Stephen Hart has called up his roster for the upcoming games against Panama and it is completely lacking in any surprises. Canada will host Panama at BMO Field on September 7th and then travel for a return meeting in Panama on the 11th in what will be a pair of crucial games for Canada who will be hoping to lock down a top two place in their World Cup Qualifying group.
Hart has once again called up the normal core of veteran players. It is a group that includes Ante Jazic, Kevin McKenna, Julian De Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson, Dwayne De Rosario, and Patrice Bernier. The roster also includes a pair of Toronto FC players in Ashtone Morgan and Terry Dunfield.
Hart uses these games to recall Bernier, Dunfield, and Marcel De Jong who all missed out on the games back in June for various reasons. Their inclusions means that Issey Nakajima-Faran, Samuel Piette, Mike Klukowski, and Iain Hume have been dropped out of the squad.
The end product is a team that has a wealth of experience on the international stage. All 21 of the players called have featured in previous World Cup Qualifiers with the least experienced of the bunch being Ashtone Morgan who will be looking to add to his two previous caps for Canada.
The main knock on this squad has to be the lack of wide midfielders that Hart has at his disposal. The likes of Johnson, De Guzman, Bernier, Hutchinson, Pacheco, Dunfield, and even Ledgerwood are better suited to being used in the middle of the park. It gives the team a really good chance to dominate in the middle of the park but it puts more pressure on the wide defenders and the forwards to provide the needed width. It means that the likes of De Rosario and Ricketts will be forced to spend more time out wide and less time cutting into the middle where they are actually more dangerous. They will also have to count on the likes of De Jong, Jazic, and Morgan to push up from their wide defensive positions to get involved in the attack. It shows the real importance of having a player like Josh Simpson available as his absence leaves Canada with a real lack of width.
The positives are that Canada has a very experienced squad and many of the players will be reporting to camp on very good form. The squad is expected to arrive in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday giving them a few days to practice together and hopefully pick up where they left off in the spring. There is no one in this squad who is just there for the experience so that means it should be a really good competition for places in the starting lineup come the 7th.
From front to back Hart has called players who will have to earn their minutes in the lineup. In goal it will likely be a choice between Hirschfeld and Borjan as both have done well in qualifiers thus far and have played a part in Canada's long shutout streak. In front of them the defensive line will likely be quite similar to what we saw in the spring. McKenna and Hainault will be looked to as anchors in the middle of the back-line while Edgar and Jazic will likely take up the spots on the wing. That would leave a pair of good veteran options waiting in the wings in Jakovic and de Jong.
In the middle of the park is where there will be the most competition. There are seven central midfielders on the roster that are at a level worthy of minutes. The odd men out will most likely be Dunfield and Pacheco but even then Hart will have to decide how to make use of the other options he has.
Up front there are also a few options but it is less about an embarrassment of riches and more about trying to get the most out of the players that are involved. No one has really stepped up and been a consistent goal scorer for Canada thus far despite Hart giving the chance to Jackson, Occean, and Ricketts in recent matches. Hart could possibly go with all three in his starting lineup but that would leave very few options on the bench. It would be more likely that we will see Occean leading the line with De Rosario on one wing and Ricketts on the other leaving Jackson to be a very good option coming off the bench should things not be going according to plan.
On the whole Hart has called exactly the squad fans would have been expecting and it is probably the group that gives Canada the best chance of winning these next two matches even if it does have some holes.
1- GK- Lars Hirschfeld | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball
2- M- Nik Ledgerwood | SWE / Hammarby Fotboll
3- FB- Ante Jazić | USA / Chivas USA
4- CB- Kevin McKenna | GER / FC Köln
5- CB- André Hainault | USA / Houston Dynamo
6- M - Julian de Guzman | USA / FC Dallas
7- M - Terry Dunfield | CAN / Toronto FC
8- M- Will Johnson | USA / Real Salt Lake
9- F- Tosaint Ricketts | ROM / Politehnica Timişoara
10- F- Simeon Jackson | ENG / Norwich City FC
11- FB- Marcel de Jong | GER / FC Augsburg
12- CB- Dejan Jaković | USA / D.C. United
13- M- Atiba Hutchinson | NED / PSV Eindhoven
14- M/F- Dwayne De Rosario | USA / D.C. United
15- CB- David Edgar | ENG / Burnley FC
16- M- Pedro Pacheco | POR / CD Santa Clara
17- F- Olivier Occean | GER / Eintracht Frankfurt
18- GK- Milan Borjan | TUR / Sivasspor
19- FB- Ashtone Morgan | CAN / Toronto FC
20- M - Patrice Bernier | CAN / Impact Montréal
22- GK- Kenny Stamatopoulos | SWE / AIK Fotbol