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Making sense of the Canadian men’s national team’s January roster

Canada will try to claw their way back up the FIFA rankings with an interesting mix of youth and experience

Soccer: CONCACAF Nations League Soccer-USA at Canada Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

After going weeks with little to no information on what the Canadian men’s national team was planning for this upcoming year, this past week has revealed plenty. On Monday, it was announced that Canada would be playing an international friendly against Iceland on January 15.

Today, two more friendlies were announced during the international camp, as well as the roster that Canada will field for the three matches. Canada are now set to play Barbados on January 7 and 10, with all games being played at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

The roster itself is a mix of new names, core national teams players from recent years and some returning faces from previous camps. Here is a breakdown of the players who John Herdman selected.

From a Toronto FC perspective, this is a very Reds-heavy roster. That includes first-time callups Jacob Shaffelburg and Jayden Nelson as well as Jonathan Osorio, Noble Okello, Richie Laryea, Ashtone Morgan and Liam Fraser.

RELATED: TFC II’s Jayden Nelson named Canadian Youth International Player of the Year

Joining Shaffelberg and Nelson in receiving their first call ups for the senior Canadian national team are Tristan Borges (Forge), Theo Bair (Whitecaps), Zorhan Bassong (Cercle Brugge) and Charles-Andres Byrm (Belenenses SAD). It is probable that at least a few of these players are included in the camp to also prepare for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers in March.

The Headliners

Tristan Borges: The inaugural Canadian Premier League MVP and Golden Boot winner receives his first call up to the senior men’s national team. With a number of Canada’s top attacking talent missing mainly due to commitments with their clubs, the 21-year-old Borges will be counted on as one of the team’s main scoring threats. This is a big opportunity for him to show that he should be in Herdman’s plans more often, as well as potentially to clubs that might be interested in securing his services after a standout season at Forge FC .

Zorhan Bassong: One of the players who John Herdman initially said he was excited about when he joined the men’s national team setup, Bassong, who is a left fullback, has previously represented Belgium at the U-19 level, spent time in the heralded Anderlecht youth system, as well as at Lille and currently plays for Cercle Brugge. While “plays” may be a bit of a stretch, putting him behind some of Canada’s other European prospects, the level and the position of the player makes him an exciting add to the national team’s player pool.

The Surprises

Three games: After weeks where it wasn’t clear if Canada were going to play games during January at all, the fact that they will be playing three during this camp comes as a surprise. The previously announced Iceland fixture will be preceded by two games against Barbados. This could be risky for Canada, as anything but wins against the 162nd ranked country in the World won’t be ideal for ranking points. With that being said, three wins, coupled with El Salvador losses, will significantly narrow the gap between the two countries. It’s likely a smart gamble.

Jayden Nelson: Canada’s U-17 player of the year, and member of Toronto FC II, will be the youngest player at the camp. After a year where he impressed in USL League One, led Canada to a U-17 World Cup and impressed when he got there, however, it might not be a bad idea for Herdman to integrate him into the group early. If he keeps on his current trajectory, he will be a part of many Canada camps in the future.

Charles-Andreas Byrm: Another young dual international who John Herdman has convinced to come into camp. Byrm was born in France, but got his start with the Montreal Impact academy. Like Bassong, he then joined Lille, where he is currently out on loan with Belenenses of the Portuguese first division. The 21-year-old striker has played one match for their senior team, and 11 times for the U-23 side where he has scored three goals.

Who is Missing?

Established European-based players: It comes as no surprise that a game outside of an official international window does not include a number of Canada’s top European-based players. There will be no Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Junior Hoilett, Scott Arfield, Milan Borjan or Steven Vitoria among others.

Lucas Cavallini: Vancouver’s designated player signing is perhaps the biggest loss for Canada at this camp. With a number of other attacking options out, he would have been counted on up front especially against Iceland. It is understandable, however, that he would want to settle in a new city and new club.

Mark-Anthony Kaye: Kaye’s absence likely relates to LAFC’s preparation for upcoming Concacaf Champions League matches and perhaps the injury he suffered against the United States at BMO Field. Again, however, he will be missed as a key creative cog in Canada’s midfield.

Full Roster:

GK- Marco Carducci | CAN / Cavalry FC (Calgary)

GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC

GK- James Pantemis | CAN / Impact de Montréal

CB- Derek Cornelius | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC

CB- Amer Didić | CAN / FC Edmonton

CB- Manjrekar James | DEN / FC Midtjylland

CB- Kamal Miller | USA / Orlando City SC

FB- Samuel Adekugbe | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball

FB- Zorhan Bassong | BEL / Cercle Brugge KSV

FB- Marcus Godinho | GER / FSV Zwickau

FB- Richie Laryea | CAN / Toronto FC

FB- Ashtone Morgan | CAN / Toronto FC

M- Tristan Borges | CAN / Forge FC Hamilton

M- Jay Chapman | USA / Inter Miami CF

M- Liam Fraser | CAN / Toronto FC

M- Noble Okello | CAN / Toronto FC

M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC

M- Samuel Piette | CAN / Impact de Montréal

M- Shamit Shome | CAN / Impact de Montréal

M- Russell Teibert | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC

F- Tesho Akindele | USA / Orlando City SC

F- Theo Bair | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC

F- Charles-Andreas Brym | POR / Belenenses SAD U-23

F- Jayden Nelson | CAN / Toronto FC II

F- Tosaint Ricketts | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC

F- Jacob Shaffelburg | CAN / Toronto FC