Stephen Hart seems pretty committed to the 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation we've seen over the last few years, a formation in which the Centre Forward really plays a pivotal role, ideally providing a physical presence to occupy the defence, hold the ball up and create chance for others, while also being a genuine threat to score yourself. Unfortunately there's currently no obvious candidate who can do all of that. Canada has plenty of good Attacking Midfielders, Wingers or smaller Strikers who can feed off your typical big man up front, and if the worry about all the defenders we've lost to injuries for these games shows us anything, it's that when everyone is fit and available, we actually have ok depth in defence as well. If this WCQ bid is going to fail, one of the main factors will be the lack of a first choice, top quality player to spearhead the attack.
Hopefully in these games against lesser opponents, someone will be able to take advantage, score some goals and get on a roll to really stake their claim to the position, after the jump I take a look at the candidates, and desperately try to convince myself that Olivier Occean could possibly be that man.
Rob Friend has seen the most time in that position recently and is one of the few people with the size and style of play to fit there. Anyone who makes it into the Bundesliga has got to have something going on for him, but his goalscoring record isn't great, and it's even worse at international level, only 2 in 32 games for Canada so far.
Simeon Jackson has had a very good couple of years in England and in the continued absence of David Hoillett is probably Canada's most exciting forward, but he hasn't really seemed to fit so far. He doesn't work as the main Centre Forward, he's just too small to be able to be able to win balls, and hold play up and link with the other attackers. He'd work much better as the second striker in a more traditional 4-4-2 and there's no obvious place for him in this formation, but he's got too much quality to not play him, so he's ended up at Right Wing more often than not, which has been a bit of an awkward fit.
Iain Hume was the latest to be given a chance in the game at Puerto Rico, and with the caveat that it was against Puerto Rico, he did alright, scoring a goal, but that was just his 3rd for Canada, and again like Jackson, he doesn't convince when it comes to being able to do the dirty work of the Centre Forward when up against better defenders later on in qualifying.
Ali Gerba? Well, he's certainly done the business as far as scoring goals goes, with 15 in only 31 games for Canada, and on his day he can look very dangerous and prove a handful for any defence, as the US team found out in the Gold Cup this summer. But is anyone really confident with a plan that relies on Ali Gerba? I know I'm not.
There's a couple of options who may get a chance to stake their claim to the position in these couple of qualifiers. The first is Tosaint Ricketts, who's come off the bench to score goals recently against Ecuador and in Puerto Rico, but I think the subs bench is probably the best place for him at this point.
The one player I really want to see get a chance and seize it is Olivier Occean. Occean has done well at club level throughout his career in Europe and has worked his way up to the German 2nd division as of this season, where he is continuing his good goalscoring form. After missing out on the previous games with injury, he may well be given a chance to carry that form over to a Canadian jersey, and I'd love to see it work. His size and style of play work well in the Centre Forward role, and if he can score some goals and get his confidence going, then maybe he could be the answer up top. The facts that I desperately want to overlook in this little daydream are that he's almost 30, and has only 2 goals in 19 appearances so far for Canada.
All in all, I'm not optimistic there's a good answer currently within the squad. Even if Hoilett does decide to play for Canada eventually, it wouldn't really solve this particular problem, as he'd just increase the options in the already crowded Winger/Secondary striker/Attacking Midfielder department. I guess really that's the area we should focus on for the goals, have the Centre Forward be the big man holding the ball up, doing the dirty work to occupy the defence and let the more talented players around and behind him pick up the scraps, Hopefully Occean can at least play that role, otherwise I guess it's back to Rob Friend again, yay.