Ranking Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team’s first ‘Octagonal’ squad in World Cup Qualifiers by ‘Surprise Rating’

With the return of Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team for the start of the Octo in CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, we break down their latest squad, which was announced last week, by giving them a ‘Surprise Rating’. 

Fresh off of a busy summer, it’s almost go time. 

After a memorable month of June and July for Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team, they can’t wait to take to finally take the field together once again this month, when they’ll kick off the final stage of CONCACAF’s World Cup Qualifiers, the ‘Octagonal’, which officially kicks off on September 2nd. 

Fresh off of a solid Gold Cup campaign, where despite the absence of several key starters, they made it to the semi-finals for the first time since 2007, optimism is high in the group. They feel hard done by how things ended for them at the Gold Cup, as they fell narrowly to Mexico 2-1 in a game that they felt that they could’ve won, but after a landmark victory over Costa Rica in the quarter-finals, paired with that Mexico performance and their play in the group stages, this Canadian team feels like they’ve arrived on the scene again in CONCACAF. 

Having booked their ticket to this final stage of World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 1997 earlier this year, where they navigated the first 2 rounds of qualifying with an impressive 6 wins out of a possible 6, scoring an impressive 31 goals and just allowing 1 along the way, the mood surrounding this team was already quite optimistic, and that optimism only grew after the Gold Cup. 

Via most key metrics that analyze country’s recent performances, Canada has arguably become the 3rd-best team in CONCACAF behind the US and Mexico at the moment, a far cry from the Canada of the last few years, one that toiled in the depths of CONCACAF. 

And heading into this Octo, that’s exciting. With 8 of CONCACAF’s finest set to engage in a rumble that will see each team play the other 7 both home and away across the next year, a lot of big games await this Canadian team. 

With the top 3 teams after 14 games booking a ticket straight to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, while the 4th goes through the intercontinental playoff, if Canada can now prove that they indeed have the credentials of a top 3 team in CONCACAF, they can return to the World Cup for the first time since 1986, 35 long years later. 

So heading into these games, the mood surrounding this team is great. In this first match window of the Octo, Honduras, the US and El Salvador await them, as part of the new unique triple matchdays that have been introduced by FIFA with the pandemic accelerating the timeline for most teams quests to the World Cup. 

Along with Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panama, this will be a tough stage for the Canadians, but they have every reason to believe that they can navigate through this stage with the results needed to head to the World Cup. 

And a big part of that? Their strong squad, as they’ve built up quite the ensemble of players these past few years. Veterans such as Milan Borjan and Atiba Hutchinson remain fixtures of the group, but with young stars such as Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David stepping up and dragging Canada through qualifiers, this team has seen a generational shift as of late. 

When you factor in players in or just entering their prime, such as Cyle Larin and Stephen Eustaquio, this Canadian team has a team loaded with star power and talented depth, giving them what they need to overcome a rigorous schedule such as the Octo’s. 

So with all of that in mind, we’re going to take a deeper look at Canada’s squad for this first round of games, of which you can find below.

To help do that, we’ll do what we usually do ahead of these camps, and that’s to break down the squad called up by ‘Surprise Rating’, giving each player a rating from 1-10. For those unfamiliar with the system, a 1 is a player so unsurprising that you’d bet bitcoin on their inclusion, while a 10 is a player so surprising that you almost double-checked their eligibility on TransferMarkt. 

Along with a look at how the player has been doing since their last call-up, it gives us a better idea of the 23 players who will be representing Canada this window. 

So without further ado, here’s what to expect from the players in head coach John Herdman’s squad when they don the red and white over the next few weeks.    

GK- Milan Borjan | SRB / FK Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)


And to start, there’s Canada’s current #1 goalkeeper, and likely captain, the 33-year-old Borjan, who returns to Canada’s squad after missing out on the Gold Cup, instead choosing to remain with his club, Red Star, helping them navigate through Champions League qualifiers. 

Having played a big role throughout the first 2 rounds of World Cup qualifiers, keeping 3 clean sheets in 4 games, including massive ones against Suriname and Haiti (x2), he’ll be expected to come up big again for Canada in these games, as he looks to continue his strong play for both club and country. 

In the midst of a strong start to the year with Red Star, where they managed to qualify quite comfortably for the Europa League after a narrow elimination from the Champions League, and remain undefeated through 6 games in the league, 2 points off of 1st place as of writing, there’s hope that Red Star can pick up a 5th-straight league title this season, while also making some noise in Europe. 

Before then, though, the Canadian team awaits Borjan, and he’ll be a key leader in these games, especially as one of the team’s top cap holders with an impressive 53 appearances for his country, of which he’ll build on in this camp. 

GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC


But while Borjan will look to play a big role in these games, he probably won’t play every game, and that’s due to the emergence of Maxime Crepeau, who was fantastic for Canada at the Gold Cup, putting up some massive performances against Haiti, Costa Rica and Mexico. 

He only kept 1 clean sheet in 5 games, but that was through no fault of his own, as he made many massive stops in key games, and nearly willed his team to victory in the semis against Mexico, making a penalty save and some other crucial stops despite the 2-1 loss. 

So heading into this camp, it’s put him right into Canada’s #1 goalkeeper discussion, as the 27-year-old showed that he’s a lot closer to taking over from Borjan than people ever realized before this summer.

Playing behind an inconsistent Whitecaps defence where he sees a lot of action on a regular basis, he’s shown to be ready for a bigger role to the National Team, so although he might not take over from Borjan fully quite yet, expect him to share the net more with his veteran teammate going forawrd.

Crepeau looks on for Canada at the 2021 Gold Cup (Canada Soccer)

GK- James Pantemis | CAN / CF Montréal


And to round off the goalkeepers, we then have the 24-year-old Pantemis, who returns to the senior squad for the first time since June, where he was the 3rd goalkeeper behind Borjan and Dayne St.Clair, as Crepeau remained back at home with his wife for the birth of their child. 

He then missed out on the Gold Cup as his club Montreal went through a goalkeeping crisis, but now, with St.Clair having gone through a rough season and coming off an illness, Pantemis is more than a justified choice at the moment.

It still was a bit of a surprise to see him on the list, as he’s coming off spending some time in COVID protocol, and Montreal’s goalkeeper depth is quite thin, with just 23-year-old Sebastian Breza and 20-year-old Jonathan Sirois left to man the sticks there right now, but Pantemis has had a pretty good season when he has played for Montreal. 

With 2 clean sheets in 9 games, he’s helped Montreal become one of the surprises of this MLS season, as they sit in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference through 22 games, despite many expecting them to be a bottom-feeder. 

So even though he might not play in this camp, he’s a good long-term piece in goal for this country, highlighting their impressive depth at the position. 

CB- Doneil Henry | KOR / Suwon Samsung Bluewings 


Moving to the centre backs, we then have Henry, one of Herdman’s key leaders, with the 28-year-old often being cited as a big figure in this team’s strong locker room chemistry. 

As a result, he played a big role for Canada throughout this year, putting up some big performances in games such as Canada’s victory over Haiti back in June, showing his talent as a defender. He can still be a bit rash, as Canada unfortunately saw when he gave away a sloppy penalty in that semi versus Mexico, but in the right positions, he can be a key piece at centre back for Canada. 

His club, Suwon, is going through a bit of a rough patch right now, winless in 8, 6 of those being losses, leaving them dangerously close to missing out on the Championship round in the K-League, which is a big disappointment after they had title ambitions earlier this summer, but Henry’s continued to play big minutes for them despite that, and should be a big part of any potential turnaround.

So although he might not be Canada’s #1 option at centre back these days, especially with his spotty injury history, he remains a key part of their group, and should see the pitch for some key minutes in this camp, especially with how congested the fixtures will be. 

CB- Scott Kennedy | GER / SSV Jahn Regensburg


Going down the list of centre backs, we then have the 24-year-old Kennedy, who despite having just 3 caps for Canada, is arguably the team’s #1 heading into this tournament, as he’s quickly become a revelation for this country after bursting onto the scene earlier this year. 

A relative unknown a few months ago, he slotted right into Herdman’s back 3 for crucial games against Suriname and Haiti (x2) during June’s World Cup qualifiers, putting up massive performances as part of 3 hugely important clean sheets. So when it was revealed that he’d miss out on the Gold Cup due to a knock, it was a tough blow for Canada, who could’ve certainly used his skills there.

As a result, it’s going to be nice for them to have his services for this camp, as he comes here in great form, as well. Regensburg has gotten off to a flying start to the 2021/2022 season, winning 4 of their first 5 league games, along with 1 in the cup, allowing them to sit first in the 2.Bundesliga as of writing, making them a real promotion threat for the Bundesliga. 

With 5 clean sheets in 6 games, playing every minute, Kennedy has played a big role in that, so expect him to be a key marshall in Canada’s back 3 once again this camp, picking up where he left off back in June. 

CB- Kamal Miller | CAN / CF Montréal


But while Kennedy is expected to play a big role, there’s a reason we designated him as Canada’s ‘arguable’ #1, and that’s because of the 24-year-old Miller, who has been a revelation this year for both Montreal and Canada as a centre back. 

Mostly played as a left back in 2019 for Orlando and Canada when he was still 22, Miller was a solid depth piece, but he’s taken a step forward this year, as Montreal traded for him and planted him into a back 3 as a centre back, and he’s taken off from there. 

With Canada also playing a back 3, it’s been a match made in heaven, and he showed that at the Gold Cup, where he had a tournament to remember, putting up some big performances against the US, Costa Rica and Mexico. 

So along with his strong form with Montreal, who he’s helped in their rise up the standings, he’s arguably been one of the most in-form Canadians for both club and country this season, and he’ll look to continue that into these massive games for Canada.

CB- Steven Vitória | POR / Moreirense FC


And to round off the centre backs, we then have Vitoria, who at 34 years of age, is the veteran head of this relatively young centre back group, often wearing the armband when Borjan doesn’t play. 

Coming off of a strong Gold Cup, he’ll be expected to play a big role in these games for Canada, proving to be a good option to have as the central centre back in Canada’s back 3, especially with his passing range and ability to read plays. 

He’s currently off to a middling start with his club, who sit 16th out of 18 teams in Portugal’s Primeira Liga through 4 games, having drawn 2 games and lost 2. Despite that, though, he has scored a goal, although clean sheets have been hard to come by, with his team giving up the 2nd-most goals so far. 

So although he might not play as big of a role as the likes as Miller and Kennedy this camp, especially with the quick turnaround between games, which will be hard for his sometimes injury-prone legs, he’ll be expected to play a big role when he does feature, and will be a key leader no matter how much he sees the field here. 

FB- Alistair Johnston | USA / Nashville SC


But while we’ve rounded off the group of those actually listed as centre backs, there’s another name who should get decent minutes at the position, and that’s the 22-year-old Johnston, who has quickly become a key tactical swiss army knife for Herdman. 

Nominally a right back for his club, he’s been playing as both a wing back and an outside centre back for Canada this year, showing impressive proficiency in both roles. With his strong passing ability, decent speed, good offensive instincts and his willingness to defend, he’s the perfect centre back for a team like Canada, who looks to be fluid on both sides of the ball. 

A key contributor on a Nashville team that has turned heads in their 2nd year in MLS, sitting 6th in all of MLS and tied for 2nd in the Eastern Conference as of writing, Johnston has played a big role in that success, helping Nashville to the 2nd-best defensive record in the league. 

So look for him to play a big role for Canada this camp, as his tactical versatility has quickly made him a key soldier for Herdman, who has given him 10 caps already this year for a reason, a total he’ll surely add to over the coming weeks. 

FB- Samuel Adekugbe | TUR / Hatayspor FC


Moving onto the full backs now, though, Canada’s got quite the interesting group of players called up, and Adekugbe is no exception, as the 26-year-old comes into this camp in excellent form having gotten off to a bright start with his new club in Turkey’s SuperLig. 

With 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss through 3 games, they’re fresh off of a big 5-0 victory over Alanyaspor, and Adekugbe played a big role in that, putting up a strong performance at left back. 

So after missing the Gold Cup to sort this move to Turkey from his old club, Norway’s Valerenga, Adekugbe will look to show why he’s quickly grown into a key contributor for this Canadian side. 

Having played in all 6 of Canada’s World Cup qualifiers up to this point, picking up 2 assists as a wing back, he’s going to look to play a similar role this camp, both as a starter and a sub, a great example of the sort of growing depth that Canada currently has at its disposal. 

FB- Alphonso Davies | GER / FC Bayern München


Then, we’ve got Canada’s star, the 20-year-old Davies, who as CONCACAF’s best player right now, will be expected to play a massive role for Canada once again this camp. 

Having picked up an ankle injury right before the Gold Cup, one that was supposed to make him a doubt for these games, he ended up returning to action for Bayern earlier than expected, playing 360 out of a possible 450 minutes so far this season, helping them win the Super Cup and sit tied atop the Bundesliga as of writing.

So that he’s fit and ready to play these games is huge for Canada, as they’ll need him to play a key role for his country once again. Seeing that he had an impressive 4 goals and 5 assists from wing back through Canada’s first 6 World Cup qualifiers this year, adding to the 9 goals and 13 assists that he’s picked up all-time in 23 games for his country, they’ll look for similar output in the Octo, where he’ll look to put the giants of this region on notice. 

Having done so at the club level, along with every time he dons the red, he will look to continue to do that this camp, bolstering those credentials of him being the best player in this region. 

Davies in action for Canada in World Cup qualifiers (Canada Soccer)

FB- Richie Laryea | CAN / Toronto FC


And to round off the full backs we’ve then got the 26-year-old, Laryea, who has become a lock in Herdman’s squad these past few years, and for good reason. A true master in CONCACAF’s dark arts, he gives Canada an edge both through his skill and his ability to get in people’s heads, making him a valuable asset for Canada. 

So although he’s in the midst of a rough season at the club level, where his Toronto FC has gone from MLS Supporter’s Shield contenders to Wooden Spoon candidates over the span of 1 year, Laryea remains a constant in Herdman’s set-up. 

With 2 goals for TFC this year, along with 1 goal and 1 assist for Canada, he’s got the skills to help his team out offensively, but is very capable defensively, making him a solid wing back option for his country. 

Because of that, he’s in line for some big minutes this camp, as he’s a key emotional leader on this team for a reason, and he’ll look to show that once again this camp. 

M- Stephen Eustáquio | POR / FC Paços de Ferreira


Then moving up to the midfield, we’ve then got one of the top candidates for Canada’s player of the year so far, the 24-year-old Eustaquio, who’s fresh off of a breakout performance for his country at the Gold Cup, where he was a borderline tournament MVP contender over the 4 games that he played. 

With 3 goals and 1 assist on his team’s run to the semi-finals, all coming from the heart of central midfield, he showed that he’s one of Canada’s core players right now, even if he doesn’t quite have the same profile of a Davies or a David quite yet. 

But that’s starting to change. With some more big performances to start the year for Pacos De Ferreira, including a huge showing against English giants Tottenham in leg 1 of a Conference League tie between the two teams, people are starting to take notice of Eustaquio. 

So even though Eustaquio’s Pacos got eliminated from that competition after a surprise leg 1 win, as Tottenham stormed back with a big leg 2 comeback, it feels like Eustaquio is on the verge of a big move, with the likes of Fulham and Fenerbahce both reportedly interested in the Canadian. 

Until that materializes, though, he’ll look to play a big role for Canada in this camp, one where you wouldn’t be surprised if he plays at least 85% of his team’s minutes, especially considering that he’s started 8 out of Canada’s 11 games so far in 2021, going the full 90 in 6 of those matches.

M- Liam Fraser | CAN / Toronto FC


Going down the list, we then have the 23-year-old Fraser, who’s had a big 2021 season after a topsy-turvy 2020 campaign. 

At the club level, he’s found regular soccer again, playing 13 games so far this year for the Crew since his loan from Toronto, helping them sit just 3 points out of a playoff spot in MLS’s Eastern Conference as of writing, and that’s translated into some National Team success, as he was a key depth player for Canada in both the June window and at the Gold Cup. 

Even if he’s unlikely to start a game this window due to Canada’s strong midfield depth, with his ability to hold possession and get stuck in, he’s an important piece to have on the bench, as he can be useful when both leading and trailing, making him a useful option for Herdman. 

Plus, as he’s shown in the past, if you do need him to start, you know that you’ll get a good shift from him, so although some were surprised with his inclusion in this squad, it makes a lot of sense given the role he can play on this team. 

M- Atiba Hutchinson | TUR / Beşiktaş JK


Moving on, we’ve then got the CanMNT’s oldest and most-capped player, and that’s the 38-year-old Hutchinson, who brings 85 caps to a pretty young group. 

Considering that no other player on this team was even playing professionally when Hutchinson made his Canadian debut back in 2003, he’s going to be a key asset for this squad throughout these qualifiers, serving as captain on Herdman’s squad. 

And what’s great about having Hutchinson around is that he’s not just a symbolic inclusion, either, as he genuinely deserves to be here still at this age, somehow finding a way to improve each and every year for Besiktas, where he’s had another strong start to the campaign. 

After a year where Besiktas won their first league title since 2017, a large part due to the efforts of Hutchinson as a star in the heart of midfield, he has big plans for his team this year, as they look to compete in the Champions League for the first time since 2018. 

So as he continues to plug away here in his 5th World Cup qualifying cycle, look for some passionate performances from someone who always has given his best to his country, as he looks to finally make it to a place that he’s always been fond of reaching – the World Cup. 

M- Mark-Anthony Kaye | USA / Colorado Rapids


Rolling down the list here, we then have one of a few Canadians that have swapped clubs this summer, and that’s the 26-year-old Kaye, who was surprisingly traded to the Colorado Rapids from LAFC right in the middle of the Gold Cup. 

And even though it was originally seen as a strange move, it’s looking like it might end up being a nice stroke of luck for Kaye, who has joined a team that currently sits 3rd in the Western Conference and top 5 in MLS, watching on as LAFC has sunk to 11th in the West, and bottom 10 in the whole league. 

For Canada, that’s been great news, as Kaye has been in excellent form in Colorado, picking up an assist and playing a big role in the Rapids improved transition game. To go along with the 2 goals and 4 assists he’s picked up playing for Canada this season, that means that he now has 2 goals and 6 assists in 24 games for both club and country, which is pretty darn good for a player that plays as a box-to-box #8. 

Because of that, he’ll look to play a big shift for Canada in these qualifiers, continuing his strong play for them this year. There’s a reason why he’s one of this team’s most important midfielders, and that’s because not many players can transition the ball as he can, and he’ll look to prove that once again here. 

Kaye looks on for Canada at the 2021 Gold Cup (Canada Soccer)

M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC


Otherwise, the next name on the list is the 29-year-old Osorio, who much like Laryea, remains stuck on a struggling Toronto team, but that’s through no fault of Osorio, who’s had a pretty solid campaign. 

Playing as a winger and a midfielder, he’s 5 goals in 15 games for TFC, and a further 1 goal and 1 assist in 8 games for Canada, showing why he’s a key player for both club and country. 

So with fellow attacking midfielder Scott Arfield yet to return into the fold for this window, Osorio should have a pretty big role in these games, as his ability as a pressing #10 has made him a favourite of Herdman’s, who knows that on top of his skill, that he’ll also always get a good shift out of Osorio. 

Either as a starter or a bench player, Herdman likes to play him in many different roles as long as he’s healthy, and that should be the case once again in this camp. 

M- Samuel Piette | CAN / CF Montréal


Nearing the end of the midfielders list, we then have a player in a unique situation for both club and country, and that’s the 26-year-old, Piette, who finds himself at a strange crossroads for Montreal and Canada. 

With Montreal, there’s a reason why he’s a key leader and a fan-favourite, but he’s started just 9 of 14 games in 2021, while being an unused substitute in a further 3 games, which is a far cry from the usual role that he holds as an undisputed mainstay in the Montreal midfield. Seeing his team’s record, it’s hard to question the decision, but a lot of their key victories have come with him in a starting position, so one has to wonder if he picks up more starts in the stretch run. 

For Canada, though, he remains a key contributor, even if he’s not atop the depth chart like he used to be, as Herdman has still started him in 6 out of a possible 11 games, and he’s featured in 8 of those games in some form or another. 

The nice thing with Piette is that no matter what role he plays, his level doesn’t drop off, so depending on what you need out of a game, he can play as both a starter or as a sub, which makes him extra valuable for Herdman in these triple matchdays. 

M- David Wotherspoon | SCO / St. Johnstone FC


Then to round off the midfielders, we’ve got one of the biggest breakout players for Canada this year, and that’s Wotherspoon, who’s looking to build off of a big 2020/2021 season, one where he had 6 goals and 7 assists in 49 games as part of a year where his St.Johnstone team won a historic cup double in Scotland. 

It hasn’t been the brightest start for his team this year, as they’re out of Europe completely after a promising start to Europa League qualifiers, and sit 8th out of 12 teams in the Scottish Championship having drawn 3 and lost 1 of their first 4 games, but it’s still early in the season. Plus, Wotherspoon has played pretty well despite that, putting up some good shifts even if it isn’t translating to goals and assists, showing why he’s one of St.Johnstone’s key players. 

So look for him to show why he’s been one of Canada’s big surprises this year, building off the 1 goal and 3 assists he’s picked up through 5 games for his country this year. 

He might not always start games for Canada, as Herdman prefers to use him as a super-sub in these bigger games, but with his strong work rate and solid technical ability, that can give this team a boost off the bench, so expect him to keep a similar role in these games, knowing that he can also put up a shift in a starting role too, if needed. 

F- Tajon Buchanan | USA / New England Revolution


And shifting over to the forwards, we’ve got a player who probably won’t actually be playing that much at forward, and that’s the 22-year-old Buchanan, who despite being listed as a forward, might play more as a wing back, where he put the world on notice during the Gold Cup. 

In the midst of a breakout season where he’s helped New England to the top of the MLS’s Supporter’s Shield race, putting up a staggering 6 goals and 5 assists in 17 games, it’s been a big year for Buchanan, who is fresh off of completing a move to Club Brugge in Belgium, who he’ll join after the end of the MLS season. 

Along with the 1 goal and 3 assists that he’s picked up playing for Canada, including the eye-popping goal he scored in the semis against Mexico that put the world on notice, he’s had quite the season, and that’s without including the 2 goals that he scored at Olympic qualifiers for Canada back in March. 

So considering all that, there’s no doubt that he’s arguably been Canada’s breakout player of the year, meaning that it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue that form into this camp. 

Be it as a forward, or as a wing back, he can do damage to opponents in many different roles, and Herdman is well aware of that, having even talked about the possibility of Buchanan and Davies playing as wing backs in a 3-5-2 this camp, which is a tantalizing idea for this Canadian team to potentially try out.

Buchanan looks on for Canada at the 2021 Gold Cup (Canada Soccer)

F- Lucas Cavallini | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC


But moving on, we’ve then got Canada’s biggest surprise inclusion in this squad, and that’s the 28-year-old Cavallini, whose status for these games remains uncertain as he works his way back from a knee injury. 

Considering he’s supposed to be out for another 3 weeks, though, his inclusion is quite surprising, but even if he doesn’t get cleared to play, it looks like Herdman wants to have him around the locker room, as he’s a key leader on this team. 

So although he’d be a good option to have for a team with decent striker depth, especially with his 3 goals and 2 assists in 13 MLS games this year, along with his 5 goals and 2 assists in 10 games for Canada, he’ll at the very least be a key voice in the locker room, helping motivate the squad to victory. 

With Canada calling up just 23 players, one wonders if this spot could’ve gone to another player, especially considering that Canada could’ve called up more than 23 players if they wished to, but Herdman has done this sort of move before, and with how strong Canada’s team spirit is, it’s hard to question him in that aspect, although going with a smaller squad could backfire with the congested schedule.

F- Jonathan David | FRA / Lille OSC


And nearing the end of the list here, we’ve then got the 21-year-old David, who is still enjoying life as a Ligue 1 champion, even though Lille’s title defence hasn’t gotten off to the greatest start, sitting 10th with 1 win and 2 draws through 4 games. 

But despite that, it hasn’t all been bad for Lille, as they did beat PSG in the French Super Cup to pick up some silverware, and David is fresh off scoring the winner in their first victory of the season, which came vs Montpellier this past weekend, so things are looking up for him right now. With a chance to play in the Champions League for the first time later this season, there is plenty of time for Lille to get back on track, allowing them to offer up a strong title defence. 

Before that, though, David will look to continue on the strong path he’s been on with Canada this year, having picked up 4 goals and 3 assists in 4 games for the country this year, now giving him 15 goals and 8 assists in 16 games for his country. 

Already just 7 goals away from tying Dwayne De Rosario as the CanMNT’s all-time top scorer, he’s going to look to take a step closer to that accomplishment this camp, continuing his strong start to life as a Canadian international, adding to his growing credentials as one of the top players in CONCACAF right now.  

F- David Junior Hoilett | ENG / Reading FC


Moving down, we’ve got the last player who has a new club (as of writing) on this list, and that’s the 31-year-old Hoilett, who signed as a free agent with Reading in the English Championship, doing so after his contract with fellow Championship side Cardiff expired.

It hasn’t been a great start to the year for Reading, who sit 22nd out of 24 teams through 5 games, but Hoilett has just played in 2 of those games, starting 1 of them, so you have to wonder if his continued integration helps them reverse their fortunes. 

But before then, he’ll look to play a big role once again here for Canada. Either as a starter, or as a super-sub, all he’s done is produce for his country this year, with 4 goals and 3 assists in 9 games in 2021, most of them being important ones. 

With his ability to play as a winger, a #10, or as a 2nd forward, he’s a valuable player for Herdman not only on the field, but off of it as well, emerging as a key leader for this Canadian team over the past few years, and he’ll look to continue that into this camp. 

Hoilett looks on for Canada at the 2021 Gold Cup (Canada Soccer)

F- Cyle Larin | TUR / Beşiktaş JK


Lastly, we’ve got the final forward and player on this list, and that’s the 26-year-old Larin, who will be on a mission this camp for Canada. With 1 goal already in 3 appearances for Besiktas in the new season, he’s found his feet after a strong 2020/2021 season, where he helped Besiktas snap that aforementioned title drought, scoring the 2nd-most goals in the Turkish league, 19, in the process. 

So even though it’s not sure that he’ll stay with Besiktas for their league defence and Champions League quest, as there have been heavy rumours linking him to clubs in England and France, you just know that no matter where he ends up, he’ll score goals. 

Because of that, don’t be surprised if he finds the scoresheet a few times during this camp, as he looks to build off an already historic year with his country, one where he’s already broke the CanMNT record for most goals in a calendar year with 10, and most goals in a World Cup qualifying cycle with 7. 

Just 4 goals off of De Rosario’s all-time record, he’ll look to add to his already record-breaking tallies, and considering that he’s scored in 7 out of 9 of the games that he’s played this year, you wouldn’t put it past him coming close to doing so this camp, coming up with some more timely tallies. 

Looking Forward: 

Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that there are a few absences that one could’ve wondered if Canada could’ve called up in a 26-man squad, such as Arfield, Theo Corbeanu, Liam Millar and Zachary Brault-Guillard, but with Herdman’s decision to stick with a 23-man squad, that didn’t end up materializing. 

But even without those names, there’s no doubt that this squad is arguably one of Canada’s strongest in their history, which bodes well heading into some of the biggest games in their history, in which they’ll look to prove that they’ve well and truly arrived as a giant of CONCACAF. 

To do that, they’ll need to not only make the World Cup, but do so convincingly, but with the most talented squad that we’ve seen out of them in generations, there’s no better time than the present to do so. 

As the saying goes, to become a diamond, you must go through the rough, and there are plenty of potential gems in this roster, and this is the time for them to prove themselves. 

They’ve already done a good job of doing so up until now, but the going gets tough now, as they reach a key junction in their already long and windy road to the 2022 World Cup. 

Up Next: Canada vs Honduras, Thursday, September 2nd, 2021, 17:05 PDT, 20:05 EDT (BMO Field, Toronto)

Cover photo via: Abel Arciniega/Canada Soccer

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