With the recent release of the Canada squad, as they prepare to take on the US in a pivotal CONCACAF Nations League clash, here is our breakdown of the team, as we go over the selections by allocating a ‘Surprise Rating’ to each player.
Another camp, another squad announcement.
Like the international break’s version of a trade deadline, team selection decisions often bringing surprises and excitement. With Canada taking on the US in CONCACAF Nations League play this week, they dropped their list of 23 players on Friday, as they prepare for what is going to be a pivotal match.
As usual, it gives us a chance to analyze the selections, as we break down the list of players called in by head coach John Herdman. In what has become a tradition, we break down the list by ‘surprise rating’, as we take a look at the form of the players coming into camp. We first started the tradition back in March, before continuing it ahead of the Gold Cup, and then did it ahead of the September and October windows.
In this exercise, we take a look at all 23 players selected, as well as those who missed out, and rank them on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “I think his absence would cause a national inquiry”, and 10 being “wait I didn’t even know that guy was Canadian.”
So with all that in mind, here are our rankings of the squad.
GK- Milan Borjan | SRB / FK Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
Canada’s main man in goal, Borjan and Red Star are in the midst of another strong campaign, after a landmark 2018/2019 season. While he’s recently taken the brunt of two heavy defeats in Champions League, as Tottenham deflected some of the rage from their massacre against Bayern into back-to-back games against Red Star, Borjan and Red Star have shone everywhere else. 7 points ahead of the pack domestically, they look on the path to win the league yet again, with Borjan putting in good performances every time he plays. He will start against the US next week, and after the emotion he showed in the first victory, expect another fiery performance from the big goalkeeper.
GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
While Crepeau comes into this camp cold, as the Whitecaps have not played since the last window, he can applaud himself for a good debut MLS campaign. While Vancouver didn’t have the greatest of seasons, it was in no part due to Crepeau, who kept them in many games they had no business being in. He finished with 114 saves, 5th total in MLS, and still had 5 clean sheets despite allowing 46 goals. At 25, he still has a lot to growth to still come as a goalkeeper, so it’s not hard to imagine him taking the reins when Borjan eventually retires, and he’ll definitely be more than capable of handling any opportunities that do come his way now.
GK- Jayson Leutwiler | ENG / Blackburn Rovers
Despite not featuring in a single club game since the last Canada camp, Leutwiler gets the call once again, as he is a counted on veteran presence in the squad. While it is a bit surprising that he made it in, considering the strong play of Marco Carducci for Cavalry to end their season, having Leutwiler’s experience around doesn’t hurt. Given his good relationships with a lot of the players on the squad, having him with Canada gives a young squad a veteran head, and he can still play if needed, as unlikely as that would be as a third goalkeeper.
CB- Derek Cornelius | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Much like Max Crepeau, Cornelius hasn’t featured since the last game, as he has had to content himself with just training. Despite that, expect him to play a big role against the US, as he continues a strong 2019 campaign. After starting the year slowly, he became a trusted lieutenant of Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos, starting 10 of the last 13 MLS games. With a strong performance against the US last time out, he will be counted upon to do the same again, and at only 21 years of age, lots of growth is yet to come in his game.
CB- Amer Didić | CAN / FC Edmonton
Didic, who made waves the last window, becoming the first-ever outfield player to be called up to Canada from the CPL, makes his return once again to Canada. Despite only playing 1 game since the last international break, as he went 90 in a season-ending loss to Cavalry, it put the cap on a solid season. While his Edmonton side didn’t have the success that they hoped to have, he played a big role in helping them maintain defensive solidity, with their biggest woes coming on the offensive end. At 24 years of age, he still has a lot in the tank, so look for him to lead the way for Edmonton next year, if he doesn’t move his way up to a higher level before then.
CB- Doneil Henry | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Another one of the MLS players that has had to content himself with just training, Henry returns to the Canadian fold after an absence last time out, as he was suspended. While he still earned a call-up, and trained with the team throughout the whole week, he didn’t get to feature on the bench in that big US victory. After a resurgent MLS campaign, where he re-established himself as a top defender after a rough 2018 campaign, big things are still to come from Henry. He scored a career-high 4 goals, made 25 starts, and was probably one of the biggest shouts for Whitecaps MVP besides Crepeau. While it’s unsure if he starts, don’t be surprised if Herdman throws him in at some point, especially if Canada needs to protect a lead.
CB- Steven Vitória | POR / Moreirense FC
The only reason Henry isn’t expected to start alongside club partner Cornelius, Vitoria is enjoying a career resurgence at 32 years of age, as he continues to get regular minutes in the Portuguese first division. While Moreirense hasn’t maintained their hot start, as they now sit mid-table, Vitoria has played a big role for them as of late. From wearing the captain’s armband in a 1-1 clash against Rio Ave, to scoring back to back game-tying goals against Vitoria Guimaraes and Famalicao, Vitoria comes into this camp flying high. After a strong performance alongside Cornelius in the US game, expect him to come up big once again, as he brings much-needed experience to the backline.
FB- Samuel Adekugbe | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball
While Adekugbe’s Valerenga has fallen off their earlier push towards the Europa League places, they continue to sit firmly midtable, with Adekugbe getting valuable game time week in and week out. He doesn’t look to be the starter for Canada at the moment, with Herdman preferring the more defensive Kamal Miller, but Adekugbe’s level and form certainly gives him merit for selection. A strong attacking left back, he looked good in his cameo against Cuba in September, so Herdman will trust the 24-year-old if he ever slots in.
FB- Richie Laryea | CAN / Toronto FC
One of the hottest names in Canadian soccer, Laryea is fresh off a surprising run with Toronto, as they made all the way to the MLS Cup final as a 5th seed. While he didn’t start any of the games, he played a role off the bench in all of them, first scoring a crucial goal against DC, before winning the crucial penalty against New York City FC, and finishing things off by putting in valuable shifts against Atlanta and Seattle. An attacking right back, he gives Canada’s offence a strong overlapping presence, while keeping a good defensive posture. After coming to Toronto with an uncertain future after a rough go of things in Orlando, he’s had a meteoric rise as of late, and he doesn’t look to be replaced as Canada’s right back anytime soon.
FB- Kamal Miller | USA / Orlando City SC
On the other side of the pitch, expect Kamal Miller to put in another solid shift against the US, as the 22-year-old completed what was a solid rookie campaign. Another one of the MLS guys who didn’t play since the last game, he should still play a big role if needed, as his defensive presence was needed to counter the dual threat of Jordan Morris and DeAndre Yedlin on the right-hand side. Despite being a centre back by trade, his transition to left back at both the club and national team level has been an excellent move, as he has a good ball moving ability and mobility to make it work. Along with Adekugbe, it gives Herdman a good choice to either go for more of an attacking presence, or more of a defensive one, which is a good luxury to have.
FB- Dominick Zator | CAN / Cavalry FC
A big surprise this time out was the inclusion of Zator, who became the 3rd ever CPL call-up, and 1st to be called up alongside another one with the inclusion of Didic. But for anyone who has watched Zator this year, it comes as no surprise, as he has been a huge piece in a strong Cavalry side, both at right back and as a centre back. Despite being 6 foot 2, he has great mobility, as he has shown in his recent shift over to a right back. In the final against Forge, he was one of Cavalry’s best players, as his overlapping presence was a handful to deal with all game. For Canada, he’ll bring great defensive flexibility to the Reds backline, as his size and versatility makes him a valuable late-game option if Canada needs to close up shop and chase a result. After a strong season, big things are still yet to come for Zator, and this call-up is just the start of what’s to come for the 25-year-old.
M- Scott Arfield | SCO / Glasgow Rangers FC
Canada’s Captain, having Arfield back for the US game was huge, as he put in a strong 90-minute shift in the heart of Canada’s midfield. At 31, he shows no signs of slowing down, and his play for Canada shows that. While he isn’t scoring or assisting at the same prolific rate as he did last year for Rangers, he has still been huge, as the Glasgow-based side still sits tied with rivals Celtic after 12 games. Add a strong Europa League campaign, with qualification looking likely after 4 group stage games, along with a good Scottish League Cup run, and it’s been a strong year for Arfield. After the historic win against the US, he’ll want to continue that run now internationally, so look for him to do his best to ensure that happens later this week.
M- Stephen Eustáquio | MEX / Cruz Azul FC
The high-profile midfield commit from earlier this year, he still awaits his first appearance for Canada, as he continues his return from a nasty knee injury. He has been playing regularly as of late, as his rehab process continues, but his future with Cruz Azul remains unsure. Despite playing a handful of games with their U23 and U20 squads, they have yet to put him back in the 1st team, and with rumours of them being open to a sale, his future will have no shortage of question marks around it this winter. While he sorts that out, it’s good to see him earn another call-up to Canada, as he does look to be a good long-term piece for the country. While it means that some players miss out, such as veteran Russell Teibert, if Herdman sees Eustaquio as a long-term starter for this country, getting him integrated early may prove to go a long way in the future. He is unlikely to play against the US, as there is no reason to aggravate his injury, but he should be in Canada’s rotation come March of next year.
M- Liam Fraser | CAN / Toronto FC
Fraser continues to be a conundrum for Canada, as despite his immense talent, he struggles for minutes with Toronto. With their deep midfield, playing time is a luxury for the young Canadian, much to the frustration of Canadian fans. Despite his strong performance with Canada against the US, where he put in a remarkable shift as an early game replacement for Mark Anthony Kaye, he only made the bench once in TFC’s run to the final. Considering the only 2 games he’s played since the summer has been that US one and one for TFC II, his biggest concern heading into next year will be finding regular minutes. Given the trust shown by Herdman, he has the skill to merit that, now it’s just time to find that right opportunity.
M- Mark-Anthony Kaye | USA / Los Angeles FC
Kaye is a no-brainer call-up for Herdman, even as he returns from a hamstring issue, as he has become an integral piece of this Canada squad. Him exiting that US game was a big blow for both Canada, as well as LAFC, who didn’t look the same without him in the playoffs. While he made his return to action against Seattle in the conference semi-finals, he was brought in with LAFC already trailing, and he and LA were unable to beat the eventual champions’ solid low block. Given that the Seattle game came nearly 2 weeks ago, and he was able to go a half no problem, expect him to start against the US, and look for him to impose himself on a match he so badly wants to be involved in.
M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC
While Toronto fell short in their quest towards the MLS Cup, it was in no part because of Osorio, who had a strong end to the season, after a slower middle half. He regained his starting spot in the TFC lineup, and gave no signs of wanting to relinquish it, as he went the full 120 against DC, before going the full 90 against New York and Atlanta. While he was withdrawn at the 77th minute against Seattle in the final, a surprising move as he was one of the best players on the field in that game, it was a good run of form from the Canadian. After a strong performance against the US in the 4 man midfield, expect him to start once again, especially considering his resurgence to end to this 2019 campaign.
M- Samuel Piette | CAN / Impact de Montréal
Arguably the man of the match against the US last time out, Piette comes into this one well-rested, as he enjoyed a nice break due to Montreal missing the playoffs. While several people were concerned that his vacation time was poorly-planned, he did keep on training, and if there is anyone that deserves a break, the energizer bunny Piette is one of them. A workhorse midfielder, he has been a big reason why the absence of Atiba Hutchinson hasn’t hit Canada too hard, as Piette often seems like he fills 2 or 3 positions on the pitch. With that needed rest under his belt, as he recovered from what was an up and down campaign, he’ll put himself all out on the line against the Americans.
M- David Wotherspoon | SCO / St. Johnstone FC
A surprise on the surface, Wotherspoon’s inclusion raised some eyebrows, especially at the expense of the reliable Teibert. But with Teibert’s Whitecaps missing out, Wotherspoon gets in on the merit of strong performances, as he continues to stir the pot offensively despite St.Johntstone’s struggles. He recently put up a dominant against Hamilton, scoring 2 goals, a number that could have likely ended up at 3 or 4 based on how he played, and he has helped St.Johnstone win 2 of their last 3 games. A veteran head, having his experience around won’t hurt, and he will be a good substitute option with his work rate that he can bring off the bench.
F- Lucas Cavallini | MEX / Puebla FC
Despite rumours of an MLS move seemingly swirling around every week, Cavallini keeps on plugging away for Puebla, despite nearly leaving the club over the summer. While Puebla toils along, second last in this Liga MX Apertura campaign, Cavallini has continued his good form. He hasn’t scored since before the last international break, as Puebla has struggled to score goals on a whole, but he brings a good element to this Canadian side. As seen when he came off the bench against the Americans, his size and speed can give Canada a new look up top, and he doesn’t often miss his chances when presented with them. While he is unlikely to start against the US once again, as Herdman likely sticks with a similar midfield-heavy approach, Cavallini will definitely be relied upon to bring a new look off of the bench.
F- Jonathan David | BEL / KAA Gent
You just can’t keep David quiet. After a relatively calm period of 4 games without a goal, he has now scored in back-to-back league games, and now sits second in the Belgian League for goals with 8. Despite playing in the hole as an attacking midfielder, he finds a way to get things done, as he opens up plenty of space for his teammates. For Canada, he has excelled in a role up front, as Herdman prefers to play him up top or as a withdrawn winger, so look for him to make damage there for Les Rouges. With his versatility, he will bring value no matter where he is deployed, making him such a deadly option for this squad to have. After not scoring for 2 games with Canada, he will want to add to his 2019 tally in this window, as he has often not been held quiet when wearing the red and white this past year.
F- Alphonso Davies | GER / FC Bayern München
Our first ever zero, Davies earns it after a run of starts for Bayern, as he has become a revelation for the German club. While those starts have come at left back, a position that causes intense debate among Canadian fans and experts alike, seeing his growth has been something that everyone can unify around. He has been one of Bayern’s best players as of late, despite a poor run of form that saw manager Niko Kovac sacked, so he comes into this window fired up.
After a cherry on the cake performance against rivals Dortmund this past Saturday, where he was rated as the second-best player on the field after the scorching hot Robert Lewandowski, he comes into Canada’s camp at the top of his game. Look for him to be lethal against the Americans, as he will relied upon in a freer offensive role, something that he has no shortage of ability to be dangerous in.
F- David Junior Hoilett | WAL / Cardiff City FC
While Cardiff’s season this year has been less than memorable, as they sit 14th in the English second tier, Hoilett has continued to pick up regular game time. While his offence hasn’t been as proficient as expected, as he only has 2 goals in 12 games, his team has struggled on a whole, so it’s hard to be too surprised by his numbers.
As seen with his substitute performance for Canada last month, he still remains in good form, as a player of his calibre coming off the bench is a huge asset for Herdman to have. While he is unlikely to start, with Canada looking to set up shop and snatch a result, expect him to come on later in the game, as Herdman gives him an opportunity to stretch quiet legs. A leader in this squad, he’ll be bringing a good head to the young front line, as he faces some of his last chances to make some noise in a big tournament for his country.
F- Liam Millar | SCO / Kilmarnock FC
Millar continues to grow in his first full professional season, as he enjoys a strong second stint in Scotland, after making a good impression in his half-season with Kilmarnock last year. Only 20, he had progressed as far as he could with the Liverpool U23s, so him getting minutes is beneficial for all parties involved. While he only has 1 goal and 1 assist in 13 games, he is learning how to adapt to a professional environment, as he looks to make his way up to the Premier League.
While it’s hard to see him making a dent at Liverpool, at least for the foreseeable future, he does have the potential to make a mark at a midtable English club, with room for growth still possible. For Canada, he has become a useful substitute, as his speed is a deadly option for Herdman to have. It’s hard to see him featuring against the US, given the complexity of the fixture, but don’t be surprised if he gets thrown in if they lack a little bit of speed in transition up front.
On the Cusp:
GK- Alessandro Busti | ITA / Belluno (1/10)
GK- Marco Carducci | CAN / Cavalry FC (Calgary) (8/10)
GK- Simon Thomas | NOR / Kongsvinger IL (2/10)
CB- Manjrekar James | DEN / FC Mitjylland (5/10)
CB- Adam Straith | GER / FC Hansa Rostock (2/10)
CB- David Edgar | CAN / Forge (7/10)
FB- Brett Levis | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1/10)
FB- Ashtone Morgan | CAN / Toronto FC (1/10)
FB- Marcus Godinho | GER / FC Zwickau (1/10)
FB- Juan Córdova | CHI / CD Huachipato (7/10)
FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | CAN / Impact de Montréal (5/10)
M- Will Johnson | USA / Orlando City SC (5/10)
M- Noble Okello | CAN / Toronto FC (1/10)
M- Atiba Hutchinson | TUR / Beşiktaş JK (10/10)
M- Russell Teibert | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC (8/10)
M- Raheem Edwards | USA / Chicago Fire (2/10)
F- Tosaint Ricketts | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2/10)
F- Tesho Akindele | USA / Orlando City SC (5/10)
F- Cyle Larin | BEL / SV Zulte Waregem (10/10)
F- Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla | CAN / Impact de Montreal (2/10)
This time around, the biggest surprises are the absences of Cyle Larin, Russell Teibert, Atiba Hutchinson, David Edgar and Marco Carducci. While Larin and Hutchinson did earn calls, and both withdrew for personal reasons, it’s still a surprise to not see them on the squad, as they would bring a lot to this Canadian team.
With Hutchinson playing regular minutes again for Besiktas, while Larin continues his scorching form in Belgium, they’d give Canada some quality depth, but we will not see them until at least March. Hutchinson isn’t as young as he used to, so it is good to give him some rest, but it’s too bad that he will miss one of his last opportunities to take out the US. For Larin, it’s unfortunate that he had to withdraw for personal reasons, as he has turned a corner as of late, but it shows the new depth of Canada that his absence isn’t seen as that big of a deal.
For the Canadian Premier League players, finalists Carducci and Edgar, it was seen they could have featured after strong finals, but they ultimately did not make the cut. With 3rd goalie Leutwiler not playing much, Carducci was seen as someone that could have easily been brought in, but his next opportunity will now have to wait until next year. Edgar was seen as an outside chance, as he didn’t make as much noise as Carducci, but after a man of the match performance in the second leg of the CPL Finals, he could have brought experience to this Canada squad.
Arguably the biggest surprise is the omission of Teibert, who misses out despite being a regular for Canada, as his lack of recent minutes likely played a role in him missing out. While he is unlikely to play, he appears to be a leader on this Canadian team, and having him around gives them an extra veteran head. Based on his career trajectory, don’t be surprised if he sticks around next year, however, as he always seems to work his way back onto the radar when setbacks hit.
Besides that, not too many surprise absences from Canada’s squad, as they bring a mostly full-strength outfit to Orlando. As they chase a pivotal away result, they got the horses they need to run, now it’s to see how far they can gallop with them.
Canada takes on the US in a few days now, with things kicking off on Friday, November 15th. After a busy month of club football, it should be an exciting game, as both teams look to come out on top after an entertaining tilt last month. As Canada looks to establish itself as a top team in CONCACAF, another top performance versus the US would be huge, with the Americans still seen as one of the top 2 teams in the region.
Before things kick off, we should have plenty of content up on the site, so stay tuned for that. We’ve already got things going, as we released the first part of our tactical preview, and there is more to come on that front. Ahead of a pivotal clash, there will be a lot to talk about, and we’re excited to follow along as Canada continues their winding ‘Road to 2022’.
Up Next: Canada vs USA, Friday, November 15th, 2019, 16:00 PST, 19:00 EST (Exploria Stadium, Orlando)
Cover Image: Martin Bayzl/Canada Soccer