They’ve long been eliminated from World Cup qualifying, but both Canada and Jamaica will begin the process of building on successful 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup performances in an intriguing friendly matchup on Saturday at BMO Field.
The meeting between Les Rouges and the Reggae Boyz will be a rematch of their Gold Cup quarterfinal. Jamaica emerged victorious in that contest, getting a standout performance from Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and goals from Montreal’s Shaun Francis and Romario Williams (Atlanta United, on loan to Charleston Battery) to beat Canada 2-1 in Arizona on July 20.
The match will take on a bit of added significance as the first time Canada will play in Toronto in nearly two years, and the first time the national side will take the pitch at BMO Field since stadium renovations were completed in the spring of 2016.
Both teams boast significant MLS contingents, with 13 players from the league on Canada’s roster and eight MLSers on the Reggae Boyz squad.
Saturday’s match is only a friendly, but new Canada manager Octavio Zambrano isn’t messing around with his roster. Zambrano, who was hired in March and has a 2-1-2 record in charge of Canada, called in a strong, young group for this weekend’s match.
His roster skews young – 13 players are 24 or younger – but it also includes the biggest name in Canadian men’s soccer: Atiba Hutchinson. The 34-year-old was not included on the Gold Cup roster after leading his club side Besiktas to back-to-back Turkish league titles, but is easily the most accomplished player in Canada’s player pool. A native of nearby Brampton, Ontario, he’ll be presented with his record fifth Canadian Player of the Year award before kickoff in Toronto.
“The inclusion of Atiba is big for us as he has competed at the top level in Europe,” Zambrano told CanadaSoccer.com. “It is important that our young guys get to see a guy like Atiba, to see how he trains and performs. Atiba adds a very important ingredient to our dynamic and he will make a big difference.”
Hutchinson will draw most of the eyeballs, but Canada’s performance will likely be dictated by some of their younger stars. Orlando’s Cyle Larin, Montreal’s Samuel Piette and Vancouver’s Alphonso Davies were all were called up for Saturday’s contest. How they fare will go a long way towards determining Saturday’s result, and could provide a solid look at Canada’s future prospects.
Saturday’s friendly will be Jamaica’s second in nine days after a squad made up primarily of domestic players took down Hexagonal participants Trinidad & Tobago 2-1 in Port of Spain last week.
Manager Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore added a bit of quality to his squad for the Canada friendly, bringing in MLS players Blake, Francis, Williams, Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution), Jermaine Taylor (Minnesota United FC), Oniel Fisher (Seattle Sounders) and Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers) for Saturday’s match.
Like Canada, Jamaica were eliminated from CONCACAF World Cup qualifying before the Hex, but have shown progress in recent months. The Reggae Boyz made a big run to the Gold Cup final earlier this summer, and will look to continue the process of building on their successful tournament and develop a core for the 2022 World Cup cycle on Saturday.
Saturday’s match will be the 21st all-time meeting between these two teams; Canada holds a slight lead in the all-time series with an 8-6-6 record against the Reggae Boyz. Jamaica have won the last two meetings, beating them in the quarterfinals of this summer’s Gold Cup and in the group stage of the 2015 competition. Saturday’s match will be the sixth all-time meeting between the countries in Toronto, which boasts a sizable Jamaican expatriate population.
Players to Watch
Canada – Alphonso Davies
Davies turned heads with a wonderful performance at the Gold Cup, but the 16-year-old Whitecaps midfielder hasn’t been able to bring that solid form back to MLS. He’s played just 104 minutes in seven MLS matches since returning to Vancouver following the Gold Cup, and could use a solid performance on Saturday to help make a case for more playing time with the ‘Caps.
Jamaica – Andre Blake
He didn’t win the Golden Ball, but Blake was arguably the player of the tournament at the Gold Cup. The Union goalkeeper was fantastic in Jamaica’s run to the final, keying both their quarterfinal win against Canada and their shocking semifinal victory over Mexico. Now fully recovered from a hand injury suffered in the final against the US, he’ll be a crucial part of Jamaica’s chances on Saturday.
Goalkeepers (3): Simon Thomas (FK Bodo/Glimt), Jayson Leutwiler (Blackburn Rovers), James Pantemis (Montreal Impact)
Defenders (7): Nik Ledgerwood (FC Edmonton), Manjrekar James (Vasas Budapest), Michael Petrasso (Queens Park Rangers), Dejan Jakovic (New York Cosmos), Sam Adekugbe (IFK Goteborg, on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps), Amer Didic (Sporting Kansas City), Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Midfielders (10): Samuel Piette (Montreal Impact), David Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City), Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps), Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Louisville City), Raheem Edwards (Toronto FC), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas), David Choiniere (Montreal Impact), Jay Chapman (Toronto FC)
Forwards (3): Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto FC), Cyle Larin (Orlando City), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Montreal Impact)
Goalkeepers (3): Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Shaven Sean Paul (Portmore United), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska)
Defenders (7): Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers), Shaun Francis (Montreal Impact), Oniel Fisher (Seattle Sounders), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Jermaine Taylor (Minnesota United FC), Damion Lowe (IK Start), Ladale Richie (Montego Bay United)
Midfielders (7): Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution), Ewan Grandison (Portmore United), Jamiel Hardware (Boys’ Town FC), Michael Binns (Portmore United), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Vishinul Harris (Arnett Gardens), Devon Williams (Louisville City FC)
Forwards (4): Romario Williams (Atlanta United FC, on loan to Charleston Battery), Shamar Nicholson (Boys’ Town FC), Marvin Morgan (Arnett Gardens), Dane Kelly (Reno 1868 FC)