Perhaps the only constant positive for the Canadian men’s national team in recent years has been their play at home. Since 2010, Canada has only lost three times in 19 games on home soil.
With that in mind, the CSA smartly scheduled a pair of home friendlies for this summer. Canada already defeated Curaçao 2-1 in Montréal back in June, and will now take on Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday.
Jamaica recently eliminated Canada en route to finishing runners up at the 2017 Gold Cup. So while continuing the evolution of the program under Octavio Zambrano is the key to this camp, getting a measure of revenge would be nice as well.
With that in mind, here are Waking the Red’s picks to start against Jamaica. Throughout the 2017 Gold Cup, Zambrano stuck to a 4-3-3 formation, and there is no reason to think he won’t handle this game in the same fashion.
On the bench: Simon Thomas, James Pantemis
Milan Borjan, who has been off to a great start with his new club Red Star Belgrade, will be the No. 1 for the foreseeable future. However, how the rest of the pecking order plays out behind him remains to be seen.
After sitting on the bench for the entire Gold Cup campaign, Leutwiler deserves a shot to show his abilities against Jamaica. Having recently moved to Blackburn Rovers, the 28-year-old has the strongest resumé of the three keepers in camp. Thomas is a capable backup, while the 20-year-old Pantemis is one for the future.
Sam Adekugbe, Manjrekar James, Amer Didic, Michael Petrasso
On the bench: Marcel de Jong, Dejan Jakovic, Nik Ledgerwood
This back four leaves a lot of experience on the bench for Canada, but there is method to the madness.
Zambrano has already tapped Adekugbe as the left back of the future for the national team, and this is a great opportunity for him to get another run out. In the middle, Canada’s centre-back pool has become surprisingly thin in recent years, and giving another option in Didic a chance can’t hurt.
Petrasso is the only lock to start, as his emergence at right-back was one of the brightest moments of the Gold Cup for Canada.
Atiba Hutchinson, Samuel Piette, Jonathan Osorio
On the bench: Mark-Anthony Kaye, Jay Chapman, Raheem Edwards, David Choinière, Will Johnson (unavailable due to injury)
This is a midfield trio that won’t lose the ball, and will be able to transition play upfield to the team’s attackers in good spots. Piette was one of Canada’s best players as a holding midfielder at the Gold Cup, and has helped revitalize the Montréal Impact in a similar role for them.
Piette’s coverage will allow Hutchinson to move up the field and help facilitate Canada’s attack. Osorio, meanwhile, it probably the best complementary piece to that pair in the absence of Scott Arfield as a player who rarely loses possession.
Alphonso Davies, Junior Hoilett, Cyle Larin
On the bench: Tesho Akindele, Tosaint Ricketts, Anthony Jackson-Hamel
This is probably where Canada is going to have the most squad rotation during the game as players like Edwards, Ricketts, Akindele and Jackson-Hamel all deserve some playing time.
It is possible that Zambrano starts some of those players to get a better feel for his player pool. But above is Canada’s best front three, and building chemistry between them is important.
Davies is the biggest talking point around this team right now and deserves to get a start after his Gold Cup performances. Hoilett also had a good Gold Cup, and has transitioned that into a strong start to his club season with Cardiff City.
Larin, meanwhile, is a polarizing figure when it comes to the national team given some disappointing performances in the past. But this is a new system under a new coach, and Larin is too good to not get a chance to try and find success with this group.