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Who Octavio Zambrano should start in his first Canada match

The 23-man roster for the friendly against Curaçao is out - here’s the lineup we’d like to see.

MLS: Canadian Championship-Montreal Impact at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian men’s national team’s final roster for its June 13 friendly against Curaçao at Montreal’s Stade Saputo was announced today. Canada had originally invited 27 players into camp in Laval, Que. Alphonso Davies later joined the group after earning his Canadian citizenship, while the injured Tosaint Ricketts was replaced by Nicolas Galvis.

That group has now been narrowed down to the 23 players who will represent Canada in the actual match. James Pantemis, Wandrille Lefèvre, Kwame Awuah and Tesho Akindele did not make the final roster. Akindele leaving is surprising considering his MLS experience, but Canada is fairly deep on the wings and at forward.

Toronto FC’s Raheem Edwards and Jonathan Osorio both made the roster for the game. They will have a chance to impress Zambrano one more time before he names his Gold Cup squad.

Having narrowed down the roster, here is who Waking the Red would like to see Zambrano play in his first game at the helm of the senior team. According to Transfermarkt, his preferred formation is 4-4-2 with two holding midfielders. Given how few strikers Canada have in camp, we assume that will be tweaked to a 4-2-3-1.


Milan Borjan

On the bench: Maxime Crépeau

While Canada’s roster has fluctuated the past few years, the one constant has been Borjan in goal. The 29-year-old still has at least one more strong cycle left in him and has consistently performed well for the national team. Canada is going through a period of change with the right now, but no sense changing what has been working between the sticks.

Crépeau is a capable understudy, but it could be years, and certainly a lot more first team experience, before the youngster or any of his contemporaries take over.


Marcel De Jong, Manjrekar James, Dejan Jakovic, Juan Cordova

On the bench: Tyler Pasher, Andres Fresenga

The centre back pairing is quite obvious, because Jakovic and James were the only two players listed as centre backs who made the final roster for this game. That being said, they are pretty close to Canada’s first-choice pair at the moment, with Steven Vitoria also in the conversation. James, in particular, has played well for Canada of late.

Zambrano originally brought seven players listed as full-backs into camp, potentially to get a better look at the national team’s biggest positional question mark going into the Gold Cup. That is arguably down to four, as Awuah was cut and Fraser Aird might be needed further up the field.

Toronto FC’s Edwards has put together a strong case recently to start at left-back, but is better suited to wing-back than a more defensive full-back role. De Jong, like Borjan, is another consistent performer who doesn’t need changing. Cordova is at his first senior camp, but is a natural full-back who played right-back at times this season for his club in the Chilean second division.


Patrice Bernier, Will Johnson, Junior Hoilett, Jonathan Osorio, Fraser Aird

On the bench: Alphonso Davies, Raheem Edwards, Kianz Froese, Samuel Piette, Russell Teibert, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Adam Straith

The defensive part of the midfield is fairly straightforward as both Bernier and Johnson have plenty of MLS experience and ability. Bernier is a player who Zambrano is very high on, and expect him to captain the team for this fixture and probably the Gold Cup as well.

In front of them Canada has a few more options, especially now that Davies has been brought into camp. It is possible that Hoilett starts in the middle, given that he is wearing the number 10 for this match, but Osorio might be the better fit. The Toronto FC midfielder hasn’t had a great season, but has the ability to fill that role.

It might be tempting to give Davies his first start with Canada given the hype train that has been following him around recently. However, with the way Aird played against Scotland in Canada’s last match on the right wing, he deserves another chance. Davies will appear in this match at some point.


Cyle Larin

On the bench: Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Marcus Haber

As mentioned, some of the positions on Zambrano’s roster just pick themselves. It is possible that Larin has someone to play alongside him - namely Lucas Cavallini, if he is called up - at the Gold Cup. But for this match he will probably once again play alone up top. Canada has never been able to quite get him to perform the way he does for Orlando. That is both his own fault and down to the service he is given. This match is a good chance to see which of the midfielders he combines well with.

Projected Starting XI