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Mailbag: Canada call-ups, CONCACAF Nations League & more

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Answering your questions on CanMNT, TFC and more.

Atalanta BC v AC ChievoVerona - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

We’re bringing back the Mailbag. The format is a little different this time; whereas previously we took questions in the comments section, we’ll now be opening the floor on Twitter on Mondays instead and posting our answers each Wednesday.

(If you’re not on Twitter and would like to submit a question, fire it to wakingthered@gmail.com.)

The plan is to rotate this around willing members of the Waking the Red staff, so if there’s one writer in particular you’d like to put something to you should get the opportunity eventually.

On the back of Saturday’s game against Jamaica there were a lot of Canada questions this week, so we’ll start with those before ending on some TFC.

We’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments, so feel free to chime in with your own thoughts or follow-up questions below the line.

Much better than a couple of years ago.

That said, the reality with Cristante is that Canada will be his second choice. He was born in Italy and like Junior Hoilett with England and Scott Arfield with Scotland, he will play for the more established footballing nation if he gets the chance.

(Some people don’t like that but Arfield and Hoilett are also proof that it can work out. Not only are they both good players, but playing for Canada genuinely seems to have come to mean something to them.)

Because of that, I don’t think we’ll get an answer from Cristante until 2019 at the earliest. He’s playing regularly in Serie A now and that gives him a glimmer of hope - even though he may be a long way off at the minute - of playing his way back into Italy consideration, so coming over next year doesn’t really make sense.

It’s a strange thing, really; if you want him to play for Canada, you want him to not do too well during this loan with Atalanta.

Hard to say much more beyond that with any certainty. What we do know is that Octavio Zambrano has been pursuing him aggressively - he was over in Bergamo to watch and meet him within a couple of months of taking the job earlier this year.

But I want a bit of both!

If I have to pick one, it’s Zambrano. I’ve made no secret that I’ve been impressed by him; he communicates clearly, he has quickly shown an understanding of the players at his disposal and his idea of how the team should play makes sense.

As Mitchell wrote about yesterday, it’s startling how many players’ club situations have improved over the past few months and in nearly every case the national team has had at least a little something to do with that.

I don’t know about atop (San Pedro Sula is still a tough place to go), but if Ferreira and Cristante signed up tomorrow I would have Canada, Panama and Honduras in the same bucket, yeah.

The problem is that if CONCACAF decides not to bother changing World Cup qualifying until the finals expands to 48 teams, Canada won’t actually be in the same bucket in practice for the 2022 cycle. They’ll still be in pot three for the fourth round and hoping their one-in-three shot at Trinidad & Tobago or Jamaica comes off.

I’m sure there will be a few Canadians that come back from Europe, but how many of them will be regulars with the national team I’m not sure. Manjrekar James, maybe? (I have no idea what salaries in the Hungarian league are like). After that there’s a few who have had call-ups but not really played - the Milovan Kapors of this world.

Those players aren’t likely to create much hype and growth individually but you add them to realistic MLS, USL and NASL targets, young Canadians looking for a chance and some foreign imports, and you have yourself the basis of a decent league.

If soccer is to really boom in Canada, it will be through hosting the men’s World Cup and/or a superstar, I think. The CPL has an essential role to play as far as the latter is concerned in opening up proper, professional development pathways for kids across the country, but that will take time.

I think it sounds great as far as Canada are concerned: Zambrano wants a schedule of friendlies built around CONCACAF opponents (as well as potentially dipping into South America) over the next couple of years, and a Nations League would save them the trouble.

Once you get your head around the slightly complex structure of the European version, it makes a lot of sense. I’m mildly optimistic that it will create semi-competitive games - they can’t be any worse than friendlies, anyway.

The potential complication: in Europe, Spain can play France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Croatia, Netherlands, England (don’t laugh) and a few others and expect to be tested.

In North America, there are three teams who consider each other equals and everyone else below them, and they might be less enthusiastic about the elimination of intercontinental friendlies as a result. That said, the fact that the top European teams won’t be available because of their own Nations League mitigates that somewhat.

I see little downside to giving it a try because, again, the current system is garbage. Canada played well on Saturday but it was apparent that Jamaica were not remotely interested for at least the first half.

Their depth is unmatched across MLS and in addition, so many of the players normally on the bench have adjusted really well to that role: Ricketts, Edwards, Cheyrou and now Osorio are consistently coming on and making an impact.

In terms of players moving on: as I wrote about last month, the two that stand out are Osorio and Armando Cooper. It’s hard to see a way back in for Cooper as far as the 2017 season goes and he earns too much money for them to keep him around for another try next season, so I think he’ll be gone.

The past few weeks have been very good for Osorio, though. He’s back to doing what he does well, and while he may no longer be a starter on a team as strong as this, in this form he is certainly a useful option in specific situations.

Is he definitely a TFC player next season if he keeps this up? No, because if there was a good offer on the table I think both the club and the player might consider it.

Would TFC be happy to keep him if that doesn’t exist? Sure. Morgan and Irwin are likely to go, in addition to Cooper, and that should give the front office enough flexibility to make a move or two without needing to find another contract to shed.