It’s been a year of exciting firsts for Montreal Impact defender Karl Ouimette.
His first full season as a professional. His first goal for the Impact (a vital game-winner in late October). And now, his first call-up to the Canadian men’s national team.
“So far, it’s been awesome,” Ouimette told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday by phone. “The atmosphere is good and the practices are good as well.”
Ouimette is training with the team in Austria ahead of friendlies against the Czech Republic (Friday, 11 am ET, Sportsnet One) and Slovenia (Nov. 19, noon ET, Sportsnet One). The 21-year-old earned the call after a solid season with Montreal, but he isn’t taking anything for granted with the national team.
“You’re happy to be part of the team on your first call-up,” he said. “If I get into the games, it’s a bonus. I have to do the best I can to show what I’m able to do.”
Canada head coach Benito Floro has made no secret of his plan to identify a new core of young players who can lead the team in the years ahead – a group that Ouimette knows he could be a part of.
“It’s exciting to know that you may be in the plans,” he said. “And you have to show that you can stay there.”
Ouimette, like many of the youngsters Floro has turned to in recent months, is a product of an MLS academy. In July 2012, the Terrebonne, Quebec, native became the first graduate of the Montreal Impact Academy to sign with the senior team; since then, four others have followed.
“I think it’s going to make a huge difference,” Ouimette said, when asked about the effect that the academies will have on the Canadian national team player pool. “Having academy guys with us [at Montreal] is nice because we’ve played together for three, four years.”
But Ouimette doesn’t just take his inspiration from his fellow youngsters at the Impact. He says he also benefitted greatly from playing and training alongside now-retired defensive legend Alessandro Nesta.
“He showed me that even if you’re at the best level, you can be humble,” said Ouimette. “When he plays, he’s calm, he just knows what he has to do. He’s very intelligent and I learned a lot from him this year.”
- Check out more Montreal Impact news at ImpactMontreal.com
Ouimette will surely be in for a learning experience with Canada, a team still searching for its first win after 11 games played in 2013. Given how much he’s already achieved, however, Ouimette is up for the challenge.
“The players are playing well and putting the work in," he said. "It’s too soon to say [what the future holds], but I’ll discover more throughout the week.”