TORONTO – Speaking two weeks ago, Toronto FC's Jonathan Osorio was looking forward to reuniting with the Canadian national team for a pair of all-important World Cup qualifying matches after a disappointing group-stage exit from this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“I'm excited for this next round, this is a big round for us,” Osorio said at the time. “Our goal is to make it to a World Cup and these two games are the most important to date. I'm excited; I'm really hoping for a call, and if I do [get it], I'll be ready.”
That call would not come, leaving the third-year midfielder out in the cold when Canada face Belize in a two-legged series in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualiying, first at home on Friday and then in Belize on Tuesday.
Osorio was understandably disappointed on Tuesday following training. “It's hard,” he said. “I love playing for the national team, it's always an honor. When I don't get called, I'm not the happiest guy, but it's not something that I can dwell on. Right now my focus is Seattle on Saturday.”
The decision, which has perplexed many in Canadian soccer circles, was made by Benito Floro, the veteran Spanish coach who entered his third year at the helm of the national team at the start of August.
In a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, Floro explained his rationale in his typical matter-of-fact style: “The only reason is because there are two players – I'm thinking about Will [Johnson] and Atiba [Hutchinson] – that are in good condition to play. They are more experienced players.”
Following the Reds' win over Montreal on Saturday, TFC head coach Greg Vanney was asked about Osorio's progression.
“Oso's been great,” said Vanney. “He worked incredibly hard in the off-season to get physically strong, to get to peak fitness. He's been very durable; every game he's competing.
“He's plays a nice role,” Vanney continued, “This group has the ability to pass the ball and move, which is to his strengths.
“He deserves a look at the national team, but maybe it's not to be this week.”
While Vanney was diplomatic in his disagreement, recent TFC arrival Herculez Gomez was less measured, taking to Twitter to decry Osorio's absence.
And BTW, @OsoJ92 can’t get a run with the Canadian National Team? What a luxury. Qualifying is going to be a breeze for them.— herculez gomez (@herculezg) August 29, 2015
“This isn't a knock on Canada; more support for my teammate,” Gomez explained on Tuesday. “I think he's a hell of a young player. He's got tons of future and if you're telling me that he can't be one of the best 23 Canadians to help you qualify, I'd be surprised.”
For now, though, Osorio must watch his country on TV while preparing for Saturday's match at Seattle (10 pm ET, TSN2, MLS LIVE).