Canada’s Gold Cup opener was going okay, I guess, until it wasn’t

Buh. So I watched the first Canadian game in the Gold Cup. Are you sure you want to hear about it?

Martinique aren’t bad so much as they’re static, drawing from a player pool that’s half French oldsters and half natives of the French overseas department. They spent most of the time pushing Canada without finding any luck, going into second-half injury time tied 0-0. That’s sort of a result if your expectations were shattered by the most recent World Cup qualifying campaign but not at all a result when you think that six years ago, Canada were ranked fourth in CONCACAF and now they’re getting bossed around by a non-FIFA team. Milan Borjan was dependable. Canada’s rising stars need more time with each other, and Canada was not without chances.

That would have been something you could settle for, until they scored from outside the box on 93 minutes. By all accounts, Canada need 4 points to succeed, which would mean they need at least a point against Mexico. So there’s that.

Colin Miller’s first squad as interim Canadian MNT boss blows open the field


New Canadian men’s national team interim head coach Colin Miller has named a 22-man roster full of new faces for his January training camp. Photo canadasoccer/flickr

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.

Continue reading