However, head coach John Herdman’s team is already down one player after LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau suffered a broken leg in extra time of Saturday’s MLS Cup Final victory over the Philadelphia Union.
Coupled with Alphonso Davies’ knock for Bayern Munich and the returns of various players, injuries have become a key focus for Canada with their World Cup Group F opener against Belgium just 16 days away.
Here’s a breakdown of key injury statuses and their potential replacements.
Canadians across the globe held their collective breath when Davies pulled up lame in the 62nd minute of Bayern Munich’s 3-2 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Davies was favoring his right hamstring after appearing to tweak the muscle while tracking back. He left the pitch in clear discomfort, with every Canadian saying prayers the 22-year-old will still be available for the Belgium game on Nov. 23.
Luckily, it doesn’t appear Davies’ World Cup status is in doubt. Bayern confirmed Davies will miss the club’s next two Bundesliga matches before the break, but isn’t at risk to miss the tournament.
No specific timeline was given and hamstring injuries are finicky. Obviously it’s brilliant news Canada’s best player won’t miss the tournament, but we’ll have to be on watch until Nov. 23 given the uncertainty surrounding an exact return to action.
When the Canadian squad to face Bahrain was announced last Wednesday, Herdman seemed confident Atiba Hutchinson will be ready and performing at his consistent best in Qatar despite not yet playing for Beşiktaş this season.
“I was on the phone to him earlier this week,” Herdman said of the 39-year-old midfielder. “He feels good and when I hear those words, that's always a great sign. When you hear Atiba saying that then you know his mind’s right. He is a guy who if he sets his mind to something, he can achieve it. I've had conversations in previous windows where he hasn't felt good and when I know he hasn't felt good, his mind's not right. And if his mind's not right, he's not really going to be fully invested.
“I think we're just hoping that [Beşiktaş] have a cup game coming up, that we're hoping Atiba can get some serious minutes in that game to help him prepare.”
Hutchinson made Beşiktaş’ matchday squad on Saturday for their Galatasaray match, a 2-1 defeat in Turkey’s Süper Lig. He didn’t make an appearance, but the fact he’s among the substitutes could indicate a Wednesday return is on the cards for Canada’s all-time caps leader (97).
Until then, Hutchinson watch continues.
It’s been a rough few months for Jonathan Osorio. Lingering neurological issues limited the 30-year-old midfielder to just one appearance in the final two months of Toronto FC’s 2022 MLS season.
Last week, Herdman revealed Osorio showed some promising progress in TFC’s recent end-of-season scrimmages. Plus, the Bahrain match and preceding training sessions will better pinpoint the veteran’s fitness levels.
Osorio was a regular starter for Canada during World Cup Qualifying and has become a leader in the locker room in recent months, so it’s clearly vital he’s in rhythm come World Cup time. He’s also soon out of contract and could be deliberating a return to TFC, entry into MLS free agency, or a move abroad.
It says a lot about Crépeau’s character that he suffered a horrific broken leg in Saturday's MLS Cup Final and was pumping up his LAFC teammates while being carted off the pitch, likely knowing his World Cup hopes were over.
Obviously the injury is devastating and missing out on Canada’s first World Cup in 36 years has to sting. The consolation is Crepeau is still 28 and is earmarked to replace Milan Borjan as Canada's No. 1 goalkeeper ahead of 2026, so he should receive his opportunity eventually.
It was a solid year for Crépeau, who joined LAFC in an offseason trade from Vancouver Whitecaps FC. He ultimately posted nine shutouts in 33 regular-season starts, then another one for the Supporters’ Shield winners in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup playoffs as they completed an MLS double.
The anticipated news of Scott Kennedy missing the World Cup was confirmed shortly after Canada’s roster to face Bahrain was unveiled last Wednesday.
The versatile defender injured his shoulder in Jahn Regensburg’s loss to Hansa on Oct. 29, coming in 2. Bundesliga action. He’s since been ruled out for a few months, meaning he’ll miss the World Cup.
It has to be a crushing blow for Kennedy. He managed to scratch and claw his way into the national-team picture after a tremendous 2020-21 season, securing his first call-up in June 2021. He’s since earned eight caps and excelled in every single game.
Crepeau’s injury means Minnesota United FC’s Dayne St. Clair is the No. 2 for Canada and will be in line to start versus Bahrain.
It still leaves one goalkeeping position up for grabs. CF Montréal’s James Pantemis is the likely contender at this stage after he reclaimed the Eastern Conference club’s No. 1 job to close out the MLS season.
Herdman tends to reward youth internationals, especially if they’re playing at the senior level. Pantemis meets both criteria and that’s a fine conclusion to 2022 after starting the season as the No. 2 in Montréal behind Sebastian Breza.
Kennedy would’ve been the direct replacement for Kamal Miller at left center back had he been fit. That unlocks a potential place for Derek Cornelius, who continues to dominate with Panetolikos in Greece while on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps FC. If not for Kennedy’s form with Canada, Cornelius would likely have grabbed a few more starts over the past 12 months.
Surely Cornelius never wanted to claim a seat on the plane in this manner, but this is where Canada’s depth pays off. When one man goes down, another one steps up and seamlessly replaces him.
It’s been about a month since David Wotherspoon returned from a torn ACL he suffered last November. Wotherspoon was understandably sluggish in his first Scottish Premiership match back from injury against Livingston on Oct. 15, but has made rapid progress ever since.
The St. Johnstone midfielder was handed his first start on Sunday, going 79 minutes in a massive 2-1 victory over Rangers. Progressing from 15-minute or half-hour cameos to starting against one of Scotland’s biggest clubs, and thriving, is a major step forward – it’ll be music to Herdman’s ears.
Sure, Wotherspoon is coming off a devastating knee injury, is 32 years old and only has around 130 club minutes under his belt. But he had 10 caps and was called up to every camp last year apart from the 2021 Gold Cup before the ACL tear.
He’s a box-to-box No. 8 who can stretch opposing defenses with off-the-ball runs, is technically gifted and offers a veteran presence for a midfield that’ll need as many in-form players as possible.
As of right now, it would be shocking if Wotherspoon wasn’t among the 26 players going to the World Cup. Frankly, he deserves it after the effort exerted over the last 12 months to return to this level.