A new month brings a new international break as the road to Qatar begins to intensify.
Seven Reds have been called up for the penultimate set of World Cup Qualifying fixtures in 2021 with six taking part in CONCACAF’s Octagon and one heading to CONMEBOL’s traditional 10-nation round-robin tournament.
Richie Laryea, Jonathan Osorio, Eriq Zavaleta, Kemar Lawrence and Yeferson Soteldo have been called up once again, as has TFC loanne Liam Fraser. A new name that has now been added to the International Reds mix is Jacob Shaffelburg, who has notably recorded seven goal contributions since Toronto FC’s 2-1 win over Nashville SC on September 18th.
Shaffelburg’s first Canada men’s national team call-up came back in January 2020, where he was in Les Rouges’ squad for a pair of friendlies with Barbados, as well as one against Iceland. The Port Williams native made his debut in the second friendly over Barbados, coming off the bench to replace Tesho Akindele with 20 minutes left to play.
The 21-year-old will have his sights set on replicating his impressive TFC attacking exploits on the international stage as John Herdman gears up for three tough tests in October.
El Salvador, Jamaica and Venezuela also have a trio of challenging fixtures ahead of them, so let’s take a deeper dive into what the schedules look like for TFC’s seven internationals.
Canada - Richie Laryea, Jonathan Osorio, Jacob Shaffelburg, Liam Fraser
Toronto FC has the joint-highest number of contracted players (along with CF Montreal) in Canada’s October roster.
One TFC star who was pivotal for during the September international break was Laryea. The 26-year-old played the full 90 in each of Les Rouges’ three games and provided the assist, for Atiba Hutchinson’s opener in the 3-0 win over El Salvador.
After a win and two draws in their opening three games of the Octagon, Canada sits second in the table, level with the USA and Panama on five points, but ahead of their rivals on away goals and goals scored respectively. While it may still be quite early in the proceedings, Herdman’s men will undoubtedly be satisfied with the start they’ve made.
Les Rouges kick-off their October camp with a two-game road trip, first to the iconic Estadio Azteca to take on current leaders Mexico (Oct. 7th), and then to Kingston where they’ll go up against Jamaica (Oct. 10th). Les Rouges will then return home to face Panama (Oct. 13th) in the final men’s national team game at BMO Field in 2021.
El Salvador - Eriq Zavaleta
Following two goalless draws and a humbling 3-0 defeat to Canada, El Salvador find themselves in dire need of a win in October if they are to genuinely challenge for a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In September, Zavaleta, who only made his international debut four months ago, helped his side keep two clean sheets in their stalemates against the USA and Honduras. The MLS Cup-winning centre-half has now overseen eight clean sheets in his 11 total caps for El Salvador.
La Selecta will be hoping their big man at the back can continue his consistent form for his country this month, starting with a home clash against unbeaten Panama on October 7th. Zavaleta and co. will then journey to San José to take on Costa Rica (Oct. 10th) before welcoming Mexico to San Salvador on October 13th.
Jamaica - Kemar Lawrence
Jamaica’s 2021 woes continued in September after recording just one point from their opening three games in the Octagon. The Reggae Boyz have now won just two of their 10 games in 2021, a run of form that saw them fall nine places in the FIFA World Ranking.
TFC’s Lawrence started and played the full 90 in all three of his side’s September fixtures. “Taxi” also assisted Shamar Nicholson’s equalizer in the 1-1 draw with Costa Rica.
Currently bottom of the Octagon, Jamaica is in dire need of points this month, and they’ll have their first opportunity to prop up the table in Austin, Texas against the United States (Oct. 7th).
Canada will then visit Independence Park on October 10th, pitting Lawrence against three of his current Toronto FC teammates. To end their camp, the Reggae Boyz head to San Pedro Sula for a meeting with Honduras (Oct. 13th).
Venezuela - Yeferson Soteldo
Four points from nine games has given Venezuela quite the mountain to climb ahead of the second half of their World Cup Qualifying campaign.
A 2-1 win over Chile in November 2020 was the last time La Vinotinto claimed a victory in all competitions, with Soteldo and co. having earned just one point from six qualifiers in 2021. Now nine points behind the automatic qualification spots, Venezuela’s uphill task to draw closer to the pack above them starts off with back-to-back home games against Brazil (Oct. 7th) and Ecuador (Oct. 10th).
They then conclude the month with a trip to Santiago to battle fellow strugglers Chile on October 14th.