Canada's attempts to return to the U20 World Cup get underway later this month when they take on Cuba to open group B play at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. The match, on February 18th, will be crucial for Canada as the format for the event includes 3 team groups and any slip-up against Cuba or Nicaragua (Feb 22nd) could mean having to knock off the United States to earn a place in this summer's World Cup in Turkey.
Canada were automatic qualifiers for the CONCACAF Championships which means the two games of their group stage will be the first serious action for the program since the 2011 version of this event. That time Canada finished a disappointing second in their group and were rewarded with a thrashing at the hands of Mexico which ended their hopes of a place in the World Cup.
In fact, the last time Canada took part in a U-20 World Cup it was back in 2007 when the event was played on home soil and the team was automatically qualified. They have not actually qualified since 2005 when they did so as runners-up in their group.
Making the event will just be step one for Canada as they will certainly want to improve on their fortunes from the last two appearances where they earned a total one point in six group stage matches before crashing out of both tournaments.
So Canada is not facing an easy task in getting back to the biggest youth tournament in the world. Their road goes through Cuba and Nicaragua in the group stage and then, hopefully, a quarter-final (Feb 26th) against one of the top two teams from Group A which included the United States, Costa Rica, and Haiti. It will certainly not be an easy road but with the team Canada is bringing they have a real chance of claiming a semi final spot and one of the four berths from CONCACAF.
Nick Dasovic has named what looks to be a fairly strong squad that includes a number of players who are already competing in a professional environment, the only unattached player being former TFC academy standout Stefan Vukovic. There are also a couple of players who are currently attached to NCAA programs but most are either in a professional academy or already playing at the professional level.
Dasovic also has the added bonus of having a couple of players in this squad that have already earned caps at the senior level and a number who took part in Olympic qualifying last spring. It is certainly a strong roster that should be able to push for a place in this summer's World Cup.
The inclusion of Keven Aleman will also come as a bit of a relief to the ever worried Canadian soccer fans who have long been concerned that he would end up playing for Costa Rica instead of Canada as he is eligible to compete for both countries. Though this in no way cap-ties him or anyone else for life, at least for now he seems committed to keeping his word and suiting up for Canada.
Normally at this point we would end up talking about how Toronto FC has so many more players on the roster than any of the other Canadian club's but this time around the only one included is Doneil Henry. The Vancouver Whitecaps are sending four players, the Montreal Impact three, and FC Edmonton is sending one so can't really brag at TFC on this one.
There are a number of other players on the roster that do have connections to TFC's academy at some point in their careers before moving on to other clubs. That list includes Aleman, Petrasso, Carreiro, and Alderson who all left the academy at various times and for various reasons.
The squad may change before the World Cup but that seems unlikely if this is the group that will be taking part in a camp that runs from the 11th to the 16th and is taking place in Mexico City.
1- GK- Ricky Gomes | POR / Sport Clube de Mirandela
2- FB- Jon Dollery | ENG / Crawley Town FC
3- FB- Marco Lapenna | GER / FC Erzgebirge Aue
4- CB- Doneil Henry | CAN / Toronto FC
5- CB- Daniel Stanese | GER / FC Nürnberg Reserve
6- M- Samuel Piette | GER / Fortuna Düsseldorf
7- M- Ben Fisk | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
8- M - Bryce Alderson | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
9- F- Caleb Clarke | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
10- M- Keven Aleman | ESP / Real Valladolid
11- M- Michael Petrasso | ENG / Queens Park Rangers
12- M- Dylan Carreiro | ENG / Queens Park Rangers
13- M- Alessandro Riggi | ESP / Celta de Vigo
14- F- Yassin Essa | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
15- CB- Manjrekar James | HUN / PMFC-MATIAS
16- M- Mauro Eustáquio | POR / Sporting Clube de Pombal
17- F- Anthony Jackson-Hamel | CAN / Académie Impact Montréal
18- GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Académie Impact Montréal
19- FB- Jordan Murrell | USA / Syracuse University
20- M- Zakaria Messoudi | CAN / Académie Impact Montréal
21- M- Ben McKendry | USA / University of New Mexico
22- F- Stefan Vukovic | Unattached / sans club
23- FB- Allan Zebie | CAN / Edmonton FC Reserve