'If you're good enough, you're old enough': CFMTL's Ismael Kone earns CanMNT call
Among the many regulars called up to the final Canada Men's National Team World Cup Qualifying squad, you'd be remiss if you haven't yet heard of Ismael Kone.
But the CF Montreal midfielder is aiming to change that quickly, having earned a spot in John Herdman's 25-man roster for this final slate of World Cup Qualifying matches in March (available on OneSoccer).
With Les Rouges slated to qualify and head to the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986, Kone - standing 6-foot-2 and offering formidable presence in the middle of the park, even at a young age - represents yet another young talent with plenty of promise in Canada's ever-growing list of rising stars.
For his efforts with CF Montreal, in both league and Concacaf Champions League play, the 19-year-old is now set to reach another milestone as he steps onto the international level.
"We deliberate four weeks out from selection, which players are in form, which are injured, which are in rhythm, and are there any new players on the horizon who have earned the opportunity," Herdman explained in his roster announcement news conference.
"Bringing new guys in, it's always a bit of an unknown quantity, how they're going to react to the stresses and pressure. So, we were pretty committed to test and do something a bit new with a couple of faces.
"To push a little to the edges of our comfort zone, we're bringing young Ismael Kone in. For me, I haven't seen a profile like that from a midfielder in the time that I've been here.
"He's definitely someone that I think can contribute and help this team over three games."
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Alongside Kone, fellow MLS-er Dayne St. Clair of Minnesota United earned a fresh call-up, a decision Herdman labeled "important."
He joins Milan Borjan and Max Crepeau to form Canada's goalkeeping ranks.
Beyond that, Herdman made few changes to his regular core. That's entirely by design.
"The simplicity for me is that there is a group of men who have committed since the beginning of this Octagon - some of them travelling to Haiti, or to Orlando to play Bermuda when we had massive COVID-19 risks. Some have been right on the journey since 2018, and others even longer. There's a loyalty to people who have committed to this journey, to those players who have shown up every window.
"When people really understand how teams form and team spirit and culture, it's as much about what you do off the field and how you support your teammate and how you show up to training and accept decisions, all while staying ready. There's a group of men who have shown that."