We have seen the Canadian Mens National team play 4 games this fall so we have a good sense who is a part of coach Stephen Hart's long term and short term plans but what can we expect for the team this weekend and going forward in to next year should they bag that single point. I will take a look at all the players who have been called (including the ones who never saw the field, or even practice) and assess where they stand as a part of the team going forward.
As expected in any exercise like this there will be plenty of room for debate, some points that everyone will be able to agree on, and probably at least one occasion where you all think I am just crazy. That is the fun though of trying to decide who has earned the right to keep playing a part in Canada's World Cup dream. Some players will be ruled out of any dream of 2014 due to age, others a lack of skill, and still others will be out because we hopefully have a young player come through as an upgrade on them.
So without further ado lets get down to it.Let's get things started with the keepers we have used:
Lars Hirschfeld: He has been the go to guy in terms of Canadian goalkeepers this year getting the call every time but he inspires so little faith from the fans. He has made some big saves for the team in the first 4 games but also let in at least one puzzling goal. The fact that he is not all that young any more at 33 means that this qualifying campaign will be his last hurrah and most fans are hoping he will stop being our first choice keeper as soon as next year.
Milan Borjan: He is my personal choice in goal for Canada and I think many fans would actually agree with me. He is not a world class keeper by any means but seems to be the most solid option that Canada has right now. He also has the added bonus of being only 24 years old. I would say that unless someone makes a very rapid rise Borjan is going to be Canada's number 1 going forward. His involvement has been limited to only 1 start this fall due to injury and not being called this time around but I expect that to change.
Kenny Stamatopoulos: Yah, not a fan of him even getting a recall to Canada let alone getting a start and then getting called again. Sure he is an alright keeper but he is not really anything special. He was not really even good enough to stick with TFC so at 32 I hope he fades from Hart's mind really fast.
So now on to the defenders that Canada has used thus far.
Nik Ledgerwood: In the back line that lacks depth Nik has become a fixture getting called into the squad all three times this fall. At 26 years of age he is in a good position to play a key role for Canada going forward. I expect Nik to at the very least continue to be a depth option for Canada going into next year and beyond but it is safe to say that he will add to his 13 caps.
Kevin McKenna: He is a player who has been a fixture for Canada for quite sometime now and has been one of the best defensive options for much of that time. At 31 though, this will certainly be his last kick at the can but if he can keep his form up and stay healthy he should continue to get called up. He is a good defender and capable of chipping in with the odd goal so his place in the roster is his to lose. He is not with the team this time around but that is because of injury.
André Hainault: In my eyes he is Canada's best defender and should be getting called any chance that we have. That said, things seem to be just that little bit rocky with the Dynamo defender of late. Having turned down the October call to focus on his clubs playoff push, this time around it appears he was not even called as Houston were still involved in the playoffs. Hopefully come next year with the stakes being higher he will get his priorities in a different order and show up for Canada when we need him. He is only 25 now so if Canada is going to do anything in the near future he needs to be part of it.
Ante Jazic: He is one of the more senior members of the squad at 35 years of age so playing until 2014 might be a bit of a stretch but until Ashtone Morgan reaches the point where he is the first choice left back it would be wise to keep calling Jazic. He has been called all three times this fall and put in solid performances so far. If he can keep playing at the level and avoid the injuries that often come with age he should remain on Hart's radar.
Dejan Jakovic: Was only called up in September but his absences since then have had more to do with injuries than with him falling out of favour with the coaching staff. Injuries have cost him a lot of chances to play for Canada but when he does suit up he seems to be part of the best possible backline. He is just entering his prime at 26 years old so even with limited time with the team this fall I expect him to be back next year and beyond.
Jaime Peters: He got the call in September but has not been involved since. He has all kinds of talent and at 24 years of age has a long playing future in front of him but he does not seem to be one of Hart's first choices of late. A player like Peters is someone who I consider to be more of a depth player for Canada and his pace and skill and inject something into the bigger games off the bench.
Ashtone Morgan: Thought he was one for the future but his two call ups to the national team suggest that the future is now. He is in a prime position to take over the first choice leftback position from Jazic so a good showing in these two games will only help to speed that process along. Still only the one sub appearance for Canada but at only 20 years of age he is one player that Canada will be relying on for a long time, so his development will be crucial.
Adam Straith: He missed out on the call in September but was given his chance in a depleted back line in October Straith was impressive picking up assists and playing some good defense. That seems to have earned him a recall this time around where he will need to continue to impress. Like Morgan his development will be key for Canada's future success as he is only 21 years old now. I expect Hart to keep easing him in to a more prominent role with the team in hopes that he can be a rock in the back line for years.
David Edgar: No September call but injuries gave him the chance to play in October. He impressed in the middle of the park next to Straith and has earned another shot this month. As long as he keeps playing regular minutes for his club then he should continue to get the chances with Canada. He is 24 now and could be involved with Canada for sometime to come. It will be a real boost for the team if he and Straith can form a solid partnership in the central defense.
Mike Klukowski: As a 30 year old he is a member of that old guard that has been toiling for Canada for a long time now. He continues to represent a solid option in the back line for at least the next couple of years but with his best position being left back he might fall behind Morgan sooner rather than later.
Nana Attakora: Seemed to fall off the radar for coach Hart after having a very rough year at club level. He is back with the squad now and will need to impress. With several other young defenders already making good impressions, if Attakora wants to play a part this qualifying cycle the 22 year old is going to have to rediscover some form quickly in the 2012 season.
Now on to the midfielders!
Julian de Guzman: Has to be one of the first names that gets put in to the 18 man roster. He has been rightly called every chance this year including the Gold Cup and all three rounds of qualifiers. He is not getting any younger at 30 years old but he will be around for this entire cycle no matter how long it lasts. He seems focused on making the most of his last kick at the can. No doubt he is one of Canada's best options in midfield.
Terry Dunfield: I like Terry but I think for Canada he is becoming a fringe player. He missed out on the call up this month even with Hutch out injured so that might say something about where he stands with Hart at the moment. He is not getting any better at 29 and he does not have the quality to compete with the top midfielders in CONCACAF. That said he is a solid player and provides depth so I expect him to keep having some part to play going forward even if it is diminished.
Will Johnson: The 24 year old Real Salt Lake player is one for the present and the future. He is also fast becoming a player who can't be left out for the national team as he brings skill and grit in the middle of the park. He has impressed in every game he has played for Canada this fall and there is no doubt about his place going in to next year and beyond. He is my pick to be captain of the national team before long.
Josh Simpson: Guess we will call him a midfielder even though he spends more time playing as a wide attacking player. He is 28 now so still going to be around for this entire qualifying cycle and I think most fans consider him as a player who should get called almost every time. I like him more coming off the bench to bring increased scoring punch but until we get someone like Hoillet on the team he should play a decent role.
Atiba Hutchinson: What to say about Hutch? Well when he is actually fit he is the best and single most important player that Canada has. The bad part is he often is not fit, including being out since the September games. He should be literally the first name that Hart looks into whenever Canada is playing. He is 28 now so he should keep being a key player for Canada to 2014 and beyond hopefully.
Joseph Di Chiara: Hard to get a real read on him but one thing is clear and that is he was called mainly so the coaching staff could get a better look at him. The fact that he did not play in October and was not called again this month suggests to me that he is not ready to be involved with the national team just yet. He is only 19 now so time is on his side and we might just see him again this cycle depending on how well he can progress.
Matt Stinson: Got a surprise call this month but had to pull out because of injury so will have to wait for his chance to debut for Canada. I think his debut might be put off for a while now though with the pressure being a lot greater next year. He is 19 now so he also has time on his side and if he improves he might get the call again this cycle but I won't be banking on it considering the other options Canada has in the mid.
Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault: Called as a replacement in the first two rounds of fixtures but this month he got the call from the get go. He is a versatile player who can lineup in the midfield and the back line so he is a good depth piece for Canada. I would prefer him to not play much for the national team next year though as he just does not seem to be up to the needed standard. Still, at 23 he may still get better but I'm not really counting on it.
Patrice Bernier: He used to be a fixture for Canada but injuries kept him away from the team for a year before getting a call for this latest round of fixtures. Bernier will need to take this chance to reassert himself as being one of Canada's best midfielders as the 32 year old will certainly be seeing this as his last chance to make it to a World Cup. When he is fit and playing regular club football he should be getting the call every time in my eyes until he retires or starts to decline. Capable of being a real leader for this team.
And now for the attackers!
Dwayne De Rosario: Has been set to take over Canada's all time scoring record for some time now but the MLS MVP finalist just has not seemed to put it all together when playing for Canada. He is a leader for the team and has the ability to be a difference maker but he still often leaves fans wanting. The 33 year old has made it clear that he knows this is his last chance to make a World Cup and unless something changes drastically he will continue to be a fixture in Hart's rosters.
Tosaint Ricketts: Hart seems to see him as more of a bench player who he can use as an impact sub and it has been working well this fall. Ricketts is capable of coming off the bench and providing all kinds of liveliness up front and is more then capable of chipping in with a few goals. His role with the team should only increase going forward and hopefully the 24 year old can bag many more goals for Canada for years to come.
Simeon Jackson: Unlike Hoillet he is a Premiership player who actually represents Canada and even with him getting limited minutes at Norwich Hart has made it clear that Jackson is too good to be left off the roster. The 24 year old is just starting to find his stride for the national team and is going to be a key player in any success that this group has both short term and long term. Will be most interesting to see where Hart uses him again and if he continues to try and play him out wider.
Olivier Occean: Was called all three times but missed out on September's games due to injury. Many fans are looking at him to be a potential solution to Canada's lack of a true centre forward that is better than say Ali Gerba or Rob Friend. He was alright last month but if he wants to be The Man for Canada up front he will need to be even better. Bad news is he is not going to get any better as a 30 year old, but I think he'll still play a part since he is better then the aforementioned duo.
Iain Hume: Left out of the squad this month due to an injury, but has impressed when with the team. He is 28 now so he will be around for this qualifying cycle and having made a very impressive recovery from his nightmare head injury he is primed to be a key attacking piece for Hart.