MURCIA, Spain — As head coach of Canada’s women’s soccer team, John Herdman never had a problem tossing in teenagers in big international games.
When asked, time and again Herdman would say that “if a player is good enough, they’re old enough.” That mantra has transferred over to Canada's men’s side where newcomers Liam Millar and former Toronto FC Academy and now Hearts player Marcus Godinho were given debuts against New Zealand as the men’s team started his tenure with a 1-0 win.
With a full 90 minute performance on the left wing of Canada’s attack, Millar was a standout and arguably Canada’s best player with many dangerous attacks coming from his side.
“He’s ready,” Herdman said when asked of the 18-year-old Liverpool Academy player. “I’ve been watching him for Liverpool in his last 12 games to try and break things down and see if he could mix it here. He’s lit up the camp this week.”
“The senior players have got behind him from the first session. He was fearless. He’s got that ‘X’ factor. He doesn’t know any other way than to try and terrorize fullbacks. It’s exciting.”
As World Cup qualifying campaigns have gone by the wayside, Canadian soccer fans have been in a perpetual cycle of trying to find optimism anywhere they can.
There seems to have been ‘one to watch’ many times over who fail to live up to the early billing.
But now Canada has a few interesting talents who have already garnered lots of professional minutes to keep an eye on. Keep in mind, Samuel Piette of the Montreal Impact is still 23-years-old, Cyle Larin is 22, and Alphonso Davies, who missed the March camp to stay with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, is just 17.
The next cycle doesn’t start for some time yet and Herdman looks to have a few talented young options in different positions developing nicely.
“It was a good start,” said Herdman. “And we’ve got some very good players in that forward line and Liam has sort of staked his claim as we start this journey to 2022.”
If Atiba Hutchinson does, in fact, go for another little bit, and Scott Arfield and Junior Hoilett each continue their commitments, Canada will have some options.
And in Millar’s case, he now goes back to continue learning at Liverpool, where he’s setting some big targets for himself.
“It gives me a massive confidence boost,” Millar said of his first Canadian game that was just a goal short of being an absolutely dream start. “Hopefully I can break into the first team at Liverpool in the next couple months or the next year.
“(Herdman) said to me I’ve done very well the whole week and I’ve been very exciting and proved people that I’m ready to play at this level, that I can keep on going and playing well.”