While Canada’s just-completed training camp in Austria resulted in a pair of draws for the team, it ended up as a big win for young defender Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé.
The 19-year-old from Sherbrooke, Quebec, a member of the Montreal Impact’s U-23 side, earned his first start for the senior national team in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Moldova, just a few days after appearing in Friday’s 1-1 draw with Bulgaria.
“I’ve gained a huge amount of confidence,” he said on Tuesday in audio provided by the Canadian Soccer Association. “This was my first start at the professional level, since I haven’t started in Montreal yet. So it certainly boosts confidence that the coach trusts you in these situations and you just try to seize the moment and get the most out of it.”
He wasn’t the only player to earn his first professional minutes during this camp; University of Connecticut striker Cyle Larin also played in both games. But such is the situation for a national team looking everywhere it can for fresh blood as they attempt to prepare for next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It’s always a bit nervous at the start of a first start at this level. But as the game went along, I felt better and better and I was more comfortable going forward,” said Gagnon-Laparé, who started at left back against Moldova. “I think it helped the team as well because we were creating chances on that left side with [Simeon] Jackson and [Atiba] Hutchinson.”
Head coach Benito Floro, who invited numerous youngsters to camp but mainly fielded a veteran lineup in the two international friendlies, was impressed with the versatility that Gagnon-Laparé brought to the team.
“I think Jeremy is a player that can play in several different positions but for me he’s best at left full back,” said Floro. “It’s true that especially with our wing positions, we need to be deeper in the attacking places.”
Canada had several opportunities to find a winning goal in the second half against Moldova – including one play that initiated with a cross from Gagnon-Laparé – but couldn’t get the ultimate breakthrough. Even so, the pair of solid performances did wonders to boost the morale of a team that’s still searching for their first international win since October 2012.
“The team and I felt good on the field and I think it showed by the quality of our performance,” said Gagnon-Laparé. “We put together a lot of good chances and it really could have finished in our favor.”