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Canada releases squad for upcoming friendlies

Herdman gets one last chance to tweak tactics and test players before Qatar.

Sean Pollock / Waking the Red

Canada Soccer has, at long last, dropped it’s penultimate roster for 2022 ahead of the two important international friendlies scheduled later this month in Vienna Austria, and Bratislava Slovakia. For John Herdman, these games will be the last substantial chance to tweak tactics and modify strategies before the World Cup starts for Canada in 68 days. These two games will be the last opportunity for players on the fringes of the team to stake a claim for the last spots on the expanded 26-man roster for the tournament.

The expanded roster, 27 players in all, for these European games allows for an opportunity for many of the players based in Europe to make an impression on Herdman ahead of Qatar. With COVID protocols in place, and the lengthy World Cup qualifying campaign in full swing, there were few, if any, chances previously for Herdman to observe these peripheral Euro-based players with the national team. It is unknown what the number of substitutes were agreed upon for these games but there is little doubt it will be more than the new standard of five per team. The additional substitutions will more easily allow for Herdman to view his bench in action and to introduce some of the young talent called into the squad.

Missing in Action

As was announced earlier in the week, David Wotherspoon will not be attending this camp in order to focus on his continued rehabilitation efforts with club side St Johnstone. Wotherspoon hopes to progress to getting on the pitch for his club before the end of the month, and if all goes well, may get into a half dozen games or more prior to Qatar. This will certainly give Herdman food for thought when rounding out his squad come November. A match fit Wotherspoon would be boost for the squad in Qatar.

It is unfortunate but not unexpected that Atiba Hutchinson (thigh muscle strain) misses out for this camp, as does Doneil Henry, who picked up a knock in training with Toronto FC earlier this week. Given the injuries in midfield, it was somewhat surprising to not see former TFC player Liam Fraser link up with the team as well.

There was much anticipation that Daniel Jebbison would make the official move back to the Canadian fold, but this will have to wait awhile longer as Jebbision was called into the England U-20 squad for the upcoming international break. Continuing his development with the England youth setup is viewed by many as a postponement of his Canada call-up and not a rejection of the country of his birth.

One player who will not be joining up with the team in Austria is Stefan Mitrovic. A former TFC academy player, Mitrovic was purportedly in the process of completing the paperwork for his one-time switch to Canada, yet a change of heart last week prompted the starlet to accept a senior Serbia call-up after receiving enhanced overtures from the Serbian federation.

New Faces and Surprise Inclusions

Earlier this week, Jonathan Osorio was thought to likely miss out on this camp due to injury. Now, he appears to have made sufficient progress in his recovery to get the nod. It remains to be seen how much action he will see in the camp. How he fares in Toronto FC’s game in Orlando this weekend will provide a clearer picture. As it now stands, expect Osorio to see limited minutes, most likely in the Uruguay game.

Tajon Buchanan is another surprise given he has not played competitively in over a month on account of a lingering quad injury. It will be interesting to see just how much time on the pitch he will see.

Ismaël Koné
Erick Marciscano / Reuters

It is no surprise seeing Ismaël Koné on the roster given some of the performances he has put in for CF Montreal of late. With Hutchinson missing, Osorio’s ability to play extensive minutes questionable, and Fraser not getting the call at all, this will be Koné’s opportunity to shine.

Despite only making one appearance in Canada’s Octagonal campaign, Derek Cornelius has been called into the camp. No doubt, his good start with his club contributed to the call. A good camp now may be enough for Cornelius to make the plane to Qatar.

At long last, Joel Waterman makes his return to the Canadian squad. A solid season for the CF Montreal defender has earned him a spot in this month’s camp and catapulted him back into the picture for a Qatar call-up as well. Waterman will be looking to make the most of his late opportunity to impress Herdman and staff. Barring an injury to the core defenders, including Henry, Waterman will most likely be battling with Cornelius for the fifth centre-back spot.

After missing out on the Octagonal, Theo Corbeanu has been recalled by Herdman. The young attacking player has been off to a hot start with current club Blackpool in the English Championship. With the Qatar roster expanded to 26 players, Corbeanu is aiming for one of those final spots in Herdman’s squad.

Luca Koleosho

The appearance of Luca Koleosho with Canada this window is indeed exciting. The 18-year-old (as of yesterday) made his first appearances in La Liga with Espanyol just a few weeks ago and has a bright future awaiting if he continues on his current trajectory. Previously called into the summer camp in June, Koleosho was unable to make his debut with Canada as the Panama game was cancelled due to contractual disputes between the Canadian players and the CSA.

As reported by Peter Galindo, Koleosho is recovering from an ankle injury, but his inclusion suggests he is fit to participate. Koleosho may not feature prominently in these upcoming games, nor is he a lock for a spot on the plane to Qatar, but he has the potential to become an asset for the CanMNT for years to come.