It truly is the first match of a new era.
What did people want when Honduras blew out the Canadian national team 8-1 in the final group stage of World Cup qualifying? Fire? Heads rolling? Exile?
The answer Colin Miller, former FC Edmonton head coach and veteran of the North American soccer scene, has provided turns away slightly from the fire and tends to the green shoots in Canada’s soccer garden.
His 22-man roster has ten new players and an average age of 25; forward Dwayne De Rosario and goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld will remain, as will a few other famiiliar faces from the last year of the program. But only four players total on this squad (DeRo, Hirschfeld, Ricketts, Ledgerwood) played in World Cup Qualifying last year. Only three (DeRo, Hirschfeld, Dunfield) are over 30.
This isn’t exile. A lot of good players are missing, but North American training camps often omit players in Europe. (Why make Iain Hume, David Edgar, Andre Hainault or Atiba Hutchinson fly across the pond?) Some MLS players got callups, while others (Will Johnson, Ante Jazic) will start their training camps with their clubs. They’re not necessarily out of the picture.
The theme of this squad is not the end of those players, but the beginning of a new pack. The opportunity offered here is incredible: Two games in short procession, one against a Euro 2012 team (23rd ranked Denmark, last seen in a 1-0 win against Canada in 1995) and one will be the newest installation in the USA-Canada rivalry. It is stiff competition.
But with the long view, how could you plan any differently? The third round of 2018 World Cup qualifying will likely be three years from now, and the journey has to begin immediately. If Canada charges the hexagonal final round of CONCACAF’s tournament, it needs to do so with a new core of players and somewhat of a different look from the team fielded the last few years.
So bring TFC’s Matt Stinson, a 20-year-old with six appearances in 2012 and 22-year old Kyle Bekker, who has never appeared. Think about starting Russell Teibert and Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry and Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault, all with some national team experience but all young and looking for more. Take the players trawled back from clubs in Europe and South America and give them a chance to see what they can do.
Because this is the start of the great adventure for this squad. From these games to the Gold Cup this summer, not all of these players will necessarily figure all the time. But when the time comes, when they are needed, they will remember this camp, and they chance they were given.
Squad after the jump.