Marcel de Jong offers mentor role amid Canada national team transformation

Gold Cup overlay - Marcel de Jong - Canada

HOUSTON -- Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada national team defender Marcel de Jong has been getting a pretty good view of Alphonso Davies’ rise for club and country.

The veteran left back and the young protégé worked together on the left side in Canada’s 4-2 win over French Guiana to start the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. With the players on the same club, there’s been a relationship that’s helped Canada to early success.

“I think everybody that saw that first game saw that we know each other very well and I thought it was a good combination between us,” de Jong said after Canada’s training session at BBVA Compass Stadium.

“I help him as much as I can but for a young kid like him, I don’t think you need to tell him too much to confuse him too much. He’s a young kid so you don’t want him to think too much and let him be free and do what he wants.”

Now 30 years old, de Jong is part of the veteran core of this group that’s seeing players like Davies, Raheem Edwards and Anthony Jackson-Hamel begin to stake their claim for the national program. Despite old hands like Atiba Hutchinson's absence from the tournament leaving a big hole in the lineup, it’s presented an opportunity for some exciting and creative players to begin to remake the CanMNT in their image.

There’s a solid group of players that have most of their futures ahead of them and with plenty of time to play together, there’s some optimism to the latest Canadian rebuild.

“I’ve been around a lot of guys but I think right now we have good, young guys stepping in and performing really well,” said de Jong. “It’s up to them to keep the same level and progress as much as they can but they’re here now and let’s see if they can continue the good work.”

The easy lesson the young players will learn from the last game is that lapses in concentration can be punished, regardless of the opposition and of the talent level in your team.

Canada had a three-goal cushion to work with when that happened against French Guiana and they’re hopeful that the lessons have been learned since lapses will be most likely punished by Costa Rica, their opponent on Tuesday (7:30 pm ET | TSN1/3/4/5 in Canada, FS1, UniMás, UDN).

“You can’t allow yourselves to think that, even with a 3-0 lead, a commanding lead, it’s over,” said head coach Octavio Zambrano. “That gets heightened against a team like Costa Rica so we have talked about that particular issue.”