CanMNT-rostor predictions

A September window full of valuable lessons concluded for the Canadian men’s national team on Tuesday following their 2-0 loss to Uruguay in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The next time we’ll see Canada will be in the November window as they face Japan in a pre-World Cup tuneup on Nov. 17 in Dubai. Six days later, the Canadians will open their World Cup campaign against Belgium, a Group F match that snaps their 36-year absence from the tournament.

Most of the players called up to this September window will likely stick around for that World Cup trip. However, a few players might’ve etched their names onto the final roster in two months’ time after strong performances against Qatar and Uruguay.

Here is a look at Canada’s updated 26-man depth chart for the World Cup.

GOALKEEPER

  • Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade)
  • Maxime Crépeau (LAFC)
  • Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United FC)

It’s the same old story. Milan Borjan, who captained Canada against Uruguay, will remain the No. 1 with Maxime Crépeau and Dayne St. Clair as his backups, in that order.

Borjan had a few shaky moments in possession against Uruguay, not to mention the questionable wall placement for Nicolás de la Cruz’s free kick that opened the scoring. Regardless, the veteran shot-stopper has been clutch for Canada over the past 18 months and is one of the team’s leaders.

There’s no doubting the pecking order of goalkeepers this close to the World Cup.

LEFT BACK

  • Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor)

The fact that John Herdman only called up one primary left back in Sam Adekugbe is telling.

Alphonso Davies and Richie Laryea can play there if necessary, plus Liam Millar received around 20 minutes at wingback against Qatar. However, Adekugbe started both friendlies, plays regularly at Hatayspor and there are no other squad regulars to lean on in that position.

It’s unfortunate for the likes of Raheem Edwards (LA Galaxy), but that’s the situation Herdman has seemingly decided on.

CENTER BACK

  • Kamal Miller (CF Montréal)
  • Scott Kennedy (Jahn Regensburg)
  • Derek Cornelius (Panetolikos)
  • Steven Vitoria (Chaves)
  • Joel Waterman (CF Montréal)

The only change from the June predictions is Doneil Henry being dropped for Derek Cornelius. It leaves Canada with more left-footers than right-footers, although Alistair Johnston can fulfill the role of right center back in a pinch.

On merit, Henry should be dropped. He’s struggled for minutes all year between LAFC and Toronto FC, plus the five-week layoff between the end of the MLS regular season and the November window only hinders his chances.

It’s a tough decision because the 29-year-old is a leader in the room and has been solid in his past few appearances for the national team. But this is the World Cup, where the best of the best will play. Canada will need defenders in top form, which Henry can’t claim at the moment.

RIGHT BACK

  • Alistair Johnston (CF Montréal)
  • Richie Laryea (Toronto FC, on loan from Nottingham Forest)

Just like the left-back situation, the right side is solidified. So too is the backline in all likelihood, which was underscored in this window.

Alistair Johnston played in both friendlies and started against Curacao in Concacaf Nations League action back in June, so it appears that he’s the go-to right fullback for Herdman over Richie Laryea.

Junior Hoilett and Tajon Buchanan can play at right wingback if necessary, so there won’t be any shock call-ups for the likes of Montréal’s Zachary Brault-Guillard.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER

  • Stephen Eustaquio (FC Porto)
  • Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş)
  • Samuel Piette (CF Montréal)

Stephen Eustaquio and Samuel Piette are sure-fire call-ups now based on their form for club and country.

The lingering concern is Atiba Hutchinson. At 39, he’s Canada’s all-time appearances leader and deserves to represent Canada at a World Cup more than anyone else in the active player pool. Unfortunately for Hutchinson, he was forced to miss this window due to a preseason bone bruise that he’s yet to recover from.

Ahead of the friendlies, Herdman stated that Hutchinson should return to the pitch by the end of October. That leaves the veteran midfielder with just three or four games with Beşiktaş to gain match fitness before joining up with the national team in the Middle East.

National-team medical staff is in Istanbul to monitor Hutchinson’s progress – for the sake of his World Cup dream, hopefully he is back sooner rather than later. Either way, he should still crack the roster, if only for his leadership.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER

  • Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC)
  • Mark-Anthony Kaye (Toronto FC)
  • Ismaël Koné (CF Montréal)
  • David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone)

Even if there’ll be five weeks between the end of Toronto FC’s season and the World Cup, Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye should be on the list. They’ve been key members of the qualifying journey, plus in Osorio’s case, has delivered in some crucial moments for Canada over the past year.

David Wotherspoon returned to the pitch for St. Johnstone after 10 months in a friendly during the international break. Wotherspoon tore his ACL last November, so seeing him healthy is the important factor.

That being said, Wotherspoon received eight appearances in 2021 before his injury. He started in the vital 4-1 win over Panama at BMO Field in October and was terrific. The 32-year-old can easily return to the fold, provided he shows no signs of wear and tear.

As for Ismaël Koné, this is more a case of how many minutes he’ll receive in Qatar rather than if he’ll make the roster. He might still be a tad raw, but at 20 years old, Koné has the poise, composure and offensive instincts that can be useful for Canada, even as an impact substitute.

WINGER

  • Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
  • Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge)
  • Junior Hoilett (Reading)
  • Liam Millar (FC Basel)

Theo Corbeanu and 18-year-old dual national Luca Koleosho were called up in this window, and rightfully so.

But Koleosho is unlikely to commit to any national team before the World Cup, so he’s ruled out. Despite Corbeanu’s impressive form for Blackpool recently, he hadn’t received a call-up since March 2021, so he’s behind the 8-ball compared to a squad regular in Liam Millar.

The rest of the group is pretty straightforward. Davies, Buchanan and Hoilett are as reliable as they come, with Millar providing a potential spark off the bench on either flank.

STRIKER

  • Cyle Larin (Club Brugge)
  • Jonathan David (Lille)
  • Ike Ugbo (Troyes)
  • Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)

Other than Jonathan David, no other striker can claim to be riding high at club level right now.

Cyle Larin is a bit-part player with Club Brugge. Ike Ugbo’s minutes at Troyes are declining, with the 24-year-old spending most of those precious minutes on the wing. Lucas Cavallini was suspended for four games with the Vancouver Whitecaps, so he’ll be incredibly rusty come the World Cup.

There’ve been many calls from fans to drop Cavallini if he won’t be in form. The issue isn’t so much about the Whitecaps striker but rather that there’s no one else who could theoretically usurp him.

Charles-Andreas Brym might have the best chance, although he only just returned to FC Eindhoven in the Dutch second division on loan from Eredivisie outfit Sparta Rotterdam. It could be a different story if Brym had more games under his belt, but that’s not the case.

Therefore, expect Cavallini – a strong locker-room presence by all accounts – to remain with the other three strikers.