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Canada Announces U23 Roster For Olympic Qualifiers

This afternoon, Tony Fonseca announced the 20 man roster that will take part in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers. The roster was selected from the players who were already in camp in Florida. Fonseca will now lead this group of 20 young men to Nashville in hope of qualifying for the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

That group of 20 players will include a pair from Toronto FC. Matt Stinson and Doneil Henry were both released to join the camp down in Florida and will likely play key roles in the qualifying tournament. Some wondered if the news of Torsten Frings being injured would see either or both of them recalled but Fonseca confirmed that there had been no contact from Toronto FC in that regard.

The coach also confirmed that Ashtone Morgan would not be joining up for the tournament in Nashvile. There had been some speculation that the Red's young left back would be called in but with Frings going down injured there was also no chance TFC would want to release a key defender. It seems though that Morgan feels the same way as he made it clear after training today that he had no intention of leaving his club team now.

For Canada, as was the case for the Women's team, the goal will to advance from their group and win one of the semifinals. Just like in the female equivalent, the two teams that reach the final will be the two teams that represent the region at the games this summer. The major difference between the two tournaments is that for the men's side of things the teams have to be Under 23 squads.

That presents a real challenge as for Canada the only time that an Under 23 team exists is every four years when they attempt to qualify for the Olympics. There is also the issue that clubs are not really obligated to release players to this squad as most of the teams are in midseason. Fonseca noted that for at least three players (Haber, Edwini-Bonsu and El-Masri) they were late arrivals to camp because their clubs would not release them any sooner.

Randy Edwini-Bonsu presented a very interesting case as the forward actually had to decide between joining the senior national team for the Armenia friendly and being able to participate with the U23 squad. His club, Eintracht Braunsweig of the 2. Bundesliga, did not want to release him at all but it seems that Edwini-Bonsu had his heart set on playing for Canada in some form so a compromise was struck allowing him to take part.

Now the squad heads to Nashville, Tennessee where they will prepare for their first game this Thursday (March 22). Canada has been drawn in to group A for the tournament along with El Salvador, United States, and Cuba. Their games will be on the 22nd against El Salvador, the 24th against the US, and the 26th against Cuba.

The task is a simple one in the group stage. Finish in the top 2 and move on to a must win semi-final that will take place on March 31. To get that top 2 place Canada will almost certainly want to get two wins from the three matches which will be a real challenge. Fonseca noted, "Every game is a battle, we know that it's important, strategy is to play to win, be smart." The coach did not admit it but the fact of the matter is that the United States are the clear favourites to win this group.

If you look at the US as the favourites then for Canada they have to look at the games against El Salvador and Cuba as virtual must wins. A loss on opening day against El Salvador and all of a sudden Canada is faced with having to beat the powerful US squad.

Fonseca commented about El Salvador saying, "We don't know much, seen them a few times. A competitive
team, been together for a bit. At the end of the day every game is a challenge, there are no weak teams. When the whistle blows it's all to play for." So basically, a whole lot of nothing in terms of insight into the opposition. The coach was right though in noting that they are not a weak team and will certainly be a tough challenge to start things off.

An interesting note from the roster is the relative young age of the group. The coach called up only 4 players who were born in 1989, the maximum age for Under 23's, and the team even includes 7 players who were born in 1992 or later. That is a very young bunch but Fonseca addressed that saying, "Looking forward with the choices, they looked across the board. In best interests to look forward, selections not based on age but talent to be successful."

In the end that very young group of players are going to have to come together quickly as each game in a tournament like this is going to be very high pressure. With the team looking at 3 games in 6 days there will be no time to falter as one bad day could once again spell the end to Canada's Olympic pursuits. The last time Canada made it to the Olympics was 1984 but just last time around in 2008 the team made it to the semifinal stage but were knocked out of the running after a 3-0 defeat against the US.

That last time around the team was highlighted by Will Johnson who scored and got sent off in a 1-1 draw against Mexico and then potted a pair in the 5-0 win over Guatemala which saw the team advance. This time around the team will be hoping to go just one better and join the Women in London.

If Canada does advance we can then begin the endless debate of which three players should be called in as over-aged players. Or we can start sooner...

Anyhow, here is the full roster:

1- GK- Adam Janssen | USA / Minnesota Stars
2- FB- Andrés Fresenga | URU / Racing Club de Montevideo
3- M- Russell Teibert | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
4- CB- Nana Attakora |
5- CB- Doneil Henry | CAN / Toronto FC
6- M- Kyle Bekker | USA / Boston College
7- M- Bryce Alderson | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
8- M- Samuel Piette | FRA / FC Metz
9- M- Shaun Saiko | CAN / FC Edmonton
10- F- Marcus Haber | SCO / St. Johnstone FC
11- M- Matt Stinson | CAN / Toronto FC
12- F- Babayele Sodade | USA / Seattle Sounders FC
13- F- Lucas Cavallini | URU / Club Nacional
14- M- Philippe Davies |
15- M- Sherif El-Masri | SIN / Courts Young Lions
16- M- Drew Beckie |
17- F- Carl Haworth | CAN / Impact Montréal
18- GK- Michal Misiewicz | CAN / FC Edmonton
19- F- Randy Edwini-Bonsu | GER / Eintracht Braunsweig
20- M- Evan James | CAN / Impact Montréal