A massive summer for Canada soccer is set to kick off next Saturday as the men’s national team continue World Cup qualifying.
Matches against Aruba (June 5) and Suriname (June 8) will undoubtedly come with an expectation of victory, but there is no margin for error. Suriname, in particular, could be a tricky opponent given their recent recruitment efforts.
Therefore, John Herdman has once again called a very strong squad, with most of his key players in attendance. There is also expected to be a group of 10 players, to be announced, who join the camp to help Canada prepare for the aforementioned matches.
Here is a look at the 24-man squad, and who can expect to see action over the coming weeks.
Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Dayne St. Clair, James Pantemis
The only real surprise here is James Pantemis, as Max Crepeau was pencilled in by many to be the backup for this camp. Pantemis, however, was incredibly good for Canada at Olympic qualifying and is certainly deserving of a call.
Milan Borjan is still undoubtedly this team’s starter after another strong season in Serbia with Red Star Belgrade including winning the league and cup double. Behind him, Dayne St. Clair is likely the future starter for the national team, but it is worth noting he has had a shaky start to the season with Minnesota United.
Defenders: Sam Adekugbe, Doneil Henry, Alistair Johnston, Scott Kennedy, Richie Laryea, Frank Sturing, Steven Vitoria
This is a very interesting group, especially at centreback. Doniel Henry returns to the roster after an injury layoff. The polarizing defender has quietly been very good once again this season for Suwon Bluewings, who are currently second in the K-League table. Adding him back into the mix will be important for this camp and going forward.
A pair of younger centrebacks plying their trade in Europe have also received the call for this camp. Frank Sturing has been a pleasant surprise under Herdman as a very tidy defender with excellent passing ability who plays in the Dutch second division. Making his debut at this camp is Scott Kennedy, a player who Canada fans will learn to love quickly. The 24-year-old plays in the 2. Bundesliga and is great in the air as well as elite at dispossessing attackers.
At fullback, Canada went to great lengths to get Sam Adekugbe into camp, which shows how valuable he has become at the left-back position. On the right, selection will be more interesting, as both Richie Laryea and Alistair Johnston are playing excellent soccer right now in MLS. If we are basing things purely on form, the edge might have to go to Johnston who has been a big reason behind Nashville SC’s four consecutive clean sheets. Laryea’s performance at the last Canada camp, however, likely makes him undroppable.
Midfielders: Stephen Eustaquio, Liam Fraser, Mark-Anthony Kaye, David Wotherspoon, Jonathan Osorio, Samuel Piette
The midfield is where Canada sees their two biggest absences. The team’s two most recent captains, Scott Arfield and Atiba Hutchinson are not on the roster. Arfield’s absence is definitely somewhat concerning given recent comments and rumours around his future with the team.
The good news is that this is still an incredibly strong and versatile midfield group. Stephen Eustaquio is coming off a career year in Europe with Pacos in Portugal and has caught the eye of some big teams including Porto and Napoli. There is good news for Toronto FC fans as well with Jonathan Osorio’s inclusion likely suggesting his recent injury is not overly bad. Herdman has said in the past that he thinks Oso is captain material, so perhaps that is something to watch out for as well.
It is also nice to see Toronto FC loanee Liam Fraser back with the team after missing the last few camps through injury. Fraser has looked solid in his first few games with Columbus and might be in line for some minutes at this camp. David Wotherspoon is also in great form after winning a cup double with St. Johnstone in Scotland and was one of the standout players of Canada’s last few matches.
Attackers: Tajon Buchanan, Lucas Cavallini, Theo Corbeanu, Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Junior Hoilett, Cyle Larin, Liam Millar
The return of Jonathan David is paramount. The 21-year-old missed out on the last round of World Cup qualifying due to Covid-19 travel restrictions but will be coming into this camp in peak confidence. David just helped Lille win Ligue 1 while setting a record for goals by a Canadian in a top-five league with 13.
Not to be outdone in the confidence department is Cyle Larin, who won a double in Turkey with Besiktas and scored 23 times in all competitions. The two of them together, alongside Alphonso Davies, means Canada’s attack will be the most dangerous it has ever been.
Rounding out the group is a mix of exciting young players. Tajon Buchanan could see his first senior minutes with the national team after a strong showing at Olympic Qualifying. Theo Corbeanu, meanwhile, made his Premier League debut with Wolves earlier this month and remains one of Canada’s most exciting prospects.
Just for fun, here is what the best XI would look like: