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Canadian national team coach Benito Floro calls in strong squad ahead of World Cup qualifiers

For its most important game in three years, Canada will be fielding the strongest roster we’ve seen in recent memory.

Canada’s 23-man roster for its upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras (Nov. 13 in Vancouver) and El Salvador (Nov. 17 in San Salvador) was revealed on Friday, and it includes a healthy mix of national team veterans, youngsters and recent newcomers to the program.

Junior Hoilett, Wandrille Lefevre and Fraser Aird, who made their national team debuts in a friendly against Ghana on Oct. 13, will be there, as will striker Lucas Cavallini, whose appearance against the Black Stars ended a three-year absence from the Canadian squad.

Stalwarts Atiba Hutchinson and Julian de Guzman will be complemented in the midfield by the likes of 23-year-old Tesho Akindele and 22-year-old Russell Teibert, who’ll be getting his first opportunity to represent Canada on the familiar turf at BC Place.

A notable surprise on the roster is Portland Timbers captain Will Johnson who, just over a month ago, underwent a minor leg operation and was believed to be out for “the foreseeable future." While the 28-year-old’s health status remains to be seen, his presence could provide a boost for the Canadians.

In all, the side features nine current MLS players—including three from the hometown Whitecaps and one from the Montreal Impact—as well as one NASL player (de Guzman).

In goal, Milan Borjan and a resurgent Kenny Stamatopoulos will be fighting for the starter’s role, while the center of defense is well stocked, especially with the recent addition of Lefevre. Regular right back Nik Ledgerwood is off the squad due to injury, likely leaving that role to Karl Ouimette or possibly even Aird (who’s normally a winger, but is listed as a fullback on this roster and started at the spot against Ghana).

While it’s only the first game of the six-game semifinal round in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, Canada’s showdown with Honduras in a week’s time will be a de facto must-win, with a pair of showdowns with Mexico and a visit to San Pedro Sula looming in 2016. San Pedro Sula is, of course, the scene of Canada’s calamitous exit from qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, a game that players and fans alike will be eager to put behind them.

With the Honduras and El Salvador teams both in some degree of disarray, this roster would appear to give Canada a chance at earning four, and possibly even six points from their opening two games. Such outcomes would give Les Rouges a decent chance at reaching the Hexagonal round for the first time since 1997.

But of course, as Canadian followers have painfully learned many times in the past, the games aren’t played on paper. It’s now up to head coach Benito Floro and the men on the roster to ensure that the sudden groundswell of positivity amongst national-team fans doesn’t end up for naught.

Full Canada roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Simon Thomas (Strommen/Norway); Milan Borjan (Ludogorets Razgrad/Bulgaria); Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK/Sweden)

DEFENDERS (9): Sam Adekugbe (Vancouver Whitecaps); Fraser Aird (Glasgow Rangers/Scotland); Andre Hainault (FC Magdeburg/Germany); David Edgar (Sheffield United/England); Dejan Jakovic (Shimizu S-Pulse/Japan); Adam Straith (Fredrikstad/Norway); Marcel de Jong (Sporting Kansas City); Karl Ouimette (New York Red Bulls); Wandrille Lefevre (Montreal Impact)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas); Julian de Guzman (Ottawa Fury FC); Kianz Froese (Vancouver Whitecaps); David “Junior” Hoilett (Queens Park Rangers/England); Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas/Turkey); Will Johnson (Portland Timbers); Samuel Piette (Deportivo la Coruna/Spain); Tosaint Ricketts (Boluspor/Turkey); Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps)

FORWARDS (2): Lucas Cavallini (Fenix/Uruguay); Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC)