Earlier this morning John Herdman announced his 23-man roster for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. There were certainly some surprises, including the exclusion of Ballou Tabla and Manjrekar James. Toronto FC’s Noble Okello making the cut also falls in that category.
Herdman now has even more work, however, in figuring out which eleven players he will put on the field when the tournament starts on June 15.
It’s certainly unlikely Herdman sticks with the same eleven for every game given Canada’s intense travel schedule during the tournament. But here is who we consider to be the best eleven for Canada, given the 4-3-3 Herdman has selected as his formation.
Goalkeeper - Milan Borjan
First off the bench: Max Crépeau
This is not nearly as obvious a pick as it was prior to the MLS season. Borjan has been the clear starter for a while now, and another excellent campaign with Red Star Belgrade, including time in the UEFA Champions League, still has him as Canada’s top keeper. He was Red Star male player of the year for 2018-19 as well.
However, Crépeau has been excellent this season for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Finally afforded a starting spot in MLS, the 25-year-old has been central to Vancouver only losing one of its last seven games. As aforementioned, Canada will surely rotate its squad during the competition, so Crépeau might get a game.
Defenders - Zachary Brault-Guillard, Doneil Henry, Derek Cornelius, Mark-Anthony Kaye
First off the bench: Kamal Miller
Not including Manjrekar James was a big surprise from Herdman. With that being said, Henry and Cornelius have been his first choice CB pairing since he took the reigns. Henry has legitimately been one of the top defenders in the league this season, and after a very slow start Cornelius has looked better in recent weeks.
Left back is a clear position lacking for the national team, but Mark-Anthony Kaye thrived there is Canada’s last Nations League qualifying game and has all the attributes to be an effective player at that position. Sam Adekugbe was not called in, presumably due to injury concerns. Meanwhile, Brault-Guillard has become a key piece for the Impact and considering his form and playing time under Herdman is a relatively easy pick at right back.
Where things get truly dicey is if Henry misses out due to injury. Then Canada’s centre back pairing becomes a combination of Orlando City’s Kamal Miller, who has been surprisingly solid after being a late first round pick and Cornelius, who has struggled heavily at times this season.
Midfield - Atiba Hutchinson, Scott Arfield, Jonathan Osorio
First off the bench: Russell Teibert
Finding the right midfield mix is going to be tricky for Herdman, but the good news is he has a lot of options. He may well play someone else at left back, which means Kay becomes an automatic starter in the midfield. Otherwise, it’s a flexible and veteran midfield of Hutchinson, Arfield and Osorio.
In what is almost certainly his last Gold Cup, Hutchinson will be key as the base of Canada’s midfield. With the aforementioned questions about the backline, his ability to shield it becomes increasingly important. Both Arfield and Osorio are capable of attacking and defending and are solid on the ball. Arfield’s time spent as a more attacking midfielder this year for Rangers could be prove crucial.
If Osorio’s injury is not healed by then, look for Russell Teibert to get minutes. He has been very solid as part of a three man midfield with Vancouver this year.
Attack - Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies, Lucas Cavallini
First off the bench: Junior Hoilett
This is where things get more difficult. Maybe leaving a veteran like Hoilett on the bench is crazy considering how he has played for Canada. But it’s even more difficult to keep Jonathan David on the bench after the way he finished the season in Belgium.
Cavallini is a lock at centre forward, as he is willing to track back, hold up play, and is an elite finisher. Herdman has been pretty clear that he sees Davies as an attacking player instead of a fullback, and against Concacaf opposition that is probably the right call. With Mexico missing players, this could well be the best attack in the region.