With the final set of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers just around the corner now, the CanMNT has called up a strong 25-man squad as they get set to finish the job that they’ve started here – qualify for the 2022 World Cup. In this, we break down that 25-man squad by ‘Surprise Rating’.
It’s that time again.
And in this instance, it’s bigger than ever.
For the CanMNT, that is, of course, the March international break, where Canada are looking to end off their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying journey in style, officially booking their spot in the 2022 World Cup, snapping a 36-year drought in the process.
Heading into the last 3 games of the ‘Octagonal’, the final round of CONCACAF’s qualification process, Canada is rolling, too. With wins in 6 straight games, they currently lead the Octo race by 4 points, and have a magic number of just 2 to get into the World Cup, all but putting them into Qatar already.
Because of that, it’s been an exciting time to watch this Canadian side. The lone undefeated team still remaining in the Octo, they’ve picked up some memorable results en route to where they are now, too, such as a 4-1 win over Panama in October, a 1-0 win over Costa Rica and a 2-1 win over Mexico in November, as well a 2-0 win over the US in January, showing what kind of run they’ve been on here.
So now, they’re looking to keep those good times rolling as they get set for these last 3 games, where they’ll take on Costa Rica away, Jamaica at home and Panama away. With a tough travel schedule and some tough opponents, it won’t be an easy set of games for them, but fresh off of a January window where they faced similar circumstances and came out with a trio of 2-0 wins, this Canadian team will feel like they can do anything at this point.
Despite being short handed, missing several key players, and sitting with a travel schedule of nightmares, they made things work in that window, so they’ll believe that they can do the same this time around, too.
And speaking of this camp, it’ll be interesting to see how they get on here, because while they’re not as shorthanded as they were in January, they’re still without some key players as they get set for these games.
For example, their main man, Alphonso Davies, remains out as he recovers from Myocarditis, which has sidelined him since January, although he is very close to a return with Bayern Munich. Along with the continued absence of David Wotherspoon, who has a serious knee injury, as well as the always reliable Samuel Piette, that does leave Canada without some key contributors for these games.
Along with the added poison pill that is suspension, as Canada will be missing Sam Adekugbe and Doneil Henry through suspension for the first game of this window against Costa Rica, and have 6 other players at risk of also getting suspended with another yellow card in either of the first two games, Canada is really going to get their depth tested here.
Yet that shouldn’t bother them. They got a taste of that in October, when they were hit by over a half-dozen absences, and they made it out all right, picking up 5 out of a possible 9 points despite a tough window then, before really flexing their depth with that 9/9 window in January.
And that’s why optimism is high in the Canadian ranks for this camp. Despite what lies ahead, they are confident that they won’t just book their spot at the World Cup this window, but will do so in style, potentially even making a bid to be a Pot 3 team (theoretically giving them an easier World Cup draw) in the process.
But speaking of that depth, this is a good time to really break down this squad, taking a look at the 25 players that will be representing Les Rouges on that historical quest over the next few weeks.
And to help do that, we’ll do what we always do ahead of these camps, and that’s to break down this squad by ‘Surprise Rating’. For those unfamiliar with the ‘Surprise Rating’, we’ll take a look at each player in the squad, giving them a rating from 1-10, with 1 being that their inclusion was so unsurprising that you’d bet your car on it, while a 10 is someone so surprising that you immediately checked Transfermarkt to confirm their existence.
Along with a blurb looking at how the player has done since its last call-up, it should help us get a better idea of the players that will look to bring Canada to the promised land this window, all while giving us a closer look at those to watch especially closely based on their recent form.
So without further ado, let’s dive right into that analysis.
(For reference, here is a full list of the 25-man squad called in by John Herdman for this window).
GK- Milan Borjan | SRB / FK Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
To start, there’s no better place to go than in goal, where leading the way we’ve got Canada’s veteran man in goal, the 34-year-old Borjan, who is looking to pick up where he left off in January, where he kept 3 consecutive clean sheets for Canada en route to their 9/9 window.
And the good news is that he enters this camp in strong form with Red Star Belgrade, too, increasing his odds of repeating such a feat. Tied atop the league again with Partizan after a slow start, all thanks to a 7-game winning streak (in which Borjan played 6, keeping 4 clean sheets), including a 2-0 win over Partizan, Red Star are on the cusp of winning their 5th straight league title with 3 games to go.
Along with a good run in the cup, where they’re in the quarter-finals after Borjan had a heroic game in the second round, saving 4 penalties in a PK shootout win, things are looking good right now for the Serbian giants, with Borjan playing a big role in their success. The only other thing missing for them is a run in Europe, as they were knocked out by Rangers in the Round of 16 in the Europa League, but other than that, they’ve been on a great run of form as of late.
So for Borjan, the table is set for him to come in and have another big camp for Canada, where he’ll be expected to start the big games once again, giving him a chance to continue to grow his cult-like status on this team. Be it via his big saves, his leadership, or his sweatpants, he has become a fan-favourite for a reason, and will look to continue that as his team closes out this qualifying run.
GK- Maxime Crépeau | USA / Los Angeles FC
But should Borjan not be able to play for whatever reason, the good news is that Canada has a very capable backup in the 27-year-old Crépeau, who has been one of the better goalkeepers in MLS for a reason these past few years.
Because of that, a surprise trade from the Vancouver Whitecaps to LAFC was seen as a big move for the LA side, and Crépeau has quickly proved why, getting off to a strong start for them this season.
With 3 wins, 2 clean sheets and just 2 goals conceded through 4 games so far this season with his new club, he has brought much-needed stability to a position where LAFC desperately needed it, instantly vaulting them into contention status in MLS once again after a lost year.
So while it’s clear that it’s Borjan’s goal for now with Canada (despite Crépeau’s best push to challenge that), should he be called upon this camp, have no fear. He stepped up huge in Borjan’s absence back in October, keeping 1 clean sheet and conceding just 2 goals in 3 tough games against Mexico (away), Jamaica (away) and Panama (home), so he’ll be more than ready to do the same if needed again here.
GK- Dayne St. Clair | USA / Minnesota United FC
Then to round off Canada’s goalkeeping corps, we then have a fresh face, but one that is also familiar with this Canadian team, and that’s the 24-year-old St.Clair.
And it is a deserved call-up for St.Clair, too, who after missing out on the November and January windows as he struggled for minutes with Minnesota United, comes into this camp in some pretty good form.
After a rough 2021, one where he entered the year expecting to be the starter for Minnesota before getting dropped after a nightmare first 4 games, he did end the year on a bit of a high note, making his first MLS start in 5+ months for Minnesota’s 1st round playoff game against Portland Timbers, as usual starter Tyler Miller missed out on that game with COVID. His side ended up losing that game to the eventual finalists, the Timbers, unfortunately, but St.Clair did well despite that, reminding onlookers that he just needed an opportunity to shine.
And that has come this year, as Miller then picked up an illness after playing the first two games, leading St.Clair to helm the Minnesota net for the past two matches, where he’s picked up back-to-back clean sheets. Because of that, that vaulted him right back into the Canadian conversation, who are familiar with him after calling him up for 4 out of 7 of their camps in the past calendar year, even giving him his first cap (and cap-tying him) in a qualifier against Aruba.
So although he is unlikely to play unless there’s an emergency, it’s a welcome return to Les Rouges for St.Clair, who many are high on for good reason, as he projects to be right in the thick of that fight for the #1 spot on this Canadian team long-term.
CB- Derek Cornelius | GRE / Panetolikos FC
Shifting over to the centre backs, leading the way there is the 24-year-old Cornelius, who enters this camp in solid form at the club level, which is hoped can translate over to Les Rouges here.
Still on loan with Panetolikos in the Greek Super League from the Vancouver Whitecaps, he’s continued to be on a roll for them since Canada’s January camp, playing the full 90 minutes in 7 out of a possible 7 games (while even scoring a goal along the way). Thanks to that, he’s helped his side sit 12 points above the relegation playoffs and 19 points above the relegation zone with just 6 games to go, putting them close to their pre-season goal of wanting to avoid relegation.
Because of that, it feels like this camp could be a big one for Cornelius. With his form, he was already a shout to earn some minutes here, but with Canada’s main man at the back, Steven Vitoria, potentially struggling with a knock, and fellow regular Doneil Henry suspended for the opening game, Cornelius could get a chance to impress right from the first match.
And after not playing a single minute in the January camp, it’d be a good way to put his name in the hat for more Canadian appearances going forward, of which he certainly deserves after his recent form, as he’s quietly grown leaps and bounds during his time in Greece.
CB- Doneil Henry | USA / Los Angeles FC
But speaking of Henry, while the 28-year-old will miss out on Canada’s first game, that doesn’t mean he can’t play a big role in this camp for head coach, John Herdman.
Having signed with Crépeau at LAFC since the last camp, where he’s played 3 games (two short cameos off the bench and a 90-minute start), things are looking good now for Henry, who finally cleared up his club situation after he left Suwon Samsung Bluewings at the end of 2021. That didn’t cause him too much of a problem, to be fair to him, as he still made Canada’s squad last window despite leaving Suwon, as he was on trial with Real Salt Lake, so it’s good to know that he’ll be getting reps for a good LAFC side now.
And that’ll help Canada this camp, as he’ll look to keep his role as a key rotational piece in this Canadian squad. Considering that in 7 games this World Cup qualifying cycle (including 4 in the Octo), Canada has just conceded 1 goal with Henry on the pitch, that shows how he has stepped up whenever he’s played for Canada as of late, and he’ll look to do the same this window.
A key leader on this team, he’ll look to make the most of any opportunity he’s given here, something he’s become quite good at doing over the last year.
CB- Scott Kennedy | GER / SSV Jahn Regensburg
And continuing on that theme of increased opportunity, another name that could stand to really step up this camp is the 24-year-old Scott Kennedy, who has continued to quietly impress onlookers with his play over in Germany.
There, he’s continued to be a key regular for Jahn Regensburg, playing all 6 of their games since returning from Canada’s January camp, putting up some strong performances despite his team’s recent struggles, which included a 7-game winless run, one that they snapped this past weekend with a 1-0 win over SC Paderborn.
The bad news from that game, however, was that Kennedy had to leave that game with a knock, and while it didn’t look too serious, leading to his inclusion in this squad, that is never ideal. Considering how solid Kennedy looked back in January, where he slotted seamlessly back into the squad after a lengthy absence, he looks ready to step up here for Canada, so hopefully that knock doesn’t stand in the way of his ability to do that.
But if he does see the field, however, keep a close eye on him, as it feels like he’s ready to really take a step forward in a Canadian shirt now, especially after a solid return to the fold back in January. Considering how good he’s already been in just the 7 caps that he’s gotten for Les Rouges, that’s scary, but shows why many are very high on Kennedy, who looks like a key piece for this backline in the long-term.
CB- Kamal Miller | CAN / CF Montréal
But continuing what is an absolute bloodbath in terms of the battle for the starting left centre back though, there is also the 24-year-old Miller to consider, who remains as a key part of this Canadian backline for a reason.
It’s been a mixed start to the season for Miller and CF Montreal, no doubt, as they’re winless in MLS play and bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions League in the quarter-finals to Cruz Azul after a nice Round of 16 win over Santos Laguna, but you can feel that better things are on the horizon based on the flashes that they’ve shown in their games.
And Miller is a prime example of that, as while he’s played all but 65 minutes of Montreal’s season so far, he hasn’t yet looked the same dominant force that he was for them last year, but you can feel that it’s coming for him soon.
So for Canada, they’ll look to hope that this camp can give him some new life, as he’s been excellent in the 9 games that he’s played so far this Octo (7 starts), always seeming to find a way to step up his game whenever he pulls on the Canadian shirt. Because of that, Herdman will hope for him to do the same here, continuing to step up for this team when needed, while also giving him a bit of a reset button for his 2022 campaign at the same time.
CB- Steven Vitória | POR / Moreirense FC
And then, to round off a solid group of centre backs, we’ve got Canada’s veteran man at the back, the 35-year-old Vitoria, who remains a key part of this team for a reason.
It’s been a bit of a tough year for him at the club level, as the usually midtable Moreirense is currently in the relegation zone, and he’s had to miss several of their games due to injury and suspension, but the good news is that he looks to be good to go for this window. There are some worries with him right now, as he’s played just once for Moreirense since the last camp, missing a bunch of matches due to suspension and then a knock, but his inclusion seems to suggest that it’s all systems go for him this camp.
So because of that, look for him to play a big role in this window once again. He hasn’t always been able to make it out on the pitch for Canada due to suspension and his age, but when he has, he’s been solid, making 8 appearances this Octo (7 starts), cementing himself as the rock on this backline.
Given what’s at stake this time around, Herdman will need him to do much of the same again here, and you know that he’ll be up for it, as much as his body allows.
FB- Samuel Adekugbe | TUR / Hatayspor FC
Shifting out wide, though, we’ve then got the full backs, where leading the way is the 27-year-old Adekugbe, whose stock continues to rise like a tech company in the 2000s for this Canadian team.
But that just shows how solid he continues to be for Hatayspor, where he’s not just established himself as a reliable piece for them, but has proven to be one of the more consistent full backs in the Turkish league as a whole. Thanks to that, he’s been able to consistently rack up 90-minute performances there, of which he’s done in their last 6 league games and 1 cup game after returning from the Canadian fold, pushing Hatayspor to 7th place (and within touching distance of the European spots) in the league, although their cup run did end with heartbreak in the Round of 16.
And heading into another Canadian camp without their star left back, Davies, is huge, as Herdman is going to need him to play the sort of role that he did in January, where with Davies out, Adekugbe saw the field for all 270 minutes.
Unfortunately, he won’t exactly be able to replicate that feat this camp, as he is suspended for the first game due to yellow card accumulation, which will snap a run of 5 consecutive 90-minute outings for him with Canada, but he’ll be available and ready to go for the last 2 games, where you’d expect him to pick up where he left off in January. Because of that, he’s definitely one to watch for Canada, where he’s arguably been the biggest breakout contributor for them this Octo.
FB- Cristián Gutierrez | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Sticking at the left back position, though, it was important that Canada shore up their depth here given Adekugbe’s suspension and Davies’s continued absence, which is why the 25-year-old Gutierrez was called in once again this camp.
In solid form for the Vancouver Whitecaps, where he’s so far played 4 games this season (2 starts), he’s a natural fit for Herdman’s back 3 system, having played both at left and right wing back for the ‘Caps. There’s a reason why the ‘Caps rely heavily on Gutierrez down the flanks, as he can make things happen on both sides of the ball, something he has wasted no time in reminding people of so far this MLS season.
Because of that, he should be raring to go in this first game of camp, where he’ll look to use Adekugbe’s absence to prove that he should earn more minutes going forward. Yet to make his debut in either of the two inclusion’s he’s had in Canada’s squad, it looks like 3rd time will be the charm for him here, making him one to watch.
FB- Alistair Johnston | CAN / CF Montréal
At the same time, there’s a reason why we said that Adekugbe is only ‘arguably’ the biggest breakout contributor on this Canadian side this Octo, and that’s because of the play of the 23-year-old Johnston, who has become a key part of Herdman’s plans for a reason.
So although he’s slowly been getting used to life with his new club over at CF Montreal, where he’s played 7 out of 8 of their games after a surprise trade from Nashville this offseason, it’s expected that he plays a big role for Canada this camp.
Having played in all 11 games this Octo for Canada (9 starts), he’s cemented his spot in Herdman’s backline, where he’s mostly played as the right centre back in a back 3, sometimes filling in at full back and wing back.
And considering how good Canada’s defence has been, conceding just 5 goals through 11 games, Johnston has played a big role in that, which is why he is most definitely someone to keep a close eye on this camp, as he looks to continue his stellar play for Les Rouges.
FB- Richie Laryea | ENG / Nottingham Forest FC
Elsewhere, another name expected to play a big role for Canada this camp is the 27-year-old Laryea, who despite a rough start to life with his new club, Nottingham Forest, is still a key part of this Canadian side for a reason.
At the same time, there is a lot to be worried about with Laryea’s form, as he hasn’t played a single minute since featuring for Canada in January, still yet to make his debut for Forest, who he joined just ahead of that camp.
Because of that, while he’s expected to play a big role for this Canadian team in this window, it’ll be interesting to see if rust ends up being a factor for him. Having started 9 out of 11 games this Octo, he’s a key leader on this side, but given how important he is to Canada’s right side of the pitch, you do wonder how a bit of rust might impact him.
So seeing that, it’s made him one to watch here, but for different reasons than usual, as he looks to fight through that lack of recent minutes at the club level to make an impact once again for Canada, continuing a big World Cup qualifying cycle for him.
M- Stephen Eustáquio | POR / FC Porto
And speaking of guys who have had a big World Cup qualifying cycle for Canada, that leads us perfectly to the 25-year-old Eustaquio, who headlines a strong group of midfielders on this Canadian side.
But while he’s a key regular on this Canadian side, where he has become the heartbeat of their midfield, he comes into this camp in interesting form, having played sporadically at his new club, FC Porto, since a move there on loan in January.
The good news, however? He’s really grown into his role at his new club as of late, slowly earning more and more minutes, which included a start against Lyon in the Europa League last week, pushing him to 6 appearances (2 starts) for the club now.
So because of that, it should set him up to be a huge part of this Canadian side once again this window. Having not played enough to be tired, but not having played so little that he’d be rusty, he comes to this camp in a decent spot, setting the table to really munch some minutes for Canada here.
And considering that he only was able to play one game last camp after picking up COVID, that’s huge for Canada, who really missed him there, even if they were able to pick up some good results without him, as there was a reason why he had featured in every other game they played in the Octo up to that point.
But with him healthy once again here, they’ll hope that he can get back to playing his usual role in Canada’s midfield, giving him a chance to show why he’s been slowly pushing himself into the conversation of the best midfielders in CONCACAF as of late, making him one to keep a close eye on this camp.
M- Liam Fraser | BEL / KMSK Deinze
But beyond Eustaquio, there’s a reason why many see the midfield as Canada’s strongest area of depth on their squad, and the 24-year-old Fraser is a prime example of that, as he’s quietly become a key part of Herdman’s side this past year.
And considering that he’s continuing to play regular minutes at the club level, that makes him an easy inclusion into this squad, too. Things haven’t necessarily gone as planned for him at his new club, KMSK Deinze, who he joined in January, as they now sit 4th place in the Belgian second division, 9 points out of the promotion playoffs, but Fraser has been consistently logging minutes since he arrived there, playing in 7 straight games for them heading into this camp.
So even though it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll stay in the Belgian second tier next season (unless someone buys him, he has a contract there until 2024), that leaves him as a key name in the Canadian mix, ready to step up if needed. And with Samuel Piette out of this camp with an injury, the table is set for him to potentially see the field in some key situations, as he looks to add to the 4 appearances he already has for Canada this Octo.
He might not play much here, but Herdman hasn’t shied away from throwing him into the deep end if needed, so keep an eye on Fraser this camp, as you know that he’ll be ready to step up if called upon.
M- Atiba Hutchinson | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
With this being such a big window for Canada, you sometimes need a bit of experience, and the good news is that they have that in the form of 39-year-old Hutchinson, who less than a year from turning 40, continues to play a huge role for both Besiktas and Canada.
And speaking of Besiktas, it has to be highlighted how consistent he’s been for them, as since the last Canadian camp, he’s featured in 8 out of 9 games for the Turkish giants, continuing to play a big role for them as their captain. He might not always go the full 90 minutes anymore, as he has to manage his body right, especially if he wants to play for Canada, but when he does play, he makes the most of it.
So while Besiktas have struggled this year, sitting 8th in the league and out of the cup and Europe (although they did win the Super Cup), as they’ve had a bit of a hangover after winning the domestic double last year, Hutchinson has remained consistent throughout that. And that’s carried over to Canada, too, where he’s played 7 out of 11 games for them this Octo, even scoring 2 goals (both game-winners against El Salvador, ironically), just showing why he is seen as an ageless wonder in Canadian and Besiktas circles.
Because of that, it’s expected he plays a big role in this camp, continuing a strong run for him with Canada. For the first time in his almost 20 years with Canada, they’re finally on the cusp of a World Cup, and almost fittingly, Hutchinson is playing a big role in that, continuing a legendary career for the man who continues to defy the aging curve.
M- Mark-Anthony Kaye | USA / Colorado Rapids
Otherwise, one key aspect of Canada’s midfield depth is that they’ve got all sorts of different profiles to rely upon, and a great example of that is the 27-year-old Kaye, who remains as a key Swiss Army Knife for both club and country.
And he comes into this camp in strong form, too, having started all 6 games for the Colorado Rapids this year, even scoring 2 goals in his last 2 games heading into this camp. It’s been a mixed bag for them as a team, as they started the year be getting upset in the CONCACAF Champions League by Guatemalan side Comunicaciones, but they’ve made up for it with a good run in MLS, where they sit tied for 4th in the Western Conference, as they look to follow up a 2021 season where they finished 1st in the conference before a surprise 1st round exit (with Kaye playing a big role there after a midseason trade).
As a result, it’s set the table nicely for Kaye to come in and have a big camp for Canada, where he remains a key part of this team. There’s a reason why he’s seen the field 8 times this Octo (4 as a starter), as he can bring a lot to the pitch as both a starter and off the bench, and will look to do so once again here.
So although it’s hard to project how many minutes he might get here, expect to see him get on the field a few times, showing why he’s become a key regular under Herdman.
M- Ismaël Koné | CAN / CF Montréal
And speaking of different profiles, that’s where we get to our first and only real surprise of this squad, which has to be the inclusion of the 19-year-old Koné, who is getting his first call-up to Canada at any level with this camp.
But for those who have been paying attention to the youngster, it’s fully deserved, as he’s gotten off to an excellent start to the season for CF Montreal, emerging as a bright light through their tough start. Despite entering this year without any professional minutes under his belt, he’s wasted no time in hitting the ground running since making his debut, playing 7 games (6 starts), in which he’s grabbed 2 goals, 2 assists, very impressive numbers for any youngster, let alone a midfielder.
Yet, that just shows the sort of profile that Koné has, as while he has always been a winger and attacking midfielder since his academy days, he’s been thrust into a starting role with Montreal as a box-to-box #8, and he’s not looked out of place at all in that role. In fact, with a good combination of technical skills, physical tools and soccer IQ, he’s looked like a veteran at times, impressing onlookers with his silky play.
Because of that, it made him a deserved call-up to this squad, especially when his Montreal teammate, Samuel Piette, was ruled out with an injury, opening up the door for him to get his first call here.
So while it’s yet unsure if he’ll see the field or not, as he now has to get up to speed with Canada’s system and its players, based on what we’ve seen from him, you wouldn’t put it past him finding a way to earn some minutes, making him one to watch for a reason.
M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC
Continuing that theme of versatility, however, we’ve then got someone who epitomizes every aspect of the word, that being the 29-year-old Osorio, who is looking to build off of what has already been a strong start to the season for him here.
It’s expected to be an interesting year for him at the club level, as Toronto FC is currently in a rebuilding phase, but Osorio has been counted upon as a veteran presence on a young side, playing every minute for them so far through 4 games. And he’s made the most of those minutes, too, scoring 2 goals already, including his 50th for the club (all competitions), which came in a win over DC United in their last game before the break.
Which for Canada, is exciting, as Osorio has played in all but one game this Octo (6 as a starter), scoring 1 goal, showing how crucial he’s become to this Canadian team. Much like Kaye, be it as a starter, or off the bench, he’s a name that Herdman can trust in different situations, with his all-around ability being a big reason why.
Seeing that, expect him to play a big role here once again, especially given his strong club form, as he looks to round off what has already been a solid World Cup qualifying campaign for him on a personal level.
F- Tajon Buchanan | BEL / Club Brugge KV
Having gone through all of the midfielders, however, it feels fitting to end off this piece with a look at the attackers, and there’s no better place to start than with the 23-year-old Buchanan, who has continued to adjust to life in new settings over at Club Brugge as of late.
There, he’s become a regular on the Belgian giants, playing in 9 out of 13 games since arriving there in January, only missing 3 because of international duty back in January, and 1 because of COVID. Despite playing as more of a left wing back, instead of his usual right winger position, he’s not looked out of place in that position, either, picking up 2 assists, too.
Thanks to that, it’s pushed Brugge right back into the title race, as they sit just 5 points behind Union Saint-Gilloise with a few games to go before the championship round, giving his side a real shot at tasting silverware and returning to the Champions League once again next year. Plus, that’s also allowed them to make up for being eliminated from the semi-finals of the cup, as well as an early exit from European Football after a strong start there, which is a bonus, too.
So seeing all of that, there’s no doubt that Buchanan can have a big camp for Canada now, as he looks to show off the growth that he’s been able to pick up playing in a new position for a big team. Already a key part of this Canadian side from his New England Revolution, he can really take a big step forward here, especially with there being no Davies, which could set the table for a big camp for the always-improving attacker.
F- Lucas Cavallini | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
And on the theme of players who have really found their legs as of late, there might be no better example of that in this squad than the 29-year-old Cavallini, who enters this camp back in form again at the club level.
After a nightmare end to last year, as injuries and a lack of form saw him drop in the pecking order for both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada, Cavallini has come out motivated to start this year, looking like a whole new player for the ‘Caps. Thanks to that, he was recently able to snap a goal scoring drought that dated back to July 4th of last year, putting some wind back in his sails.
So while it’s been a tough start for the ‘Caps, who sit as one of the worst teams in MLS so far, Cavallini has been far from their biggest worry, stepping up as the ‘Caps deal with the absence of 2021 top scorer, Brian White, who has dealt with injury.
Because of all that, things are looking nice for Cavallini heading into this window, where he’s looking to add to the measly 22 minutes that he’s been able to pick up across 3 appearances off the bench so far this Octo for Canada. As a key leader on and off the pitch, he’ll be eager to remind people why he’s been a key part of this Canadian side for several years now, pushing his way back up the depth chart in the process.
F- Jonathan David | FRA / Lille OSC
But while Cavallini is looking to push his way up the depth chart, one name who is trying to keep his spot at the top of that chart is the 22-year-old David, who despite a tough run of form at the club level as of late, remains one of the more lethal strikers in CONCACAF, as well as the world.
At the same time, it’s worth noting how hard things have been for David as of late, as he has just 1 goal in his last 12 games for Lille dating back to December 22nd, which came back on March 6th against Clermont Foot.
After going on a tear to start the season, it’s been a tough spell for David, but that’s just a taste of what it’s been like at Lille this year, who after surprising onlookers to upset PSG and win Ligue 1 last year, sit 6th in the league this year, finding themselves just outside the European spots (for now). Along with a surprise elimination from the French Cup to Lens in the 4th round, and a tough loss to Chelsea in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, just making it back to Europe is the goal for them now, showing how rough the post-championship hangover has been for the Dogues.
The good news is that shouldn’t impact David’s play for Canada, however. Fresh off of what was arguably his best window in a Canadian shirt back in January, where he had 2 goals and 1 assist in 3 games, he’ll be looking to keep that run going this camp.
As one of the star players on this team, Canada are going to be looking for him to step up in a big way here, and based on what he’s shown in the past, he’ll be ready to do that, making him one to watch closely again in this camp. He is co-leader in goals this Octo with 5 for a reason, so all that’s left is for him to add to that tally now, of which you’d like to think he’s going to do, especially based on what he showed last time out.
F- David Junior Hoilett | ENG / Reading FC
Continuing through the attackers, that leads us to a sometimes forgotten but key piece, and that’s the 31-year-old Hoilett, who will be looking to translate some strong form at the club level over to Canada this camp.
It’s been a mixed year for him over at Reading, who are just 5 points above the relegation zone in the Championship, but Hoilett has continued to plug away for them, appearing in 9 out of 10 games since Canada’s January camp, just missing out on one game due to a red card suspension. There, despite a lack of production (he has just 1 assist in those 9 games), he’s been playing well, too, putting in some quality performances out wide despite Reading’s struggles.
So as he gets set for this camp, it’s hoped that he can find a way to continue rolling here for Canada. Having played 6 out of 11 games this Octo, he’s a key part of this team, so even though he is yet to play more than 65 minutes for Canada in any of those games, he can do a job if needed, no matter what Herdman asks of him.
Even though minutes might be hard to come by with Canada’s strong attacking depth, you know that he’ll make the most of what he does get, showing why he’s a key veteran piece on this young squad, always finding a way to make an impact when he does see the field.
F- Cyle Larin | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
And speaking of that attacking depth, one of the headliners in that regard has to be the 26-year-old Larin, who despite a mixed campaign at the club level, remains a dangerman for Canada.
So although he’s scored just 7 goals for Besiktas this season, including none in his past 7 games since Canada’s January camp, a far cry from the 23 he managed in 2021/2022, don’t be fooled by that. Larin has battled injuries all year long, and with Besitkas’s inconsistent form, it’s made things a bit tougher for him to get going like he did last year.
For Canada, though, that hasn’t been a problem, as there is a reason why he co-leads the Octo goalscoring race with David, scoring 5 goals in just 7 games as he’s battled injury. For whatever reason, no matter what form he’s in at the club level, he scores goals as soon as he dons the maple leaf, which is why he has 15 goals in this past calendar year, vaulting him to the top spot atop the all-time CanMNT top scorer list.
Because of that, it makes him one to watch here, as you have to imagine he has a goal or two in him now. He might not play every minute of this camp, as his minutes will have to be closely managed given some of his injury woes, but when he does get on, he’ll look to make the most of it, as he’s done so far this Octo for Canada.
F- Liam Millar | SUI / FC Basel
But going from someone who can’t score at the club level right now but has been pouring them in for Canada in Larin, we’ve then got someone who is in the opposite situation, and that’s the 22-year-old Millar, who remains in excellent form over in Switzerland.
There, he’s been seemingly scoring goals for fun, now up to 9 goals on the season (all competitions), including 2 in the 10 games that he’s played since Canada’s January camp, solid returns from a winger. So even though it’s been a mixed campaign for Basel, as while they’re second in the league, they are 12 points behind FC Zurich, and are out of the cup and Europe, Millar has emerged as one of the bright lights on their team.
So now, all that’s left is to translate that form over to Canada. There, despite already having 15 caps, he just hasn’t been able to buy a goal, coming so close on many occasions, but still finding himself yet to open his account internationally.
Based on his form, though, it feels like it’ll come sooner rather than later, maybe as soon as this camp, showing why those who have been following him closely have been so impressed this year, allowing him to cement a spot in this Canada squad this Octo, where he’s played a solid 4 games (3 starts).
F- Iké Ugbo | BEL / KRC Genk
Lastly, but most certainly not least, we’ve got someone who has been flying under the radar as of late, and that’s the 23-year-old Ugbo, who is really looking to take a big step forward for Canada this window.
Having made a surprise loan move to Ligue 1’s Troyes from Genk right at the end of the January window, he’s done well to get quickly integrated into the French side, starting all 6 games that he’s been available for since returning from international duty. Not only that, but he’s been productive, too, scoring 2 goals in those 6 games, helping Troyes to now sit 6 points out of the relegation zone and 2 points out of the relegation playoffs, giving them hope that they can survive in Ligue 1 (and maybe trigger his purchase option that they hold).
Because of that, he comes into this camp as one of Canada’s more in-form attackers, making him a shout to earn more minutes here. Having only committed to the program back in November, he might’ve been a late addition to the player pool, but he looks to have fit in quite nicely already, and considering his form, it looks like he’s primed to build on the 2 caps he has to his name already.
Seeing what he’s been able to do in Ligue 1, you can only imagine what he could do for Canada with the right opportunity, as he brings a unique profile to this side as a #9, making him one to keep a close eye on not only this camp, but long-term as he continues to grow as a player.
So there we have it – Canada’s 25-man roster for this camp, broken down by ‘Surprise Rating’.
And, almost surprisingly (ironic, right?), this might be one of Canada’s least surprising rosters of the past year other than Koné, showing how far things have come for them as of late. If anything, the biggest surprise is that Canada is now able to leave players playing regularly in good leagues such as Theo Corbeanu or Raheem Edwards at home, showing that not only are they in great form as a team, sitting as the new team to beat in CONCACAF, but they’ve also doing so off the back of their depth, not just relying on their stars.
Because of that, that’s allowed them to succeed in the grind that has been the Octo, where they’ve taken on every challenge that has lied ahead of them without much worry.
Now, they face arguably their toughest challenge yet, one that will certainly give them a lot to think about over these next few weeks, but they’ll be hungry and motivated for that, knowing that if they overcome it, a spot in the promised land awaits – the 2022 World Cup.
It’s going to be a tough one, no doubt, but nothing has been easy on this journey, of which they’ve learned a lot about themselves, leading them to be where they are today, on the cusp of glory.
Up Next: Canada vs Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24th, 2022, 19:05 PDT, 22:05 EDT (Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose)
Cover Photo via: Canada Soccer/Beau Chevalier