The present may look bleak for the senior men’s national team – but in a few weeks’ time, a group of 21 Canadian teenagers will be looking to prove that the future is much brighter.
Canadian Under-17 men’s national team head coach Sean Fleming unveiled his roster for the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday, and he says that fans back home can expect “three solid performances” from his young troops.
“We’re very competitive,” Fleming told reporters in a conference call. “We want to go and win every single game we ever play.”
Fleming stressed that the biggest benefit of the tournament comes from giving his group of youngsters a chance to play international games on a grand stage – with eyes to eventually moving up the ranks to the senior squad. Still, he’ll try to ensure his team is free of distractions once they hit the field.
“We really have to focus on the little things,” he said. “We have to focus on ourselves and our performance.”
While 24 players will travel to the United Arab Emirates for a pre-tournament training camp from Oct. 5-14, only 21 will be part of the final tournament roster. Of those 24, half are affiliated with a North American team, including representation from all three Canadian teams in MLS.
“You have to give [the academies] great credit,” Fleming said. “Every single one of those players are in professional environments … that’s a great trend moving forward.”
At the last U-17 World Cup in 2011, Canada earned their first-ever point in the competition, when a late-game, once-in-a-lifetime goal from Toronto FC goalkeeper Quillan Roberts sealed a famous 2-2 draw with England. Two players from that team – Samuel Piette and Keven Aleman – have since moved up to the senior ranks, with both appearing for Canada at this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
While Fleming certainly hopes his squad can make more history this time out, by earning Canada’s first-ever U-17 World Cup win, he says the top priority is implementing a specific game plan on the field – “hopefully, as a result of that, our results [will be] positive.”
Canada qualified for UAE 2013 by beating Jamaica 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship back in April. The young Reds went on to claim third place in that tournament with a dramatic win over Honduras on penalty kicks. Jordan Hamilton led the way for Canada, scoring three goals in five games.
Canada open World Cup group-stage play on Oct. 19 against Group E opponents Austria, before meeting Iran on Oct. 22 and finishing off against Argentina on Oct. 25. To qualify for the knockout stages, they’ll need to finish among the top two in their group, or rank as one of the four best third-place finishers in the six-group competition.
Canada U-17 World Cup Roster
GOALKEEPERS: Marco Carducci (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency), Christian Kaiswatum (FC Edmonton Academy), Daniel Milton (Blackpool/England)
DEFENDERS: Alex Comsia (Stade Lavallois/France), Mathieu Laurent (Mississauga), Elias Roubos (Toronto FC Academy), Kevon Black (Toronto FC Academy), Eric Davies (FC Dallas Academy), Aron Mkungilwa (Montreal Impact Academy)
MIDFIELDERS: Hanson Boakai (FC Edmonton), Adam Bouchard (Defensor Sporting Club/Uruguay), Marco Bustos (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency), Mikael Cantave (Union Sportive de la Jeanne/France), Matthew Chow (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency), Marco-Leonel Dominguez (Braves d’Ahuntsic U-16), Kianz Gonzales-Froese (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency), Jose Lopez (FC Edmonton Reserves), Ali Musse (WSA North Stars), Derick Sequeira (Toronto FC Academy), Nevello Yoseke (Montreal Impact Academy)
STRIKERS: Andrew Gordon (Woodbridge Strikers), Jordan Hamilton (Toronto FC Academy), El Mehdi Ibn Brahim (Braves d’Ahuntsic)