Toronto FC youngster Matt Stinson is one of three new additions to the Canadian national team squad for a crucial pair of 2014 World Cup qualifying games against St. Kitts and Nevis this month.
Stinson is the only player in head coach Stephen Hart’s 18-man squad looking for his first international cap. If the 19-year-old TFC Academy grad steps on the pitch in either match, he’ll be the first teenager to earn playing time in a qualifier for Canada since 2004.
For the Canadian coaching staff, Stinson and his 20-year-old TFC teammate Ashtone Morgan are players with bright futures ahead of them.
“For us, it’s been a blessing seeing young blood coming in with a lot of desire and passion,” assistant coach Tony Fonseca said in a conference call on Thursday. “I think over time they will be a great asset to our team.”
Joining Stinson on the roster are 32-year-old midfielder Patrice Bernier and Turkish-based defender Mike Klukowski. The three newcomers join national team stalwarts Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman, Josh Simpson and Lars Hirschfeld as Canada look to advance to the next stage of CONCACAF qualifying with two straight games home and away against the Caribbean nation.
Along with Stinson, Morgan, De Rosario and de Guzman, the number of Major League Soccer players represented on the roster is six. The others are Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson and Chivas USA defender Ante Jazic.
Missing from the squad are regulars Kevin McKenna, Marcel de Jong, Andre Hainault, Iain Hume, Atiba Hutchinson and Dejan Jakovic.
“A lot had to do with injuries,” Fonseca said, explaining the absence of many of the core players that Canadian fans have become accustomed to seeing in recent years.
Houston Dynamo defender Hainault is not injured, but was not called into camp after declining a call-up last month to focus on the MLS Cup Playoff race.
“It’s his decision, not our decision,” Fonseca said of Hainault’s omission. “He decided to stay with his club rather than join the national team in this phase. The communication has been with him and Stephen Hart and obviously he made up his mind."
To secure a spot in next year’s third round of CONCACAF’s qualification tournament, the Canadians need a single point from the two matches against St. Kitts and Nevis. Canada currently lead Group D of the second round by four points, with the Caribbean side the only other group opponent still in contention.
Despite the gap in the standings between the two sides, Fonseca said that St. Kitts and Nevis will create unique problems for the Canadian team in the upcoming games.
“St. Kitts is a physical team — more physical than [the other teams in] the group,” he explained, adding that the Caribbean side have “a couple of good players up front we have to take under consideration.”
The Canadians travel to St. Kitts and Nevis for the first of the two matches on Nov. 11, with the teams squaring off four days later in the group finale at Toronto’s BMO Field.
Goalkeepers (2): Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga Fotball, Norway), Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK Fotbol, Sweden)
Defenders (6): Nik Ledgerwood (SV Wehen Wiesbaden, Germany), Mike Klukowski (Manisaspor, Turkey), Adam Straith (FC Energie Cottbus, Turkey), Ante Jazic (Chivas USA), David Edgar (Burnley FC, England), Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC)
Midfielders (6): Julian de Guzman (Toronto FC), Matt Stinson (Toronto FC), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake) Josh Simpson (Manisaspor, Turkey), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (SC Preußen Münster, Germany), Patrice Bernier (Lyngby Boldklub, Denmark)
Forwards (4): Tosaint Ricketts (FC Politehnica Timişoara, Romania), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City FC, England), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Olivier Occean (SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Germany)