As we begin the new year, the Canada Men’s National Team and its supporters look to move on from 2019. A year that featured both celebratory and disappointing moments from qualifying for league A of the CONCACAF Nations League and defeating the United States for what felt like the first time in history. To crashing out of the Gold Cup quarter finals against Haiti and losing a crucial match to the United States shortly after upsetting them which would put a dent in their chances of qualifying for the Hex round for 2022 World Cup Qualifying.
So far in 2020, Canada has participated in three friendlies in an attempt to catch up to El Salvador for the sixth spot in CONCACAF which would put them in a position to qualify for the Hex. Results of the friendlies were two 4-1 victories over Barbados and a 1-0 defeat against Iceland.
Some might say that the camp was underwhelming despite not having most of the regulars we’re used to seeing as this camp was also used to evaluate players under 23 years old who are eligible for Olympic qualifying in March. Regardless, Canada will look to build off of the January 2020 camp in what is expected to be a busy year for the senior side as we will soon find out which route of qualifying they’ll have to play in between the Hex and lower-seeded round. Here, i take a look at what Herdman and co. need to do in 2020 in order to keep the team fresh and rolling in what is arguably, if not, the most important time for the program since his arrival.
Schedule more friendlies
This one is obvious but it needs to be said more often. Official FIFA window or not. Canada must look into booking more friendlies. While some might see friendlies as “pointless”, they should be seen as an opportunity to develop and evaluate what the team has. In Canada’s case, Herdman’s willingness to evaluate and try new things seem to only come during camps of important events (CONCACAF Nations League qualifying, 2019 Gold Cup and League A play). With Canada’s fair number options up front and rotating back four, it’s essenial for this team to figure out who they want in the lineup and how they want that lineup to shape before important matches. This includes new faces being brought in during these big windows but not seeing any playing time. Scheduling more friendlies will give the opportunity for more fringe players to see the pitch and give Herdman more to think about moving forward. Although this is already being done, there are many players available to the team who could step in and potentially make an instint impact.
Did you know? Before the January 2020 friendlies were booked out of necessity, Herdman has booked one friendly since taking over as manager? Yes, one. Zambrano had three in less than a year.
Another issue that has caught the attention of some is a lack of chemistry. Canada has without a doubt improved its play with the ball under Herdman and scoring is surely happening more frequently than it ever has. However, there have been many times where Canada suffers in possesion due to lack of communication and movement despite the fire power on the pitch. Additional games going forward will help make a potential front three of Davies, Cavallini and David even stronger due to familiarity. I would love to see these potential games being played versus slightly stronger and/or similar opposition in the near future.
Keep scouting the Canadian Premier League
Once upon a time, in April of 2019, a professional soccer league in Canada had officially started after much hype and anticipation. A league for Canadians, by Canadians. During its early stages, when asked if Canadian players from the CPL could see themselves with the senior team, Herdman mentioned that it wouldn’t be for a while. Fast forward to August 2019, Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci was selected for the senior team and became the first CPL in history to get the call. Canada has had four camps from that time up to today and at least one CPL player has been selected to each camp. Although Amer Didic and Tristan Borges have been the only one’s to see the pitch thus far, the fact that players are getting call ups is a positive sign and all signs seem to point towards playing time increasing, or so we hope.
With all that said, Herdman, like many others, had greatly underestimated the talent level of the CPL. With assistant coach Mauro Biello in charge of scouting the league for new talent to bring into the fold, it’s extremely important for him and Herdman to continue scounting the league constantly in order to identify new talent elible for the senior side and strengthen the pool of available players. Especially because Canadian players in the league play significant minutes which is sometimes an issue for a handful of players that get called up to the national team.
Find a Left-back who isn’t named Alphonso Davies
Before i go in depth with what most of you already know, i want to mention that yes, i am well aware of Davies’ form with Bayern Munich while playing at left-back. Having said that, Canada is not Bayern Munich. Canada does not have David Alaba or Javi Martinez to cover Davies after a mistake in possesion while higher up the pitch or even in their own half. With the national team, Davies’ is being wasted at left-back. He is at his best on the counter attack and higher up the pitch on the left wing where he can move freely with and without the ball. Davies has the ability and work ethic to track back from higher up the pitch if needed as well. Given Bayern’s depth up front and stability at the back, it makes sense to have him back there and improve his tactical game as that is where he will be playing most of his football.
Canada on the other hand, does not have anyone better than Davies at the left wing position and do possess solid options at left-back. Sam Adekugbe, Ashtone Morgan, Kamal Miller and Zorhan Bassong to name a few. I’d also be willing to include Ndzemdzela Langwa and Abzi Diyaeddine into the mix due to playing the position all year with their respective teams in the CPL and look good doing so. Although Canada’s backline seems to still be a work in progress, one thing is certain, you want your best players playing at their strongest position. Something Herdman has not done enough of with his star youngster.
Of course there’s more that needs to happen with the senior team but these are three important things I find that need attention. Espencially since 2020 is the beginning of what is most likely going to be the long road to the 2022 World Cup in Quatar.
What do you guys think? What else needs to happen with the men’s senior team? Are we close to where we want to be? What else with regards to the program needs attention? As always, i would love to hear your thoughts!
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