In his third friendly since taking over as Canadian men’s national team manager, Octavio Zambrano is continuing to explore his player pool. The roster he named for the team’s October 8 friendly against El Salvador includes several new faces, and some who have returned from absences as well.
Four players - Kris Twardek, Caniggia Elva, Milovan Kapor and Louis Béland-Goyette - have received their first calls to the senior men’s national team. Keven Aleman, meanwhile, has been absent from the senior team for three years.
With all the new blood set to join the national team, Waking the Red takes a look at the most intriguing players Zambrano has called into camp.
Milovan Kapor - Hapoel Hadera FC (Israel)
Perhaps no player will be more intriguing for Canadian men’s national team supporters to watch this camp than Kapor. It is no secret that the current player pool is lacking quality centre-backs and while not much is known about the 26-year-old from Toronto, that is his natural position.
Kapor was on the provisional Gold Cup roster but did not make the final cut and has yet to feature for the national team at any level. After playing college soccer at UMBC, he has spent time playing professionally in Spain and Slovakia.
This year he joined Hapoel Hadera, a club recently promoted to the top division in Israel. He has certainly earned a call to the national team, and if he can impress it could mean Canada getting another option in one of their weakest positions.
Juan Cordova - CD Huachipato (Chile)
Cordova has already played one game for the national team, coming on late in June’s friendly against Curaçao. The 22-year-old former Chilean international also got a look under Zambrano at the Aspire U-23 tournament in March, a theme among players called into this camp.
If there is one position that Canada is thinner at than centre-back, it is right full-back. Michael Petrasso gave a good account of himself at the Gold Cup, and looks to be the starter at that position. However, he has not been getting much playing time with Queens Park Rangers.
That opens the door for Cordova, who can play both full-back positions as well as further up the field if needed. He recently moved up to the top level in Chile, and has done will since joining Huachipato.
Caniggia Elva - VfB Stuttgart II (Germany)
Elva is another player who played under Zambrano at the Aspire tournament earlier this year and impressed. The attacking midfielder scored against Uzbekistan during that tournament and otherwise impressed as an attacking threat.
Players with the 21-year-old Elva’s talent going forward aren’t exactly plentiful in the Canadian system. With Zambrano’s stated focus on playing attacking soccer, he could be an important piece of the puzzle in the future if he can continue to develop.
This is a big year for Elva, who plays for the Stuttgart U-23 side but has yet to see the first team. Hopefully, his first call-up to the senior national team can give him some confidence to go back and elevate his game at club level.
Kris Twardek - Millwall (England)
Another young attacking player who Zambrano will get a first-hand look at during this national team camp is Twardek. The 20-year-old winger has three appearances, all in cup competitions, for the Millwall senior team.
A dual-national, Twardek played for the Czech Republic at the U-17, U-18, and U-19 level. However, in 2016 he was recruited to the Canadian men’s national team, and filed his one-time switch in order to be eligible to play for his country of birth.
Twardek’s technical ability stood out immediately on the Canadian U-20 team and it is no surprise that he has since transitioned to the senior side. He will be in tough to get regular minutes given Canada’s sudden depth on the wing, but certainly has to potential to be part of the team’s future.
Keven Aleman - Saprissa (Costa Rica)
Aleman was once considered the top prospect in the Canadian men’s national team system. He was the star player on several youth level teams as an attacking midfielder, and made his senior debut at the 2013 Gold Cup.
However, he has hardly featured of late since as Benito Floro didn’t seem to rate him as a player very much. Aleman was called into Canada’s Pan-Am team under Benito’s son Antonio but barely played despite playing at a higher level than most of the team.
At 23, Aleman still has time to realize his potential, and seeing him back in the national team picture is a good sign. Playing limited minutes for Saprissa, one of the top club sides in CONCACAF, Aleman could bring Central American experience that the national team really needs in order to take the next step.