There was an alarming scare over the weekend involving Alphonso Davies from the Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund derby, but he’s thankfully on the mend after being diagnosed with a bruised skull. Elsewhere, the usual suspects stayed in brilliant form while another youngster is making his case to be on the plane to Qatar.
Here is a sampling of Canadian internationals who stood out last weekend, with the Group F opener on Nov. 23 vs. Belgium fast approaching.
It might have only been a penalty in a 1-0 win over Lens, but Jonathan David scored again to keep his scoring streak alive. That’s now three straight games with a goal for Lille, bringing him up to seven on the season through 10 Ligue 1 matches.
Consistent goal-scoring, especially with around six weeks left until the World Cup, is vital. A confident and free-flowing David is a different beast for Canada, so the longer he keeps this up, the better for the team’s prospects in Qatar.
But it’s more than the goals. David is genuinely contributing in every area for Lille. He’s providing outlets on counter-attacks and his off-the-ball movement is fooling defenders every week.
If head coach John Herdman goes with a front three of David, Davies and Tajon Buchanan, that will be one lethal attacking trio for Canada’s World Cup opponents to contain.
This is becoming routine for Stephen Eustaquio. The more he starts for Porto, the more confidence he gains – and that’s a godsend for Canada.
But this week showcased Eustaquio’s all-around game in midfield. A 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League thrust the 25-year-old into a defensive role and he rose to the challenge. His efforts at limiting opposing attacks down Porto’s left flank and breaking up dangerous attacks proved vital as the Portuguese giants kept the clean sheet.
Then, Eustaquio was dominant in a box-to-box role in a 2-0 victory against Portimonense back in the Primeira Liga.
It’s easy to forget Eustaquio is as effective off the ball as he is in possession. That’s pivotal if Herdman sticks with a double pivot for the World Cup, but either way, those two-way qualities are imperative if Canada want to dictate the midfield in any of their games.
The September window reinforced Ismael Kone’s stock within Les Rouges. It’s now a case of how much he’ll play at the World Cup rather than asking if he’ll be on the roster.
Since returning from that camp, Kone has received back-to-back starts for Montréal, including their comfortable 3-1 win over Inter Miami CF on Decision Day. The 20-year-old assisted the opening goal for Djordje Mihailovic with a brilliant bit of high-pressing on goalkeeper Drake Callender that highlighted why he could be Canada’s X-factor in Qatar.
GOAL: Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montréal - 5th minute
The ability to shift his way through pressure, glide forward on the dribble and spray passes across the final third with the calmness required to play on the big stage are all reasons why Kone should be on the plane. Helping Montréal mount a deep playoff run won't hurt, either, starting with an Eastern Conference Round One game against Orlando City SC on Sunday (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada).
Two weeks ago, Tajon Buchanan’s fitness was a major question mark entering the September window. But he’s been on fire since his 15-minute cameo in the 2-0 international friendly loss to Uruguay on Sept. 27.
It began with a goal in his first game with Club Brugge since May. It continued in Tuesday’s monumental 2-0 UEFA Champions League victory over Spanish side Atlético Madrid. A 33-minute stint in Saturday’s 2-0 Belgian league setback to Westerlo saw more of the same.
Simply put, Buchanan isn’t playing like he recently recovered from a quad injury. The confidence the New England Revolution product has taking on defenders and the anticipation on the dribble are all on point. Normally, players need a couple of games to regain those aspects of their game. Even Davies needed two or three matches after returning to Bayern Munich last April.
This couldn’t be any more encouraging for Herdman. David is in form, Davies will surely be Canada’s catalyst and Buchanan completes what will be a dangerous trio of attackers. The fact the latter is already displaying mid-season form is a pleasant surprise.
There’s a common thread in every Chaves victory, and that’s Steven Vitoria.
Just like the 2-0 win over Sporting Lisbon earlier this season, Vitoria was immense at the back as Chaves stunned Braga 1-0 on Sunday – reaching 10th in the Primeira Liga table after joining the recently-promoted side.
The 35-year-old center back was mopping up every ball that entered the box and provided some crucial interventions on the counter, too. Considering Canada’s weaknesses in the air, Vitoria standing tall in marquee games bodes well. It’s practically guaranteed the Canadian World Cup opponents will exploit that, so the veteran will be leaned on.