For the first time ever, all three MLS franchises north of the border will have representatives in the same Canada squad after manager Stephen Hart opted to go with a largely North American-based roster for the upcoming friendly against Trinidad and Tobago in Lauderhill, Fla., on Aug. 15.
The most notable returning name to the squad is the Montreal Impact’s Patrice Bernier (above), who has made himself an integral part of the Impact lineup as the season has progressed. Also receiving the calls from Canadian clubs were Montreal midfielder Evan James, Vancouver midfielder Russell Teibert, Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry and Toronto FC midfielder Terry Dunfield.
Hart seems satisfied that Bernier’s found his fitness – he leads Montreal in goals and is second in assists – and could have a big role when World Cup qualifying ramps up again in September.
“If you look at my comments, when he wasn’t selected, he was coming off a bad injury and he moved to a new club and I felt that he needed to play and get himself back into the group playing,” Hart said in a conference call with media on Friday. “That’s exactly what happened. He started off slow and now he is one of the most important players of that club. I’m happy that he took the time to play himself back into selection.”
Hart had a delicate balancing act in putting together his squad as coaches in the European leagues are less inclined to release their players for international duty in August, when most leagues are finishing up preseason preparations and beginning their season.
As a result, it’s a very young squad with many members of the Canadian Under-23 team that came close to qualifying for the Olympics included. Teibert is in his first senior national team camp, while Henry and James both took part in the Olympic qualifying run that ended in a 3-1 loss to London finalists Mexico.
James wasn’t originally in Hart’s plans, but an injury to Dwayne De Rosario prompted Hart, who sees the Montreal midfielder as a player that could add depth in a wide role, to call in the 22-year-old despite his not making an MLS appearance this season.
“I think we were becoming a bit thin in the wide position and [James] can fill that void,” said Hart. “I know he has not been playing often, but I have seen him at the under-23 level and Montreal were kind enough to let him come in and he gives us an option for a wide player.”
Also included in the squad is Dunfield, who has turned in some good performances since Paul Mariner took over as head coach of Toronto FC.
Hart said he could have taken four TFC players, but since Toronto play Portland on the same day as the friendly, he negotiated with Mariner to get Dunfield and Henry.
Full Canada roster for Aug. 15 friendly:
Goalkeepers: Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga, Noway), Milan Borjan (Sivasspor, Turkey)
Defenders: Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United), Andrew Hainault (Houston Dynamo), Marcel de Jong (FC Augsburg, Germany), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Ante Jazic (Chivas USA)
Midfielders: Nik Ledgerwood (Hammarby, Sweden), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps) Julian de Guzman (FC Dallas), Terry Dunfield (Toronto FC), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (unattached), Evan James (Impact Montréal), Pedro Pacheco (CD Santa Clara, Portugal), Patrice Bernier (Impact Montréal)
Forwards: Tosaint Ricketts (unattached), Lucas Cavallini (Club Nacionial, Uruguay)