Michael Petrasso took a big step on Friday night, but knows there are many steps left to come for both him and his team.
The 20-year-old, Toronto-born winger, who moved from the Toronto FC Academy to Queens Park Rangers in England’s Championship in 2013, made his debut for Canada’s senior national team in their 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan on Friday.
Canada’s reigning two-time Under-20 male player of the year had been called into camp under manager Benito Floro twice before, but his start against Azerbaijan was his first taste of on-field action.
“I’m delighted to get my first cap for the men’s team,” Petrasso said after the game. “I’ve been in the Canadian program since I was 14, 15, so making my way all the way up to the senior team is what the kids dream of when they start.”
Petrasso came out of the game partway through the second half, but appeared to be generally pleased with his debut performance.
“The pitch was small, so I didn’t get much space, but I got in a couple of good crosses and did my job defensively, so hopefully the coach could see that.”
The midfielder showed some glimpses of the explosiveness that’s seen him score goals in recent years for Canada’s youth teams and for a trio of English teams (Oldham Athletic, Coventry City, Notts County) to whom he’s gone on loan.
But Petrasso knows that Canada’s current camp, which also includes a friendly against Uzbekistan on Tuesday, is meant less as a showcase for new talent and more as an opportunity to refine the team’s structure ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers this autumn.
“(Against Azerbaijan) we worked on our tactics, because this team’s got big games coming up in September,” Petrasso said. “It was good to be part of it and learn what the team’s trying to do.”
Despite being a potentially important piece of the puzzle over the long term, Petrasso is currently an unlikely bet to be part of the squad that Floro selects to face Honduras (September 2) and El Salvador (September 6).
Either way, after years of waiting patiently to finally earn his first senior cap, Petrasso is ready to take on the next challenge, whenever it may come.
“It was a good experience; hopefully I can maintain it and play as the years go on.”