John Herdman will announce his roster for the Canadian men’s team’s Nation’s League matches this month, as soon as this weekend. There will be new faces from his last roster selected in mid November 2022. How this new squad might appear will depend on several variables. For instance, how many players will be permitted on the game day roster, the traditional 23 or still 26 as it was at the World Cup four months back? If its 26, will the CSA be willing to shell out the bucks to bring a full complement? While Canada has many players in top form, there are also an inordinately high number with injuries to players that frequently get the call. Furthermore, March will be a traditional two game window, and not three games as seen throughout most of the Octagonal over the past couple of years. One less match means less squad rotation will be likely or even necessary. And of course, Nation’s League or not, these games will represent the start of the next World Cup cycle and will likely see the introduction of new prospects and talent that was not part of the last cycle’s core.
Milan Borjan - Dayne St. Clair - Jonathan Sirois or Owen Goodman
Milan Borjan and Dayne St. Clair will be assuredly get the call in net. Both start for their clubs and are in fine form to boot. The third goalkeeper will likely be a new face this time around as Max Crepeau is still recovering from his long term leg injury and his Qatar replacement, James Pantemis is also out for six weeks after suffering an injury late in CF Montreal’s season opener. Thomas Hasal is glued to the Whitecaps’ bench and Sebastian Breza is plying his trade in the Italian third division.
This opens up a glorious opportunity for Herdman to persuade young Crystal Palace keeper Owen Goodman to join the brotherhood. The talented Goodman has been making a good impression for Crystal Palace’s U-23 team and has been on the Premier League squad’s game day bench as their back up keeper several times this season. However, the 19-year-old Goodman may be holding out for an opportunity to emerge with England, or possibly Nigeria, and may defer on making his senior international commitment just yet. But if he were to commit then Herdman would be well-advised to find minutes at the end of the Curacao match to earn Goodman his first senior cap.
Should the dual national not be willing to commit yet then another young goalkeeper is almost equally deserving of getting a call up to his first senior Canada camp. Jonathan Sirois has been among the best keepers in the CPL over the past two years and has made the roster for CF Montreal this season. With the injury to Pantemis, the 21-year-old Sirois has jumped in and has now played in three MLS matches under difficult circumstances. This camp would be a just reward for Sirois to getting himself acclimated to the senior CanMNT milieu.
Sam Adekugbe - Richie Laryea - Alistair Johnston - Mo Farsi
The usual suspects will occupy Herdman’s fullback slots. Sam Adekugbe made a successful debut with new club Galatasaray after a four week hiatus and change of clubs necessitated by the deadly earthquake in Türkiye a month ago. Richie Laryea is making a case for being Toronto FC’s best player, albeit after just three games. However, Alistair Johnston, who has been lights out terrific for new club Celtic FC, will miss the Curaçao game on account of a one match ban.
The ideal cover down the right side for Johnston’s absence in the Curaçao match is former CPL standout Mohamed Farsi. Now with the Columbus Crew, Farsi has fit in seamlessly in Wilfried Nancy’s 3-4-3 system, much like Johnston himself did last year when Nancy was CF Montreal’s coach. Ryan Raposo has caught the idea of many observers but his tenure as a left back requires a larger sized sample. In addition, the left side will have sufficient depth whereas right back is the position of temporary need this window
Steven Vitoria - Kamal Miller - Derek Cornelius - Joel Waterman
Centre-back will once again be comfortably marshalled by the reliable veteran Steven Vitoria with Kamal Miller to his left. However, Herdman will be forced to juggle his backline for the first game. The guess here is that Herdman will opt for a four man backline in Curaçao, but will move to three at the back for Honduras at home when Alistair Johnston returns from his suspension.
Joel Waterman has returned from an injury that kept him out of CF Montreal’s first two games and is expected to be summoned by Herdman. However, Scott Kennedy is coming back from injury and has played sparingly, less than 45 minutes in 2023, with Jahn Regensburg of late. Doneil Henry has yet to see the field with Minnesota United this season.
On the other hand, Derek Cornelius seems to have not missed a bit in making his transition from Greece’s Paneltolikos to Sweden’s Malmö FF in January. Cornelius scored his first goal for his new club earlier this month, just two weeks after making his debut. His play in Europe over the last twenty months should earn him another call up by Herdman.
Another ex-CPL veteran now playing for Korona Kielce in the Polish Ekstraklasa, since his January move from York United, is Domick Zator . The 2022 nominee for CPL centre-back of the year has gone the distance in six of seven matches with his new club so far. Zator is deserving of a call but will likely only get it if Waterman is not fit, or if the roster is set to be 26 players.
W takim składzie rozpoczniemy spotkanie #KORRAD ⚽️— Korona Kielce (@Korona_Kielce) March 11, 2023
Tylko zwycięstwo! ✊ #koronakielce #żółtoczerwoni #złocistokrwiści #suzukiarena pic.twitter.com/zXw1EdVOTe
Stephen Eustáquio - Jonathan Osorio - Mark-Anthony Kaye
Ismaël Koné - Mathieu Choinière - Sean Rea - Victor Loturi
The midfield will be anchored by in-form Porto man Stephen Eustáquio He will once again be expected to carry the water for Herdman’s squad. Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye are the only other experienced midfielders that Herdman can call upon this month and will be called up to step up in the absence of other veterans. Hoping to build on his 2022 successes and his recent run of good form with new club Watford FC is Ismaël Koné. He too will be expected to play important minutes and stake his claim as an automatic starter for Canada beside Eustáquio. Herdman has confidence in the 20 yr old so we shall see.
Canada’s midfield could be in line to see several new faces this window. given that several players are not match fit or only seeing nominal minutes off the bench. Atiba Hutchinson, who is expected to retire at the conclusion of Besiktas’ season has scarcely played in the last nine months. David Wotherspoon has hardly featured for St Johnstone since his return from an ACL injury last October. Liam Fraser has been sparsely used of late at Belgian second tier club KMSK Deinze where he only returned to the starting lineup again this month since the World Cup. To make Canada’s midfield depth even shallower is the recent adductor injury to Samuel Piette. He is doubtful for a call this window.
Stepping into the void left by the veterans just noted, and deserving of a call are a trio of young midfielders: Mathieu Choinière, Sean Rea and Victor Loturi.
Mathieu Choinière, a consistently reliable performer for CF Montreal over the past couple seasons could be up for his first CanMNT match action. In Choinière’s first call-up last November for the World Cup tune-up match vs Bahrain he was an unused sub. Choinière brings versatility to the team as the now 24-year-old can play as a left sided midfielder or more centrally if called upon.
Sean Rea, last year’s CPL young player of the year, has stuck with CF Montreal’s roster this season and has seen action in all three games to date. The 20-year-old Rea has been off to a promising start to his CFM season, looking at times dangerous and creative in attack. Like his CFM counterpart, Choinière, Rea has shown himself to be capable of playing anywhere in attack, whether it be on either wing or as an attacking midfielder.
The third of this young trio deserving of a CanMNT call is Victor Loturi. Another standout graduate of the CPL, Loturi was purchased last summer by Scottish Premiership side Ross County. After a slow start with Ross County, Loturi has been starting most games for his club for the last several months. One catch is that the 21-year-old Loturi is a dual national. Although announced last week on South Sudan’s provisional roster list, it is hard to picture him accepting this call up and committing his international future to South Sudan at this time. A call by Herdman would likely sway him back to Canada, if he was not actually leaning here anyway.
Alphonso Davies - Tajon Buchanan - Jacob Shaffelburg
Alphonso Davies, and to large extent, Tajon Buchanan, are among the first names Herdman will pencil into his starting eleven. This past weekend Davies scored his first goal in two Bundesliga seasons, and overall his play has been lights out for Bayern Munich. He remains a menace on the left side of the pitch whether he lines up as fullback, wing-back or outright winger. The right side of the pitch belongs to Tajon Buchanan for many of the same reasons as Davies on the left.
With Junior Hoilett out with a hamstring injury for almost the remainder of the club season, and Liam Millar struggling for goals, and lately, minutes too, there is room for a fresh face to back up Davies and Buchanan. The most deserving candidate at the moment is Jacob Shaffelburg. Shafflelburg’s career has been enjoying a mini-renaissance of sorts since his loan and then acquisition by Nashville SC last summer. Now on four goals in 14 appearances (two match winning goals in three games this year) in attack he may have earned himself another look by Herdman.
Shaff Attack— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) February 27, 2023
Jacob Shaffelburg scores first Canadian goal of 2023 #MLS season #CanMNT | #EveryoneN pic.twitter.com/VuNJCwFSl3
Jonathan David - Cyle Larin - Lucas Cavallini
Canada’s strike force has never wielded three strikers in the form they are currently in. Jonathan David, at 19 goals is co-leader atop the Ligue 1 scoring table with Kylian Mbappe and has set a new Lille OSC record for most goals scored since the turn of the century surpassing Eden Hazard.
Cyle Larin is experience a storybook resurrection of his season since Club Brugge loaned him to Real Valladolid in Spain’s La Liga in January. Larin has made a spectacular introduction to Valladolid since the move scoring two game winners off the bench in his first two starts, and 4 goals in 7 matches overall.
Lucas Cavallini has recently returned to LigaMX after some disappointing years with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Cavallini, or El Tanque as he is apt to be called again,is also off to a great start with Club Tijuana scoring in just his second start. Between David, Larin, and Cavallini, Herdman is currently spoilt for choice at striker.
Had to be him @realvalladolidE #LaLigaSantander | #ElcheRealValladolid pic.twitter.com/K02WovkfGs— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) March 11, 2023
Given the struggles Ike Ugbo is enduring in finding match minutes it would be unsurprising to see him dropped from the roster this window. Should the roster be set at 26 players then it might be Charles-Andreas Brym who gets the call as his versatility to play both wings will be an asset.
Herdman not calling up underperforming regulars sends a message to these players that in form players will be given preference for a call-up. As Canada’s player pull enlarges in size and talent, the days of lazy call-ups may soon be in the rear-view mirror.
As well, Herdman must begin the process of squad renewal as veterans either retire or fall victim to declining performance and ability.
The CanMNT roster is expected to be released around 17 March 2023.