Mere days after the Canadian men’s national team’s September window concluded, players were right back at it with their clubs. Not only did many of them start, but they also produced some outstanding performances.
This stretch run between now and mid-November, when the final World Cup roster is submitted, is pivotal, especially for the fringe players. If they can carry this form over the next few weeks, they might give head coach John Herdman no choice but to include them in the 26-man squad.
Here is a sampling of Canadian internationals who stood out this past weekend.
The September window was productive for Jonathan David. He scored in the 2-0 win over Qatar and had two sublime chances to score in the 2-0 loss against Uruguay to no avail, proving he is Canada's in-form striker.
David bolstered that claim with another goal for Lille in their 2-1 defeat to Lorient on Sunday. That brings the 22-year-old’s season tally to six, with only Paris Saint-Germain superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe above him in the Ligue 1 Golden Boot race.
Clearly, a confident David benefits Canada, and scoring consistently only adds to it. He’s netted in three of his last four games, which was a rarity during his first two seasons with Lille.
Even as a lone striker, David is getting the job done, which might aid Herdman as he mulls over the likes of Cyle Larin (Club Brugge) and Ike Ugbo (Troyes), who aren’t in a rich vein of form these days. Having the young forward flanked by Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) and Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge) as part of a fluid front three could be the way to go in the Group F opener vs. Belgium on Nov. 23.
It appeared Stephen Eustaquio was going to have a more reserved game for Porto on Friday. Then he rattled off a quick-fire goal and assist to help lift his club to a crucial 4-1 win over Sporting Braga.
Despite only starting in Porto’s last four league games (six in all competitions), Eustaquio is already tied for the team lead in assists with three and has now added his first goal at the club level in nearly two years.
The Uruguay match did present some warts for Herdman’s double pivot. But if he reverts to a trio for the World Cup, that will still provide Eustaquio with the freedom to push forward in the final third, and he should based on this tremendous run he’s experienced since late August.
Lucas Cavallini was instrumental for Vancouver Whitecaps FC in their victory over Austin FC on Saturday night as they continue to fight for an Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs spot in the Western Conference, setting up a win-and-you're-in game Sunday at Minnesota United FC on Decision Day (5 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, TSN 1/4).
The striker returned from his four-match suspension and struck in the 62nd minute to double Vancouver’s lead in the 2-0 victory.
Cavallini had only been on the pitch for a few minutes, but that was a trademark finish from the Canadian striker. He latched onto an early cross following a late run to the near post, a specialty of his dating back to his Puebla days in Liga MX.
GOAL: Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver Whitecaps - 62nd minute
It’s easy to forget, amid the suspension, that Cavallini is enjoying his best season as a Whitecap – one where questions hang over his future as a Designated Player in British Columbia. His nine goals are the most he’s scored over a calendar year since 2019 with Puebla (10) and his underlying numbers are solid, too.
Even if Vancouver miss out on the playoffs, and with the five-week layoff that would follow, there’s no one else Herdman could realistically call up to adequately replace Cavallini, unless he rolls with three center forwards. Plus, given the number of potential counters Canada will have at the World Cup, having a striker with Cavallini’s ability to finish early, whipped-in crosses will be a fantastic weapon to have off the bench.
Last week's 2-0 loss to Uruguay saw Tajon Buchanan return to the pitch for the first time in two months after suffering a quad injury prior to the Belgian Super Cup. He logged around 15 minutes and looked very lively despite the long layoff, which was an encouraging sign before returning to Club Brugge.
Buchanan received just over 30 minutes off the bench for Brugge on Saturday and capped his return with a lovely looped header to make it 3-0 for the hosts.
Omit the goal and it still would’ve been an effective day for Buchanan. The former New England Revolution standout was driving at defenders, attempting shots after cutting in off the right wing and trying to influence the game as if he’s been a regular starter all season.
That bodes well for Canada with around six weeks left until the team reconvenes for a pre-World Cup camp and friendly vs. Japan (Nov. 17 in Dubai). Buchanan is a locked-in starter if he’s fit, so seeing him back on the pitch without any hitches is brilliant news for the national team.
Understandably, any performance against Wooden Spoon "winners" D.C. United these days will be met with skepticism, but Ismael Kone is reinforcing his case to start at least one World Cup match for Canada.
Especially in the second half of Saturday's 1-0 win at Stade Saputo, the CF Montréal midfielder routinely shrugged off D.C. United defenders while receiving a pass under pressure, before shimmying his way through and playing a sublime pass deep into the final third. It was breathtaking to watch at times.
By now, everyone knows what Kone is capable of when he has possession. It’s the off-ball characteristics that are wild-cards. To his credit, though, Kone was working hard to recover possession, harried United’s midfielders and put in a couple of strong challenges.
Earlier in the season, Kone experienced lapses in his defensive acumen. Whether head coach Wilfried Nancy worked with the youngster to improve that part of his game is unknown, but he’s paying more attention to it. That’s vital if Kone wants to start in Canada’s midfield where there will be no time to take a breather.