MANITOBA, Canada—Today, Canada Soccer and head coach John Herdman announced the Canadian Men’s National Team’s 23-man squad for this month’s(!) Concacaf Gold Cup, and they certainly showed that they are not messing around. While other nations may be entering the Gold Cup with one eye towards this fall’s World Cup qualifiers, Herdman and Co. have selected the strongest possible squad they can at this time.
The strong squad features a mix of youth and experience, with 12 players in the squad having Gold Cup experience and several others with vast international experience to go along with the newer faces in the squad. The experience of these players will be important to this squad, as 14 of Canada’s 23 players still have played 10 or less “A” matches, and playing together in this tournament will provide this squad the opportunity to learn from each other, gain valuable international experience, and develop together ahead of their crucial World Cup qualifiers. John Herdman feels like there is already a strong, tangible unity within this squad heading into this tournament.
“We’ve created something here, a brotherhood based on a shared purpose to qualify this team to the FIFA World Cup,” said Herdman in a press release. “They care about each other and that’s the first thing. They care about taking this team to the FIFA World Cup.”
Make no mistake though, this team isn’t at the Gold Cup to make up the numbers, they want to win.
Showing their intentions, headlining this Canada squad is Alphonso Davies, with the Bayern Munich man certainly keen to return to the competition to build on Canada’s quarter-final exit in the last iteration of the tournament. Joining Davies in returning to the squad from the recent qualifiers is Stephen Eustaquio, Tajon Buchanan, Lucas Cavallini, Doneil Henry, Junior Hoillet, Alistair Johnston, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Scott Kennedy, Cyle Larin, Richie Lareya, Jonathan Osorio, Samuel Piette, Dayne St.Clair, and Stephen Vitoria.
Joining the fold for the tournament are Jason Leutwiler, fresh off of a move to Oldham Athletic, new papa Maxime Crepeau, Kamal Miller, and new boys Tyler Pasher, Harry Paton, and (finally!) Ayo Akinola.
The notable omissions from the squad seem to have to do mostly with rehabilitation and/or the rigours of the 2021 schedule, as Jonathan David, Scott Arfield, and Atiba Hutchinson are all working through knocks sustained throughout the season, with David recently stating that he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent during the recent qualifying matches. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan and midfielder David Wotherspoon, who both logged heavy minutes this year with their double-winning clubs, are missing out to rest and prepare for their respective domestic seasons.
Other players, like Sam Adekugbe, have recently completed moves and are understandably missing out to, well, move, and Liam Millar, who is widely speculated to be in the process of moving clubs and is missing out for similar logistical reasons. Timing also plays a part in these decisions as well, as clubs on this side of the world are in full swing of their domestic seasons and need their players (likely the story with Cristian Gutierrez and the Vancouver Whitecaps) and clubs in other parts of the world are ready to begin pre-season training, many with new managers that will want to assess their full squads.
John Herdman says that some players are missing for contract reasons, new coaches, or long seasons with injuries, but that despite that, "every man wants to be part" of these #CanMNT camps— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) July 1, 2021
With this strong squad growing in cohesion, ability, and confidence, Canadian fans would certainly be justified in expecting a strong push for Canada’s first Gold Cup triumph in 21 years. Encouraging signs in their dominant performances in recent qualifiers point to a team that can not only score, but also has the midfield to control matches, the tactical fluidity to play through their lines with confidence, and the potential formula for success at the back.
The opportunity this tournament provides to develop defensive pairings like a Kennedy-Miller-Johnston, for example, or to give more time to the midfield pairing of Eustaquio-Kaye, will be paramount for Canada’s success going forward, while still giving them the ability to compete at a high level now. Additionally, the ability to add Akinola to the attack and to bring Pasher and Paton into the fold is a very exciting prospect for this program.
Canada is one of 13 nations to have already qualified for the group phase of the Gold Cup, doing so through the 2019 Nations League A. The remaining teams will look to qualify for the tournament in the Concacaf Gold Cup Preliminary Round which runs from July 2-6, while the Group Stage of the tournament begins July 10.
It’s exciting times for this Canadian program, one that is brimming with potential and rapidly growing in confidence, and with the squad named today, they’ll certainly fancy their chances against anybody that they may encounter at the tournament.
1- GK- Dayne St. Clair | USA / Minnesota United FC
2- FB- Alistair Johnston | USA / Nashville SC
3- F- Tyler Pasher | USA / Houston Dynamo
4- CB- Kamal Miller | CAN / CF Montréal
5- CB- Steven Vitória | POR / Moreirense FC
6- M- Samuel Piette | CAN / CF Montréal
7- M- Stephen Eustáquio | POR / FC Paços de Ferreira
8- M- Liam Fraser | USA / Columbus Crew SC
9- F- Lucas Cavallini | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
10- F- David Junior Hoilett | Unattached
11- F- Theo Corbeanu | ENG / Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
12- F- Tajon Buchanan | USA / New England Revolution
13- CB- Scott Kennedy | GER / SSV Jahn Regensburg
14- M- Mark-Anthony Kaye | USA / Los Angeles FC
15- CB- Doneil Henry | KOR / Suwon Samsung Bluewings
16- GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
17- F- Cyle Larin | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
18- GK- Jayson Leutwiler | ENG / Oldham Athletic AFC
19- FB- Alphonso Davies | GER / FC Bayern München
20- M- Harry Paton | SCO / Ross County FC
21- M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC
22- FB- Richie Laryea | CAN / Toronto FC
23- F- Ayo Akinola | CAN / Toronto FC