Fresh off Friday’s roster announcement ahead of a pivotal September international window for Canada, a few players are making early cases to start in Friday’s friendly vs. Qatar, one of the last showcases before the FIFA 2022 World Cup in November.
Canada’s in-form striker scored again, while another pillar of the team keeps shining in Portugal along with a couple of MLS-based players who continue to turn heads north of the border.
Here is a sampling of Canadian internationals who stood out this weekend.
Ike Ugbo is struggling with Troyes in Ligue 1, Cyle Larin is barely playing at Club Brugge and Vancouver's Lucas Cavallini is suspended. Thank goodness for Jonathan David, then, who scored his fifth goal in eight games this season to help Lille edge Toulouse.
The lingering issue is who David is going to partner with up front in these two friendlies and at the World Cup. Based on the latest roster, it’s likely going to be a 3-4-3 in possession with David as the No. 9, though he’ll occasionally link up with Alphonso Davies and Junior Hoilett – or whoever starts on the right flank in place of the still-recovering Tajon Buchanan.
Bizarrely, David’s form for club and country have never overlapped. It seems when he’s riding high with Lille, it rarely translates to the national team and vice versa. If there was ever a time to reverse that fortune, though, it’s now.
FC Porto might be struggling, but that’s not due to Stephen Eustaquio’s play in the last five games, all as a starter in a double pivot.
Eustaquio remains heavily involved in the final third, arriving late into the box and attempting a few more shots than usual.
That will only boost the odds of Canada going 3-4-3 in the Qatar and Uruguay friendlies. Eustaquio is gaining more comfort by the game around the box, which will be necessary if Canada head coach John Herdman persists with a midfield duo heading into the World Cup.
Before CF Montréal even kicked a ball on Saturday, they were assured of finishing no lower than second place in the Eastern Conference standings. Despite that guarantee, Montréal went out and defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 on the road.
As has often been the case over the past few months, Montreal’s defenders were the difference-makers, including in the final third with Alistair Johnston scoring the winner.
But some plaudits should go the way of Joel Waterman, who is fresh off his first Canada call-up in 18 months. He sure looked the part of a Canadian men’s national team defender on Saturday with how calmly he progressed the ball while under pressure from the Revolution’s high press.
The dearth of reliable, right-footed options at center back for Canada, coupled with Doneil Henry’s injury, couldn’t come at a better time for Waterman. Even if he doesn’t see significant minutes this September, a strong finish to the MLS season – hopefully culminating with a deep Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs run – will surely lead to the 26-year-old’s inclusion on the final 26-man roster for November.
Canada are blessed to have three top-tier goalkeepers at their disposal. LAFC's Maxime Crepeau is the No. 1 for one of MLS’s best teams and Dayne St. Clair has played a pivotal role in Minnesota United’s success this season, yet both of them play second (and third) fiddle to Milan Borjan.
That’s understandable, considering Borjan’s leadership qualities and continually strong performances in goal for Canada over the last few years. But just like his positional peers, the Red Star Belgrade shot-stopper will enter this September camp in top form as well.
Borjan was the only obstacle standing between a lopsided defeat and a respectable loss in Thursday’s Europa League 2-1 defeat to Trabzonspor. He then picked up a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Napredak in the league on Sunday.
This bodes well ahead of a marquee window because Borjan tends to rise to the occasion when he’s needed the most for Canada. Just look at January’s World Cup Qualifying victory over the US men’s national team or the historic win against Mexico in Edmonton last November. Facing two World Cup-bound opponents this month should bring the best out of the Canadian No. 1 again.
Raheem Edwards might feel disappointed by his omission from this month’s Canada squad with the World Cup on the horizon, and it’s understandable.
Let’s assume Alphonso Davies will play further forward. That leaves Sam Adekugbe as the only primary left back. Toronto FC's Richie Laryea has played there in the past, while Buchanan is a left wingback with Club Brugge, so there are options. Ideally, though, Herdman would want to play those two in their best roles as a right-back and winger, respectively.
Herdman did indicate on Friday he may test out some forwards in wingback roles, so that could explain why Edwards didn’t receive a call-up. Either way, scoring for the LA Galaxy over the weekend and delivering another quality performance will keep the 27-year-old on the radar.
WATCH: Oh my, Raheem Edwards! LA Galaxy defender goes world-class mode
Then again, if the Galaxy miss out on the postseason, that means Edwards would have a five-week layoff before the World Cup. It’s unlikely Herdman will want to risk calling up another player in that predicament with the Toronto FC representatives and Cavallini potentially in the same boat.