Colin Miller fielded questions about his 22 man squad for the Canadian Men's National Team training camp from the Canadian media on Tuesday afternoon. Normally these calls are filled with soft ball questions about the players included in the roster and failed attempts to get information out of the coach about opponents or potential starters but this time around the call took on a fairly different tone. Instead of being filled with questions about the players who were called into the team the majority of the questions were about players that were on the 35-man preliminary roster but did not make the cut for the 22-man roster announced Tuesday.
Miller was asked about some of the veterans who did not make the roster with a focus on Dwayne De Rosario and Patrice Bernier. Both players were left off the Gold Cup squad due to their age and the fact that they will likely be winding down their careers by the time that Canada is again involved in serious World Cup qualifying games once again. They were both left out but 32 year old Julian De Guzman was included as Miller feels he can bring leadership and experience to the team. There is also the 34 year old Lars Hirschfeld on the roster so it seems there is a bit of a double standard when it comes to which older players have been included and which were left out.
The other big issue that led to players being left out was contract status. Miller tried to call in a number of the players who are out of contract and while some accepted the call a number felt it was in their best interest to turn down the call to avoid the risk of injury. The likes of Simeon Jackson, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Julian De Guzman, and Adam Straith all accepted the call in the hope of putting themselves in the shop window with a strong Gold Cup showing. On the other hand players like Atiba Hutchison and Andre Hainualt were invited to join the team by Miller but made the choice to turn down the invite. Both are likely closing in on new contracts with clubs in Europe and don't want to mess that up by getting injured on National team duty.
The big talking point of the call proved to be the fact that Lucas Cavallini was not included in the 22-man roster. With Canada lacking options at forward many fans were looking to him as a potential solution to some of Canada's scoring woes but despite Miller spending several weeks trying to ensure his inclusion on the Gold Cup roster the player elected to stay with his club team, Nacional, over joining up with Canada. The good news it that Cavallini is already cap-tied so there is no need to go into full blown panic about his decision to put club ahead of country at this stage in his career. Miller did not go into details about why Cavallini turned down the call other than to say that it was for personal reasons and that he felt the player had made the wrong decision. That was strong wording from Miller that suggests he was not happy that the player will not be joining Canada but with Cavallini looking to earn a place in Nacional's first team for the new season rather than heading out on loan again it seems like an understandable decision.
Another name that got a fair bit of chatter was Fraser Aird who by not being included in the roster will begin another round of speculation about his international future. He was yet another player that Miller tried to bring into the team but ended up turning down the invite. Miller told the media that he had talked with Aird's coach at Rangers, Ally McCoist, about bringing the player in and made Canada's interest in his services clear but Aird proved to be another player who is currently focused on his club career over representing any country. The good news is that Aird does not seem to have turned down the call to represent Scotland instead and Canada will keep the door open for him to represent the country but for now he is focused on his career with Rangers. Aird not being on the roster will leave fans worrying he will be yet another player that picks another country ahead of Canada but it is nice to see Miller and the CSA at least doing their due diligence to try and secure his commitment.
With so much of the talk being about players being left out of the roster there was not a whole lot of talk about what the roster will look like when Canada takes to the field against Martinique next month. He was clear though that Canada is taking the event seriously and are not just going to be there to make up the numbers despite bringing such a young squad with so few experienced players. With the next round of World Cup qualifying coming up Canada will want to do well in this Gold Cup to boost their ranking in the hopes of securing an easier qualification route.
It seems like Canada will go with a squad based on who is performs the best in training which has been the case for the friendlies that Miller has been in charge of this year. Miller also intends to play an attacking style similar to what he went with against Costa Rica rather than what he used in the 0-0 draw against the United States.
The talk of players who were left off the roster should be over now and the focus should shift to the 22 players that are on the roster. The group could still change and a 23rd player could be brought in as the final roster for the Gold Cup does not have to be submitted to CONCACAF until Thursday.
The 23-man rosters for all of the countries involved in the Gold Cup will be announced on Friday at which point we will know not only the final group selected by Miller but also the opposition. Canada will be in tough against Panama and Mexico in their group but they could benefit from Mexico fielding a weakened team thanks to the Confederations Cup. Canada will need to be at their very best just to get out of the group and that will begin with what is basically a must win match in the opener against Martinique on July 7th.