Canada are looking to get back to the Olympics in men’s soccer for the first time since 1984 – long before any of their latest crop of prospect Olympians was even born.
On Friday, the Canadian Soccer Association released its 20-man roster for next month’s CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers, to be held in the United States. The Under-23 tournament (for players born in 1993 or later) is the only way for teams in the region to reach next summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“The Olympics come along once every four years, so it is very important for the players and countries,” U-23 head coach Benito Floro (who is also head coach of the senior men’s national team) said in a release. “We have a good group of players, and we are going to work hard to achieve a spot in Brazil.”
The Canadian roster is full of familiar faces from club play and this past summer’s Pan American Games. All three Canadian MLS teams and both Canadian NASL teams are represented on the roster. In all, 11 members of Canada’s squad are with an MLS team or its USL affiliate.
There are also some relatively new faces, including Toronto FC rookie Jay Chapman, who’ll don the Canadian colors for the first time since 2011, Montreal Impact striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel, who has only made one prior appearance for Canada (with the Under-20 team in 2013), and TFC-II defender Mark-Anthony Kaye, who has no prior caps for Canada’s youth teams.
There are also a few other familiar faces that Floro wanted for the squad, but who were unable to join. West Ham United defender Doneil Henry, formerly of Toronto FC, was unavailable due to injury, while Sam Adekugbe (Vancouver Whitecaps), Kianz Froese (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Manjrekar James (Diósgyőri/Hungary) were unavailable due to club commitments.
Another Whitecaps youngster, Russell Teibert, missed the age cutoff for this tournament by just nine days (born Dec. 22, 1992).
While most of the tournament coincides with a FIFA international break (Oct. 5-13), Canada’s first two games fall outside of that window, meaning clubs are not required to release players for those times. Canada open the tournament against the USA on Oct. 1, before facing Panama (Oct. 3) and Cuba (Oct. 6).
The top two teams in each of the two four-team groups reach the semifinals. The two tournament finalists qualify for Rio 2016, while the third-place team will compete in an intercontinental playoff against Colombia for an Olympic berth.
Roster note: Orlando City SC striker Cyle Larin, who isn’t on the U-23 roster, is likely to be with Canada’s senior national team for a friendly against Ghana on Oct. 13. Floro has said that, should Canada fail to advance from the group stage in the Olympic qualifying tournament, players from the U-23 roster could be added to the senior roster for the Ghana game.
Here is the full roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Maxime Crépeau (Montreal Impact); Quillan Roberts (Toronto FC II); Ricky Gomes (Sporte Clube de Mirandela/Portugal)
DEFENDERS (5): Johnny Grant (FC Montreal); Mark-Anthony Kaye (Toronto FC II); Jackson Farmer (Vancouver Whitecaps 2); Luca Gasparotto (Greenock Morton/Scotland); Skylar Thomas (Toronto FC II)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Chris Mannella (Toronto FC II); Mauro Eustaquio (Ottawa Fury FC); Jay Chapman (Toronto FC); Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé (Montreal Impact); Michael Petrasso (Queens Park Rangers); Samuel Piette (Racing de Ferrol/Spain); Molham Babouli (Toronto FC II); Hanson Boakai (FC Edmonton); Dylan Carreiro (Dundee/Scotland)
FORWARDS (3): Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Montreal Impact); Caleb Clarke (Vancouver Whitecaps 2); Ben Fisk (Deportivo La Coruna B/Spain)