As the ‘Octagonal’, the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, rolls on this month with another 3 crucial matchdays on the schedule, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team has released their latest squad ahead of those games. In this, we break it down by ‘Surprise Rating’.
After a decent start, the going is about to get tough for Canada.
As they head into the second set of games in the ‘Octagonal’, the final round of World Cup qualifiers, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team is looking to continue what has so far been a decent start to the Octo for their squad.
It might not have been how they drew it up at first, but by picking up 5 out of a possible 9 points from their first 3 games back in September, they’ve set themselves up nicely here, as they now sit 2nd out of 8 teams in the Octo heading into this October set of games.
Although their goal was to pick up 6 or 7 points in September, seeing that nearly everyone else around them also struggled to pick up points, that’s left them in a relatively strong position as they get set to take on their next group of challengers in the Octo.
Plus, having already dealt with their ‘welcome to the Octo’ moments in their first 3 games, where they first were surprised by Honduras at home in a 1-1 draw, before recovering nicely to pick up a key 1-1 draw away to the United States, and a 3-0 win at home versus El Salvador, they seemed to get better as the games progressed, which is always what you want to see in these kinds of competitions.
But make no mistake, either. While Canada can feel good about how they finished the last window, and where they sit heading into this one, the going is truly about to get tough for them.
Their next 3 games on the schedule right now? A visit to Octo favourites and current leaders, Mexico, a matchup against the sleeping giants, Jamaica, and a home matchup against the biggest surprise team thus far, Panama.
As far as a 3-game set goes, you’d be hard-pressed to find much harder 3 games than those ones for Canada, so they’ll need to bring their A-game for this window, or else frustration could be on the cards for them.
On the flipside, though, this also provides a good opportunity for this Canadian side. If they can pick up anywhere from 6 to 9 points out of this window, they’ll be sitting in a fantastic position heading into their last 8 games of this Octo, giving them a great shot at qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
As they look to make the World Cup for the first time since 1986, which came 35 long years ago, every step that they take towards that goal will feel huge, so you’d just know that any progress made in this window will feel like a bigfoot-esque step towards their end goal.
To tackle this massive conquest, however, Canada’s head coach, John Herdman, and the rest of his staff have named a strong squad, consisting of 27 players. After calling in only 23 players the last window, they’ve elected to bring in the cavalry this time around, giving them what they need to attack these crucial games.
And when we say bring in the cavalry, let’s be clear – they’re truly bringing in a squad that is among the best that CONCACAF has to offer. From the top of the roster, where you’ve got players at the top of their positions in some of the top leagues in Europe, to the bottom, where you’ve got players in great form in circuits such as MLS, Herdman has plenty of options at his disposal.
So with that in mind, here’s a deeper look at those players, helping us learn more about these 27 players joining up with Canada’s camp ahead of these games.
To help us do that, we’ll do what we usually do ahead of these camps, and that’s to break down this squad by ‘Surprise Rating’, giving each player that was called up a rating between 1-10. For those unfamiliar with how the rankings work, a 1 is a player whose inclusion is about as expected as the sun rising every morning, while a 10 is a player whose inclusion is so surprising that most headed straight to google to confirm that they were even eligible for the squad.
Along with a quick look at how the player has been doing for their club since their last call-up, it helps us give a better idea of who the players are that will be donning the maple leaf this window.
So without much further ado, let’s get right into it, and start looking at who Canada is relying upon in their quest to make the most of this October window.
GK- Milan Borjan | SRB / FK Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
And to start, we’ve got a fixture of this Canadian team, and that’s the 33-year-old Borjan, who as it stands, is Herdman’s main guy in goal, a role that he cemented last camp by playing all 3 of Canada’s games to kick off the Octo, only conceding 2 goals along the way.
Considering that he’s in good form for Red Star, who currently sit 2nd in the Serbian League table, and are undefeated through 2 games of Europa League action, that’s not a bad thing at all for Canada, as Borjan has been quite consistent over the years for both club and country, and this season has been no exception so far.
Despite that, though, there is one worry with Borjan heading into this camp, and it’s with his health, as he recently tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to miss a few recent matches for his club. Obviously, Herdman believes that he can take part in some manner, hence his inclusion in the squad, but it’s expected that he’ll for sure miss 1 or 2 games here, leaving some to wonder if they could’ve called someone else to fill his spot in instead.
But that just shows how important that Borjan is to this group. Even if the competition for his spot is as fierce as ever, he’s a key leader on this team, so even if Canada won’t be getting as much of him on the pitch as they would’ve liked to this window, they’ll be happy to have his presence back in the squad when he’s cleared to do so, knowing that they can also throw him into action if needed.
GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
But while Borjan’s absence will be felt, it won’t cause too much of a problem, and a big reason why that is the case? The emergence of Crepeau, the 27-year-old who has been turning heads all year long for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
A few years ago, Canada would have been in deep, deep trouble if Borjan would have to miss out on games of this magnitude, but by having someone like Crepeau in the fold now, that truly shows how far things have come in terms of this team’s squad depth in recent years, which is quite nice to see.
Amid a strong run of form for the ‘Caps, one that has seen him pick up clean sheets in 3 consecutive games heading into this window, Crepeau has been one of the best goalkeepers in MLS this season, helping Vancouver fashion a late playoff push.
Plus, he has experience with Canada in big games, as he was the team’s starter during this summer’s Gold Cup, which Borjan missed as he helped Red Star navigate through some early-season Champions League qualifiers, leaving Crepeau to help helm Canada as they made it to the semi-finals for the first time since 2007, where they narrowly lost to Mexico in heartbreaking fashion right in the last minute.
Because of that, if anything, this is a deserved opportunity for Crepeau, who many have been calling to get a shot like this as Canada’s #1 for a while now, so while it’s not in the circumstances that anyone would’ve hoped for it to come in, he’s ready for this, and will look to prove that during this window.
GK- James Pantemis | CAN / CF Montréal
Otherwise, moving down the list, Canada then has a 3rd solid option, if needed, and that’s the 24-year-old Pantemis, who has truly cemented himself as an MLS-level starter this year for Montreal, who have surprised many onlookers this season, currently sitting in a playoff spot despite many expecting them to be a basement dweller before the year.
And one of the key factors in that push? The emergence of Pantemis, who has proven to be a reliable shot-stopper for his team when they’ve needed him.
So while he’s still growing as a player, as he has some things to work on in his game, such as his distribution and positioning, considering that he’s still young for a goalkeeper, the best is yet to come for Pantemis, which is good news for Montreal and Canada.
He probably won’t play this window, barring something unforeseen, but it’s good to know that if needed, Canada does have a 3rd goalkeeper playing regularly for their club at a good level, which as some might know, hasn’t always been the case for a lot of Canada’s backup, let alone 3rd goalkeepers, once again highlighting how far things have come for this country in the depth department in recent years.
CB- Derek Cornelius | GRE / Panetolikos FC
Moving to the centre backs, we then have someone who we haven’t seen in a while, but will be a welcome addition back to the squad, and that’s the 23-year-old Cornelius, who hasn’t earned a cap for Canada since the start of 2020, and hasn’t played in a competitive game for his country since the end of 2019.
Because of that, it feels almost strange to remember that Cornelius was arguably Canada’s best defender throughout the entirety of 2019, but that just shows how long it’s been since he’s played for his country, and why it’s so exciting to have him back in the fold.
And it’s not as if he’s been completely absent from playing for Canada, either, as it’s important to remember that he almost dragged Canada’s U23 team to the Olympics this year, before an injury stalled that progress.
If anything, it was his inconsistent club form over the last few years that has hurt him most, because, despite his heroics for Canada, he just couldn’t find any sort of regular game time with the Vancouver Whitecaps over these past few years, making it hard for Herdman to call him in.
But that’s changed now. On loan to Panetolikos in Greece’s Super League, he’s become a regular starter on a surprisingly good side in a good circuit, starting in all 5 games since he joined them this summer, putting him back on Canada’s radar.
So now that he’s back in the Canadian fold, hopefully he can stay there, because given how young he is, and how good he’s been for Canada in the past, he’s an exciting name to have back in the fold, helping give depth to a position where you can never have too many good options.
CB- Doneil Henry | KOR / Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Otherwise, moving down the list of centre backs, we’ve then got the 28-year-old Henry, who remains one of Canada’s longest-tenured players, and a key leader on this squad. He showed that last window, where he stepped up big in the one game that he played, which came against the US, showing that he has a role to play on this team.
And the good news is that he comes into this camp in decent form, as well, as his club team, Suwon, have recovered decently after a poor summer, sliding their way back into the top half of the table right as the first part of the campaign concluded, putting them in the championship round for the second part of it.
Henry has played a big part in that, as well, helping Suwon go on a run where they only lost twice in their last 6 games before the international break, playing the full 90 in 4 of those (winning 2, and drawing 1).
So because of all that, he should be expected to play a decent role in this camp, when called upon. He might only play 1 or 2 of the 3 games, but you know that when he’s on, he’s going to give it his all, showing why he’s a key part of this squad when healthy.
CB- Kamal Miller | CAN / CF Montréal
Moving on, though, we’ve then got one of Canada’s most important names defensively at the moment, and that’s the 24-year-old Miller, who has continued his strong play this season for Montreal.
After an injury kept him out of action for a bit earlier this year, he’s been a rock at the back for his club, going the full 90 in 12 straight league games heading into this camp, helping them make that surprise push for a playoff spot.
Along with his strong play for Canada, where he’s quickly shown that he’s one of this team’s key defenders when healthy, he’s been a man on a mission in 2021, making sure to put up a shift whenever he’s on the field.
Because of that, expect the same from him this camp, as not only he’ll be expected to play a big role, he’ll also be expected to excel in it, which based on what we’ve seen from in 2021, is a very doable ask for someone who’s been one of Canada’s biggest risers this year.
CB- Steven Vitória | POR / Moreirense FC
Lastly, to round off the players actually listed as centre backs on the roster sheet, we’ve then got the veteran of this group, the 34-year-old Vitoria, who will also be expected to play a big role in this camp for Canada.
He comes into this window in decent form, too, as his club, Moreirense, have settled down after a bit of a rocky start, sitting undefeated in 4 of their last 5 games after losing 2 of their first 3. They might only have 1 win right now, but that only came recently, too, showing how much things have gotten better for the club these past few weeks, who have now climbed to sit 14th out of 18 teams in the Portuguese league, which is an improvement from the basement, where they sat before.
Vitoria’s been a key part of that change, as well, as his team has 1 win, 3 draws and just 1 loss in the 5 games that he’s played this year, highlighting his importance to his team when he’s fit enough to make their starting 11.
So look for Canada to rely on him for some big games this window, as he’s arguably the main leader back defensively on this team whenever he’s on the pitch. He might only play 2 out of the 3 games due to his age, as he did last camp, but it’s no coincidence that in the 2 games that he played, Canada only conceded 1 goal, showing why he’s such an important part of this group at the moment.
FB- Samuel Adekugbe | TUR / Hatayspor FC
Shifting over to the full backs, we’ve then got a quiet riser in Canadian circles, and that’s the 26-year-old Adekugbe, who is starting to become a name that a lot of Canadians are getting to know a lot about after flying under the radar with relative anonymity the past few years.
Always a solid player before, he’s taken a big step forward this year, as a transfer from Norway’s Valerenga to Turkey’s Hatayspor has seen him find a new level of play recently, as he’s helped his team become one of the top sides in the country. Playing in 717 out of a possible 720 minutes, adding an assist along the way, Adekugbe’s play has seen Hatayspor rise to 4th in the Turkish league, giving them a chance to dream of potentially playing in Europe next season if they keep up this form.
And the good news is that this form should translate over nicely to Canada, who have a good history with players playing in the Turkish league. That was shown in small glimpses last camp, as Adekugbe had 2 fantastic games against the US and El Salvador, and should be even more evident in this window, especially seeing how good his form has been as of late.
So because of that, look for Adekugbe to play a big role in this camp for Canada, continuing his rise of late, helping show why so many people have been singing his praises over the past few months as one to watch on this Canadian side.
FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | CAN / CF Montréal
Moving on, we’ve then got a face who’s making his return to the fold after a bit of an absence, and that’s the 22-year-old Brault-Guillard, who returns to the Canadian fold for the first time since June of this year, where he famously clawed his way from Canada’s practice squad for that camp to the first team, even scoring his first goal in a 7-0 win over Aruba.
But that’s Brault-Guillard for you. He just finds a way to claw himself into opportunities, and that’s the case this camp, as he’s just been so solid at wing back for Montreal this year, playing a big role in their success so far this season.
He might only have 2 goals and 3 assists in 24 games (all comps), but he should probably have way more than that, as he’s quite involved in his teams’ offence, but doesn’t always get on the scoresheet for it, which to be fair, isn’t that surprising for a wing back.
On a Canadian team quite full of options at wing back, it’s unsure yet how much he’ll really play this window, as that depth has made him hard for him to get in the squad, much less on the field, but just know that if he does, he’ll help Canada out big-time offensively, and at the very least, you know he’ll work hard and add a bit of energy to games.
FB- Alistair Johnston | USA / Nashville SC
Otherwise, Johnston is the next up on the list, and the 23-year-old is a pretty important one to remember heading into these games, as he’s one of the select few that played every minute for Canada the last camp, highlighting his importance to this squad.
A relative unknown before this year, he’s burst onto the scene in a big way for Canada in 2021, going from a forgotten name in the pool to a near-lock to be in the starting lineup when healthy. With his ability to play as both a full back and as a centre back, he’s been a key cog in Herdman’s quest to play a 3 at the back formation, filling in at both of those positions in that set-up, helping give a bit more defensive solidity to this side.
So while at his club, Nashville, he’s deployed as more of a traditional full back (something that’s slowly started to change recently, to be fair), even scoring his 1st MLS goal and picking up his 1st MLS assist a few weeks before this camp, whenever he’s put on the Canadian shirt, he’s been Mr. Reliable at the back.
Because of that, it’s not that surprising to see that Nashville currently sits with the 2nd-best defensive record in the league, and is one of the favourites in the Eastern Conference, currently sitting in 2nd as of writing, all despite being a second-year expansion team.
Johnston’s played a key role in that push, playing 21 out of a possible 28 games for his club, and will look to translate that play over to Canada once again this camp, making him one to watch over the next few weeks.
FB- Richie Laryea | CAN / Toronto FC
But then to round off the list of names officially listed as full backs on the roster, we’ve then got the last of 3 names to play every minute for Canada last window, and that’s the 26-year-old Laryea, who much like Johnston, has become a lock in Herdman’s lineup recently.
Despite a turbulent year at the club level, where his Toronto FC side has been one of the worst in MLS (although they’ve finally turned a corner by winning 3 of their last 4 league games), Laryea’s remained one of the bright lights on that TFC squad throughout the year, and has extended that form over to Canada whenever called upon.
Even though his role is a bit different for Canada, as he’s expected to do a lot more dirty work defensively than he normally might with TFC, Laryea’s proven to be adept at no matter what he’s asked to do, so because of that, expect him to play a big role for Canada in this camp.
M- Stephen Eustáquio | POR / FC Paços de Ferreira
Then, shifting up the pitch, we’ve got yet another Canadian minute-muncher, and that’s the 24-year-old Eustaquio, who was just 11 minutes off of joining the club of players who played every minute last window for Canada, only finding himself withdrawn towards the end of the last game against El Salvador.
But that’s Eustaquio for you. Despite not having much of a summer off after a gruelling 2020/2021 season for both club and country, he’s continued to plug away for Pacos and Canada without second thought, finding a way to maintain a high level of play even though he’s had every reason to tire out.
So while that’s certainly a concern to monitor as he continues to rack up the minute, he’s shown pretty much no indication that he’s going to slow down anytime soon, which is good news for Canada.
Plus, he did also recently serve a suspension for a red card with Pacos a week before this camp, giving him a rare night off, so if anything, he’s rested by his standards, which isn’t the worst thing to have for him heading into this camp, seeing how important he is to Herdman’s side.
M- Liam Fraser | USA / Columbus Crew SC
Otherwise, we’ve then actually got the latest player on this Canadian side to win a trophy, and that’s the 23-year-old Fraser, who is fresh off of winning the Campeones Cup with the Columbus Crew the same week that he was announced as one of the names on this squad.
But that’s the sort of year it’s been for Fraser, at least personally, as he’s taken a big step forward in 2021, becoming a key cog in midfield for the defending MLS champions. On loan from Toronto, he’s since played 17 games for the Crew, including the Campeones Cup final, becoming an everyday starter on his new club.
After a rough few years for him with Toronto, where he just couldn’t carve out the sort of star role that many expected him to one day do so, he’s proven that he can be a regular MLS player with the right minutes in Columbus. So even though things have otherwise not actually gone that well for the Crew this season, as they’re poised to miss the playoffs despite their 2020 MLS Cup triumph, Fraser has been one of their few bright spots for them throughout this campaign, hence his inclusion in this squad.
So even though he might not play a big role for Canada this camp, he’ll be able to put up a shift if needed, much as was the case last camp, and that’s all you need from a player in his position, making him an important part of this team.
M- Atiba Hutchinson | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
Rolling along here, we’ve then got Canada’s oldest and most-capped player on this roster, and that’s the 38-year-old Hutchinson, who is looking to add to his 88 caps this window.
Or at least he was supposed to. As of writing, it’s not official, but reports out of Turkey suggest that Hutchinson won’t be able to make the trek to North America for these games as he deals with a thigh issue, meaning that he could already officially be out of this squad by the time you are reading this.
But it’s still important to note that if Hutchinson was healthy, a big role would’ve awaited him here, as he played in all 3 games for Canada the last window, captaining the side twice and scoring the winner against El Salvador.
In the midst of another solid campaign for Besiktas, who sit 3rd in the Turkish Super Lig, and are currently battling in the Champions League (although things are less rosy for them there), he’s been a key cog in that system, often captaining the team and playing in whatever position is required, which so far this year, has included midfield, right back and centre back, among others.
So while his legs aren’t the same that they used to, at least in terms of how they recover, otherwise Hutchinson has been as good as ever this year, showing that he’s got no plans of slowing down anytime soon, for both Besiktas and Canada.
Considering that this Canadian team has the best chance of sending a team to the World Cup compared to any other iteration that Hutchinson has so far played on, that’s exciting, and it’s hoped that he can continue to play a big role in that quest, even though he won’t get that opportunity this time around.
M- Mark-Anthony Kaye | USA / Colorado Rapids
Moving down the list, we’ve got one of Canada’s regulars in the midfield, and that’s the 26-year-old Kaye, who is in the midst of a pretty good season for club and country.
For his club, he’s been a big part of the Colorado Rapid’s second-half resurgence, helping them push into the top 5 in MLS, becoming an important starter for them after a midseason trade from LAFC. After early fears that the trade wouldn’t be the right fit for him, he quickly quelled those concerns with his strong play over 10 games with his new club, fitting into their squad seamlessly.
As a result, he comes into this camp in good form, and should play a big role for Canada, where he always seems to find an extra gear if needed.
Because of that, keep an eye on him this camp, as you just have to imagine that he has a big game in him over the next few weeks, helping remind onlookers why he’s one of Canada’s most important midfielders whenever he’s healthy.
M- Jonathan Osorio | CAN / Toronto FC
Elsewhere, we’ve got another regular cog in the Canadian midfield, and that’s the 29-year-old Osorio, who is in the midst of a pretty good season, all things considered.
Despite being stuck on that struggling Toronto FC side, he’s been one of their brightest and most consistent lights, recovering from some early-season injury woes to become one of their more prolific players with 6 goals in 21 games (all competitions), which isn’t bad at all for a midfielder, especially considering that he could be scoring and assisting a lot more often.
So while he might not get on the scoresheet as much as he should for both club and country, especially in the assist category, look for him to slot in and play a big role for Canada this camp.
Considering that they looked their best when they played a 3-man midfield with Osorio in it, you have to imagine we see some more of him in that position over the next few games, which is an exciting prospect given Osorio’s ability to play in between the lines at a level not seen from many on this Canadian team.
M- Samuel Piette | CAN / CF Montréal
Moving down the list, we’ve then got yet another well-tenured player in Canada’s midfield, and that’s the 26-year-old Piette, who despite his relatively young age, is the 2nd-highest capped player on this squad behind Hutchinson (making him the highest-capped player once Hutchinson’s absence is confirmed).
But that just shows how long Piette’s been doing his thing for, and why he continues to get call-ups, because he’s such a solid defensive midfielder, one that you know that you can rely on whenever you turn to him.
Plus, thanks to Thierry Henry’s strange experimentation during the 2020 season, Piette’s now got a pretty deft offensive touch, as well, meaning that the days of him being an offensive black hole when he’s on the field are behind him. Because of that, he’s played a big role in Montreal’s impressive campaign, where he’s re-emerged as a locked-down starter after a few stints on the sidelines to start the year.
So while he’s not always the first guy on the Canadian lineup sheet these days, especially with how deep they are at the position, you know that when he’s on the field, he’ll give you everything that he’s got, and his play for Montreal is a great example of that.
M- David Wotherspoon | SCO / St. Johnstone FC
Lastly, to round off the midfielders, we’ve got one of Herdman’s most trusted players, and that’s the 31-year-old Wotherspoon, who’s become a fixture in the Canadian squad this year.
After a strong 2020/2021 season at the club level, one that saw his St.Johnstone side complete a surprising cup double, things haven’t gone as expected so far this year, as they surprisingly crashed out of the Europa League and Conference League despite being expected to do well in those competitions, leading to a European hangover that sunk the start of their season.
They’ve started to recover as of late, though, sitting 8th out of 12 teams, just 6 points off of the top 3, having won 2 of their last 4 games, and Wotherspoon has played a key role in that, remaining as an indispensable player in the heart of midfield for his side.
So even though we have no idea how much he’ll play this camp, as he only had one appearance consisting of 20 minutes in the September window, and won’t be able to play in the Mexico game due to health restrictions, don’t be surprised if that changes this time around, especially in those last 2 games.
Considering that he played in 5 out of Canada’s 6 other games that he was in the squad for this year, it shows that Herdman does trust him, having said in the past that there aren’t many in the Canadian squad who train like him, so look for Wotherspoon to pick up a few more minutes this time around, making him one to watch.
F- Charles-Andreas Brym | NED / FC Eindhoven
Moving up the pitch, we’ve then got the forwards, and that’s where we got our first true surprise, and that’s the 23-year-old Brym, who returns to the Canadian fold for the first time since January of 2020.
Since then, he’s been busy, as he was on Canada’s Olympic qualifying team earlier this year, so even though it didn’t end like it would’ve hoped for his team, he left a big enough impression to be considered by Herdman here. Along with his play in that January 2020 camp, which was actually quite good, he’s proven to be quite good in his rare stints in a Canadian shirt, even though it hasn’t happened competitively at the senior level quite yet.
And although that’s unlikely to happen this time around, barring any surprises, it’s quite intriguing to see him back in this squad. After a topsy-turvy few years that saw him bounce between Portugal, Lille’s B team and Belgium, he’s found a pretty solid club now over in FC Eindhoven, who play in the 2nd Dutch division.
There, he’s gotten off to a good start to life there, scoring a goal and playing some good football through his first 5 games with his club, and that was enough to get him back on Herdman’s radar when he realized that he might need to shore up his forward depth with some potential injuries.
So while it’s yet unsure if he’ll play much this camp, if he does end up getting any minutes, watch out, because he does have an interesting package of skills, which in the right environment, can be fun to watch. He hasn’t figured out how to do that consistently, which is expected based on where he’s at in terms of his club and his age, but if he can do so, he’ll be a very good player, and he’ll look to show that over the next few weeks.
F- Lucas Cavallini | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Otherwise, we’ve then got one of the players whose questionable health status got Brym into this squad, and that’s the 28-year-old Cavallini, who comes into this camp in unusually tough form for his standards.
In the midst of a drought for club and country that extends 10 games, dating all the way back to July, it’s been a while since he’s breached the net, and that’s clearly started to weigh on him. He’s obviously had his fair share of things that didn’t make it easy for him, as he’s dealt with injury, suspension and a middling Whitecaps offence, but it’s still been a surprise to see him struggle despite all of that, as he always seems to find a way to push through that sort of stuff.
Because of that, he seems to be in a situation where he just needs a goal to get himself going again, helping snap that slump. It was hoped that it could come with the Whitecaps, who are looking much better recently thanks to the addition of DP #10 Ryan Gauld, but Cavallini’s yet to get an extended run with his new playmaker, so that’ll have to wait until after the international break.
But speaking of the international break, it’s yet unsure if Cavallini will be using it to rest, or if he’ll be playing, as he picked up a knock on his knee in the second-last game before the break, forcing him to miss the ‘Caps most recent game, making some wonder how fit he’ll be for this camp.
If he does play, though, keep a close eye on him, as you know that he’ll find a way to make something happen, as he tends to do for Canada, having scored 16 goals in 26 appearances, and he’ll look to add to that tally again this window, health permitting, getting the wheels spinning again for ‘El Tanque’.
F- Jonathan David | FRA / Lille OSC
Moving down the list of forwards, we’ve got one of Canada’s hottest (if not the hottest) players right now, and that’s the 21-year-old David, who has been one of the most in-form forwards in all of Europe as of late.
On a run that has seen him score 5 league goals in his last 3 games, he’s now tied atop Ligue 1’s top scorer chart with 6 goals, which considering he shares a league with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mpabbe, amongst others, is quite the impressive feat. After a slow start for Lille in their title defence, other than their surprise Super Cup win over PSG to kick off the year, they’ve recovered nicely as of late, winning 3 straight league games to climb within 2 points of the top 3.
So even though it’s been a mixed start for the club in the Champions League, where they’ve so far only picked up 1 out of a possible 6 points through 2 games, it’s otherwise been a good run of games for them as of late, which bodes well for David heading into this international break.
After closing out the last window with a goal against El Salvador, which snapped a rare 4-game goal-scoring drought for him with Canada, he’ll want to add to his impressive tally of 16 goals in 19 games for his country, continuing his push towards becoming Canada’s top all-time goalscorer, of which he’s already only 6 goals away from tying.
And based on the run of form that he’s currently in, you wouldn’t put it past him adding to that tally this camp, so keep an eye on him over the next few weeks, as he looks to remind onlookers why he’s arguably CONCACAF’s most in-form forward at the moment.
F- Cyle Larin | TUR / Beşiktaş JK
And then, to round off the players officially listed as forwards this camp, we’ve then got the 26-year-old Larin, who without a doubt has been Canada’s most consistent player this year, and is an early favourite to be their player of the year.
With 12 goals in 11 games in 2021, including an impressive 9 in 8 World Cup qualifying games, he currently sits as the top all-time scorer in a calendar year for Canada, and also sits atop the overall CONCACAF World Cup qualifying top scorer charts for this cycle. Plus, thanks to that hot run, he’s now just 2 goals behind Dwayne De Rosario for all-time Canadian goalscorer, a record that you feel that he could break this year.
So while things have been a bit quieter for him at the club level with Besiktas, where he just has 1 goal and 1 assist through 6 games this season, a far cry from the 23 goals and 6 assists that he had in 45 games last year, you have a feeling that he’ll speed things up soon, especially considering that he’s only played 323 minutes so far as he’s dealt with some small knocks to start the year.
Unfortunately, one of those knocks looks like it’ll keep him out of this camp, as reports in Turkey are suggesting that he’ll join Hutchinson in missing out on these games with a similar thigh problem, but it’s expected that he can catch fire once he works through this problem, be it with Canada or with Besiktas.
Because of that, keep an eye on his recovery, because when he’s cleared to get back on a soccer pitch, either for club or country, don’t be surprised if he starts scoring in bushels again, showing why he’s been one of the players to watch in CONCACAF for most of this year.
W- Tajon Buchanan | USA / New England Revolution
Otherwise, shifting to the wingers, we’ve then got another Canadian player in fantastic form right now, and that’s the 22-year-old Buchanan, who has been on fire for both club and country this year.
In the midst of an MLS campaign where he’s put up an impressive 7 goals and 6 assists in 22 games for New England, helping them make a push towards the top of MLS, where they currently sit a whopping 11 points of their next challenger, Buchanan has been hard to touch this season. As a result, he made a big move to Club Brugge this summer, who he’s going to join in the winter window, but before then, the goal is clear for him and New England – finish what they’ve started this season and win an MLS Cup.
Before that, though, he’ll look to build off of his slowly growing form for Canada, where he’s been one of their most improved players as the year has gone on. Despite only making his senior debut this year, he’s already got 2 goals and 4 assists in 12 games for his country in 2021, including 2 goals and 1 assist in his last 4 games.
So because of that, keep an eye on him this camp, as he started to show signs of a potential breakout in the last window, which he closed out with a 1 goal and 1 assist effort against El Salvador, and will look to continue that form over the next few weeks and beyond.
W- Alphonso Davies | GER / FC Bayern München
Shifting down the list, we’ve then got Canada’s star man, the 20-year-old Davies, who is the best player in CONCACAF at the moment, and will look to continue to prove that this camp for his country.
In the midst of another solid campaign for Bayern, he’s played 10 out of a possible 11 games so far, going the full 90 in 7 of those games, adding 3 assists along the way. Thanks to his efforts, Bayern sit atop the Bundesliga, which they’re looking to win for a 10th consecutive time, and are poised to make another deep run in the Champions League, as they look to pick up their 2nd triumph in that competition in the last 3 years.
So expect some big things from him with Canada this window, continuing a strong year for him with club and country. With 4 goals and 6 assists in 8 games so far for Canada in 2021, he is such a key part of this team’s offence whenever he’s on the pitch, and he’ll look to now prove that he can do so in some very tough environments this window, helping cement his credentials as CONCACAF’s top player at the moment.
W- David Junior Hoilett | ENG / Reading FC
Otherwise, moving down the list, we’ve then got a reliable veteran of this Canadian set-up, and that’s the 31-year-old Hoilett, who is one of the most underrated players on this team at the moment.
Fresh off of a big summer move to Reading, who play in England’s 2nd division, he’s helped them crawl up to within 2 points of a playoff spot, as a run of 4 wins in their last 5 games has allowed them to start fashioning a promotion push. Hoilett has played a key role in that push, as well, playing in 7 out of 8 games since signing with his new club, scoring a goal in his most recent game before the break.
As a result, things are looking good for him heading into this international break, as he has 4 goals and 4 assists in 12 games for Canada this year, and most of those actually came while he was with his old club, Cardiff, where he wasn’t playing regularly, or when he was a free agent, so now that he’s back at a club and in form, you have to imagine he’s got some big performances on the way.
He’ll have to wait to make those performances happen, as he must miss out on Canada’s first clash versus Mexico due to uncertainty due to his vaccination status and the health laws surrounding travelling to certain countries from the UK, which is also keeping Wotherspoon out, but he’ll be good to go for the others.
And that’s exciting, as he’s been quietly one of Canada’s most in-form players this year, and he’ll look to keep that good play going in the 2 games that he’s able to play this window.
W- Liam Millar | SUI / FC Basel
Nearing the end of the list here, we’ve then got another one of the new faces in this squad, and that’s the 22-year-old Millar, who makes his return to the Canadian fold for the first time since June.
And make no mistake, this is a very deserved honour for Millar, who has adjusted quite nicely after his big move to Swiss giants, FC Basel, who he joined from Liverpool this summer. After a decent few years on loan in the lower levels of the English pyramid and in Scotland, he’s looked like a whole new player after a slow start to life there, which has made him such an intriguing player to watch for Canadian fans.
As a result, he’s got 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games heading into this camp, recovering nicely after only picking up 1 assist in his first 12 games at his new club, as he’s truly started to show his talent as of late.
So because of that, keep an eye on him this window, even if he might not play as much, as he’s been hard to keep quiet recently, and will look to translate that form over to his country, where he’s always seemed to step up his game in recent years, and will look to do the same once again for these matches.
W- Jacob Shaffelburg | CAN / Toronto FC
Lastly, but most definitely not least, we’ve got the 27th and final player on the roster, and that’s the 21-year-old Shaffelburg, who makes his return to the Canadian fold for the first time since January of 2020, as he looks to make his competitive debut this camp.
And he’s quite the interesting addition to this camp, as he’s shot onto the radar in a big way for Toronto this year, going from afterthought to can’t-miss starter for TFC, all in a span of a few months. As a result, he’s one of the most in-form Canadian players at the moment, having scored 2 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 games (all competitions) heading into this camp, helping TFC go on a run of 4 wins in their last 5 games (all competitions).
Because of that, calls were made for Shaffelburg to get into the Canadian fold, and seeing that Herdman went for an expanded squad, that put him on the radar for these games, where he’ll hope to now make that competitive debut.
Seeing that, make sure to keep a close eye on him, because while his minutes will probably be scarce in these games, if he does see the pitch, based on his current form, you have a feeling that he’ll find a way to make something happen, translating his play for TFC over to Canada.
So there we have it – Canada’s squad for the October window, broken down by ‘Surprise Rating’.
As we saw here, although there were a few surprises, those who were brought in are all in decent form, which should only add to a team that has already shown good things in their short time together as a group.
Heading into some big games, that’s exciting, as this Canadian squad is both deep and talented, allowing them to dream of potentially picking up results that they’ve previously been unable to dream of picking up.
With what is arguably their deepest squad ever, they’ve already started to pick up results that they’ve never picked up before, making it this far in World Cup qualifiers for the first time in 20+ years and will look to continue that into this window, allowing them to make some big progress in their quest to get to Qatar.
As their journey towards the World Cup continues, they’re starting to crest over the halfway point of the road towards Qatar, but that just means that the going is really going to start to get tough now, and they’re well aware of that.
This group is different from past iterations of this Canadian squad, and they’re doing their best to prove that every time they hit the field, and they’ll aim to back that up once more over their next 3 games in this October window.
If they can do that, they’ll be in an excellent position heading into the back half of this Octo, so look for them to hit the ground running here, putting them in a good position to get back to a World Cup.
Up Next: Canada vs Mexico, Thursday, October 7th, 2021, 18:40 PDT, 21:40 EDT (Estadio Azteca, Mexico City)