Friday promises to be a very exciting day of football around the globe as World Cup qualification continues. There's qualifiers in every confederation, with Concacaf highlighted by a very tasty matchup of Mexico having to go into Honduras. Canada? Well Canada of course will be in Qatar playing against Japan, not on tv anywhere, but it is being streamed live on Sportsnet.ca starting at noon Eastern time, so better than nothing.
The situation sucks but kudos to the CSA for making the best of it, following up the two friendlies back in January with games this international break against japan and then Belarus. I was expecting at most one or two friendlies all year outside of the Gold Cup, so having 4 in the books by March is to be commended, the more time on the pitch to grow as a team and evaluate new players the better.
Those games back in January, with a young and heavily North American based squad ended in an alarmingly poor 4-0 loss to Denmark, and a redemptively tough 0-0 ground out against the US. There won't be a massive amount of continuity from that though as on top of more of a European based squad, there'll be a different interim coach, CSA Technical Director Tony Fonseca replacing Colin MIller with, um, himself for these 2 games.
The full squad's available here, and it's really not as experimental as you might expect, this is a much more experienced squad, with plenty of players returning from last year's doomed qualifying campaign. In a conference call with media this afternoon, Fonseca described this as a chance for redemption, saying "A lot of the senior players are looking to paint a different picture of themselves than was last seen".
That includes Atiba Hutchinson, Tosaint Ricketts, Simeon Jackson, Julian de Guzman, Andre Hainault and David Edgar who all played heavy minutes during that campaign, along with others who've been on the edges of the squad for a while now. It's not entirely free of North American based players, Dejan Jakovic is one who impressed in January and could be looking to make a place in central defence his own, with the decision made not to call up the known quantity of Kevin McKenna for this one. Jakovic is the only MLS player who'll be missing a club game for this, as Will Johnson, Kyle Bekker and Ashtone Morgan all have bye weeks and so made the trip out. Two players who are fully new are goalie Tomer Chesinski who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel and Stefan Cebara, currently playing in Slovenia.
I'll not pretend to know too much about them but enjoy this video interview where they do give us a bit of detail on their careers so far as well as how this camp is going.
Will they play? I imagine they won't be starting, but there's a good chance the majority of the squad will get playing time at some point over the two games. There's an obvious balancing act between focusing on the future and having some continuity heading into the Gold Cup which could be an opportunity to bring some kind of feel good factor back to the team what with the bigger teams pre-occupied by the Hex this year.
I think we'll more than likely see a mostly veteran team put out there to start, including a few players, such as Jakovic or goalie Milan Borjan, who'll be looking to press their case for inclusion in that core group. Add in younger players looking to show they belong, and there's plenty of intrigue. Attacking players like Marcus Haber, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Samuel Piette or even Kyle Bekker will hope to get some time, while defenders like Adam Straith or Ashtone Morgan are practically guaranteed to get some time given the limited number of defenders in the squad, 6, though Nik Ledgerwood may well look to defence as his best chance to get in as well.
Whatever team gets put out there will be in tough as Japan will be using this as a warm up for a much more important game, they'll be playing Jordan in a World Cup Qualifier on the 26th so will be looking to get momentum and cohesion and all that good stuff going.
It's another of those games where the result doesn't really matter, it's more about seeing players make a name for themselves, a chance for the coaching staff to see what works. A chance to paint a different picture? Slightly, though whatever happens in this game will be only the thinnest coat of paint that can in no way obscure that 8-1 performance we all still have in our minds. Two games against tough teams, it'll be good experience for whoever gets to play. Though everyone would obviously prefer to be battling away in the Hex tomorrow, in years past they'd all probably be just sitting at home watching so there's one positive already, let's hope there's something else we can all take away from it when they're done.