is nursing a slight knock received at the end of the season.
Even with these cuts, there is still opportunities for some to continue participating in the camp, as Herdman also called up a number of other players to train with and function as scrimmage partners to the main team.
Ahead of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, an extended #CANMNT squad will train this week in Florida— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) May 31, 2021
Tesho Akindele, Ayo Akinola, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Patrick Metcalfe, Ashtone Morgan, Jayden Nelson, Noble Okello, Ralph Priso, Luke Singh, Joel Waterman https://t.co/Cf0ZZGrH2j
Among this list are a number of young Canadian talents, including the not formally selected Jayden Nelson and Joel Waterman. Most excitingly of all, breakout star of last season Ayo Akinola is warming up to the idea of committing to the Canadian National team, and seeing defender Luke Singh within these numbers as well shows that Canada is his end goal despite being called up by Trinidad and Tobago for their qualifiers.
The increased number of players participating may seem perplexing to some, but one has to remember that there is another trial waiting in the middle of the summer as well: The Gold Cup. Top performances here could assure one’s spot in the final tournament roster after Canada looks to rectify their disappointing showing in 2019 by bringing possibly their most in-form lineup of all time.
For now eyes must be focused on the task at hand though, and these two matches will provide ample room to see how the team may perform in this summers tournament, and more crucially if they get there, the play-off against (Probably) Haiti.
Thoughts on the roster? Predictions for the upcoming games? Sound off in the comments below!