Lost in the excitement of Alphonso Davies being granted citizenship and committing to Canada’s men’s national team was the announcement of Lucas Cavallini returning to Octavio Zambrano’s set-up.
The Davies news is definitely the most significant to come out of the provisional squad announcement, and has rightfully garnered the most excitement. However, the Cavallini comeback is notable in its own right. His rejoining of the national team, which began with a 2015 call-up for a friendly against Ghana after a three year hiatus, could be a potential boon for a side that has had serious difficulties scoring. It’s also interesting as prior to the Ghana match, Cavallini had seemingly shut the door on his Canadian international career.
First, the on-field part. The 24-year-old Toronto-born forward gives Zambrano a much-needed option to complement Cyle Larin up top. He plies his trade in Uruguay’s Primera Division for Peñarol, joining the club after an impressive spell with Fénix. He has already netted five goals in 14 appearances for his new team, an impressive rate of return. The fact that a Canadian international is having success in the league that has won the third-most Copa Libertadores and produced the likes of Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, to name but two, should be cause for cautious optimism.
Though we don’t know too much about how Canada will line up under Zambrano, Cavallini’s recent reintroduction into the fold could be the start of a fruitful strike partnership with Larin. Alternatively, if Canada lines up in a single-striker formation, Cavallini could provide an attacking option off the bench. If Larin underwhelms or is injured, a replacement will be waiting in the wings.
Regardless, with Tosaint Ricketts recovering from injury, Simeon Jackson nearing the end of his career, Marcus Haber never really making an impression with the national team and Anthony Jackson-Hamel still relatively young and unproven, Cavallini could help Canada solve its goalscoring problem as soon as the upcoming Gold Cup.
The other intriguing element to this story is Cavallini’s past statements. In a Spanish-language interview, Cavallini appeared to express regret at being capped for Canada having made his debut during the infamous World Cup qualifying thrashing at the hands of Honduras. Following the 8-1 drubbing, Cavallini did not feature for the team for three years.
Benito Floro claimed he called Cavallini up for selection multiple times, but never received a response. However, he has since publicly stated that he never questioned his commitment. It appears, as Daniel Squizatto wrote back in 2015, that his focus was on establishing himself professionally and personally in Uruguay, becoming a father in 2014. Cavallini told Squizzato: “I’ll make it clear: I never stated or said that I would not play for the team again. Regretting playing for the team, I never said. I don’t know what the translation was there. Maybe someone translated that interview wrong; they got the wrong message, I guess.
“I get that the fans are mad. I would be mad as well, if one player that you’d really like to see on the team decided to not play anymore. But that’s soccer. I’m here now and there’s nothing else to say.”
Apparently, Zambrano has even travelled to meet with him in person since taking charge in May. Whether it was this meeting, the above listed reasons, or a mixture of the two, it appears that, for this summer at least, Cavallini has committed his international future to the Canadian national program.
Given he is a promising talent poised to enter the prime of his career and the men’s team has endured an abysmal record in front of goal of late, this should be welcome news for Canadian fans heading into this summer’s Gold Cup.