With the calendar turning and a new year underway, fans of Canada’s men’s national team are looking for a sign – any small, flickering ember of hope – that there is reason for optimism in 2014.
On Sunday in the FA Cup, Michael Petrasso provided it.
The 18-year-old former Toronto FC Academy member made the start and went the full 90 for Oldham Athletic in their third-round match against Liverpool at Anfield. In the second half, Petrasso produced one of the best chances for the Latics, freeing himself with a deft turn and unleashing a 20-yard shot, turned away by goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Petrasso’s original one-month loan to Oldham (from Queens Park Rangers) ended in late December, but was extended to Jan. 18, giving him a chance to test his talents against some of the Premier League’s best – a rarity for a Canadian of any age, never mind a teenager.
While Oldham went down to a 2-0 defeat, Petrasso will surely remember the experience – which included swapping jerseys with Luis Suarez at game’s end – for a long time.
A former Petrasso teammate, Luca Gasparotto (who played with Petrasso at the 2011 U-17 World Cup), also got some good news to start off the year. The 18-year-old Glasgow Rangers defender received a call-up to an upcoming Canadian men’s national team camp, the club reported.
A Canadian Soccer Association official confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that a camp is being planned, but said the details are not yet finalized.
Marcus Haber, who scored Canada’s only goal of 2013, finally got back on the field after over a month of inactivity, going 78 minutes in Stevenage’s FA Cup win on Saturday.
Fellow striker Iain Hume also got two good run-outs, going 73 minutes for Preston North End in a league match on New Year’s Day, and 78 minutes in PNE’s 1-1 FA Cup draw on Saturday.
Midfield veteran Julian de Guzman went the full 90 for Skoda Xanthi in a 2-1 loss on Sunday, picking up a yellow card along the way. Elsewhere in Greece, Stefan Vukovic came on as a 70th-minute sub for Zakynthos in a 1-0 defeat.