Canadian Under-20 national team head coach Nick Dasovic has selected a squad laden with talent from Canadian MLS teams and their respective academies, as final preparations begin ahead of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship later this month in Puebla, Mexico.
The 23-man squad features three MLS first-team players in Toronto FC’s Doneil Henry (above) and Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Bryce Alderson and Caleb Clarke, as well as five other players from the Whitecaps and Montreal Impact academies.
Henry, along with midfielder Samuel Piette from Fortuna Dusseldorf, are the two players in the squad who both have caps at the senior level. That duo as well as Alderson were all in the Canada Under-23 squad last March for Olympic qualifying in the United States.
Canada are looking to qualify for the U-20 World Cup for the first time since hosting the tournament in 2007.
There is reason for optimism as eight players from the Canadian Under-17 team that tied two games at the U-17 World Cup two years ago are back at this level.
Dasovic credits the ever-developing professional academy setup provided by MLS clubs as deepening the Canadian talent pool and helping players prepare for high-pressure situations.
“If I look 10 years ago and the difference now is that we’re getting players that come to us that are more defined and polished in terms of their readiness,” Dasovic said in a conference call announcing the squad on Tuesday. “Right now, we get them for short amounts of time in international football, and we’re getting players that are very much professional. That’s been a big key for us.”
The team will have a camp in Mexico City before Dasovic trims the roster down to 20 players right before the tournament.
CANADIAN U-20 NATIONAL TEAM SQUAD
Goalkeepers (2): Ricky Gomes (Sport Clubs de Mirandela/Portugal), Maxime Crepeau (Montreal Impact Academy)
Defenders (7): Jon Dollery (Crawley Town FC/England), Marco Lapenna (Erzgebirge Aue/Germany), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Daniel Stanese (FC Nürnberg/Germany), Manjrekar James (PMFC-MATIAS/Hungary), Jordan Murrell (Syracuse University), Allan Zebie (FC Edmonton).
Midfielders (10): Samuel Piette (Fortuna Dusseldorf/Germany), Ben Fisk (Vancouver Whitecaps), Bryce Alderson (Vancouver Whitecaps), Keven Aleman (Real Valladolid/Spain), Michael Petrasso (Queens Park Rangers/England), Dylan Carreiro (Queens Park Rangers/England), Alessandro Riggo (Celta de Vigo/Spain), Mauro Eustaquio (Sporting Clube de Pombal/Portugal), Zakaria Messoudi (Montreal Impact Academy), Ben McKendry (University of New Mexico).
Forwards (4): Caleb Clarke (Vancouver Whitecaps), Yassin Essa (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Montreal Impact Academy), Stefan Vukovic (unattached).