ROSTER ANALYSIS: Breaking down CanMNT squad for pre-World Cup window
TORONTO - As expected, the CanMNT released their latest squad on Friday.
Ahead of their World Cup tune-up friendlies against Qatar and Uruguay, head coach John Herdman has called in a squad of 27 players for this window, as he and his staff prepare for their last preparation camp ahead of the big tournament this November.
His team’s last chance to properly audition players before selecting his final roster later this year, this camp will be a huge opportunity for some players to really stake their claim on the team before that final decision is made.
Because of that, this is expected to be a big camp for Canada, as they will look to balance that decision-making process with their final preparations to ensure that when November 23rd comes around, they are as ready as possible for the test that Belgium will throw at them.
Seeing that, here’s a look at some of what stands out from this latest squad announcement:
New faces get a chance to audition:
Of course, anytime a squad is released, it’s always intriguing to see which new faces get brought into the fold, and as usual, this latest squad was no exception.
The #CanMNT squad for the September friendlies is out:— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) September 16, 2022
Joel Waterman, Derek Cornelius, Ismaël Koné and Theo Corbeanu are the new faces in
No Atiba Hutchinson or Doneil Henry
Tajon Buchanan is in despite his injury woes
Otherwise, pretty much as expected for Canada https://t.co/8NWpUsiEse
And to begin, there are two big names who stand out in this squad, in particular - Joel Waterman and Theo Corbeanu, who despite having been in Canada squads before, haven’t been called up since before the final round of World Cup qualifying.
Yet, due to both having strong seasons, they have clawed their way back into the fold here, giving them a shot at getting on the plane to Qatar.
Firstly, there’s Waterman, who is in the midst of an excellent campaign with CF Montréal in MLS, playing a big role in helping them sit as one of the best teams in MLS so far. You combine that with the chemistry that he’s built with his many CanMNT teammates that he has (Montréal is the club with the most CanMNT representation in this squad with five call-ups), it made it a no-brainer for Herdman to include him for this camp, giving him a chance to see what he can do up close.
“Joel has had a terrific season with CF Montréal,” Herdman told reporters on Friday. “They have been brilliant, just lovely to watch, and I think you can see the Canadian chemistry between Joel, Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnston, they’re good mates and you can see that camaraderie, the understanding.”
He added: “We’re excited to work with him, we’ve had him in one camp or two before, but now this is a guy coming in full of confidence, and you’re always excited to work with people in that mindset.”
Meanwhile, Corbeanu is currently flying high with Blackpool in the Championship, where he’s quickly proven to be a player that can do some damage at that level, already scoring three goals and turning heads with his dynamic wing play for them.
“We got a good chance to track him throughout his last season,” Herdman said of Corbeanu. “And we started to see some of the maturity that you get in those levels of England’s (pyramid), and to play in the Championship, that’s the toughest league to play in, you’ve got pros who feel hard done by that they’ve not reached the Premier League, or lost their positions in the Premier League, and then there are those who have aspirations of playing in the Premier League.”
“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and Theo’s learning his way through it.”
Otherwise, Liam Millar, Jonathan Osorio, Derek Cornelius and Ismaël Koné round off the list of names that weren’t included in Canada’s last camp back in June, as Millar and Osorio missed out due to injury, while Cornelius and Koné weren’t called in despite being in the squad for when Canada qualified for the World Cup back in March.
Of course, for names to come in, some must come out, and there are also a few who miss out on this camp after being included in June, however.
As expected, Atiba Hutchinson is out, as he continues to recover from a bone bruise he suffered in preseason, but as Herdman noted in the conference, the plan is to have him playing by October, with Canada set to send their medical staff to join him in Turkey after this camp to aid in that process.
Also joining him on the sidelines is Doneil Henry, who suffered a last-minute hamstring injury this week with Toronto FC, as well as David Wotherspoon, who is continuing to return from the major knee injury he suffered at the beginning of this year, but is set to return in the coming weeks for St.Johnstone.
Then to round off that list, there’s Raheem Edwards, who despite being in good form with the LA Galaxy, misses out at full back after making the Canada squad in June, likely a casualty of the number of players Canada has at that position.
But for what it’s worth, the door does still appear to be slightly open for Edwards, much as it is for other players not included in this squad such as Liam Fraser and those on the sidelines, because as Herdman noted, a strong finish to the season could make things interesting in a few months.
“This isn’t a do-or-die camp for players,” Herdman explained. “There’s a lot of moving parts at this point.”
He later added: “There’s a lot of football to be played or not played by some players that will come into my thinking when I select the final roster.”
‘Tier-one’ potential of Koné, Koleosho worth monitoring:
And speaking of that final Qatar roster, two players that many are curious to see if they’re included in it or not? Ismaël Koné and Luca Koleosho, who despite being the two youngest players in this camp, are two players that many are calling to go to Qatar.
Which, given the potential that they both have as players, is quite understandable.
On one side, there’s Koné, who in just his first professional season with CF Montréal, has turned all sorts of heads with his play. Right from his hot start at the beginning of the season, which allowed him to get called up for Canada’s March window (where he saw the field twice, provisionally cap-tying him to Canada for now), to his late summer burst, he’s been quickly developing as a top midfield prospect as the games have gone along.
Those who have monitored his progression at Montréal typically say as much, and given that Championship sides Norwich City and Sheffield United both nearly made multi-million dollar approaches for him this summer, many around the soccer world are starting to agree, too.
And having spoken to Norwich’s representatives when the move almost came about, Herdman certainly agrees with the assessments surrounding Koné’s potential, noting that he feels that the 20-year-old is a player who has all sorts of untapped potential to still unearth.
“We’ve enjoyed working with Ismaël,” Herdman said of Koné. “When he came into our environment (in March) on that high, he got tested with tier one players and players with a lot of experience, and certainly in training, he was at the level coming out of the camp.”
He added: “When I had a chance to speak with a colleague of mine who works at Norwich City, and they did a deep assessment on Ismaël, and they feel that similarly to us, he has tier one potential, he has to chance to really push on in the world game, so although he’s young, and it takes time to grow when you’re young, hopefully this camp can give him an opportunity to show himself and maybe stake a claim for the World Cup.”
Ismael Kone is #CanMNT’s most INTRIGUING player— FOOTY CULTURE (@thefootyculture) September 16, 2022
No one like his profile in this group, could be a real weapon in Qatar 👀🇨🇦
Then, there’s Koleosho, who, unlike Koné, is not cap-tied to Canada in any form, making his inclusion an intriguing one, especially given that he’s also eligible for the United States and Italy.
After earning a call into Canada’s June window, where the 18-year-old was able to train with the team for a week before departing, he’s continued to improve and impress with La Liga side Espanyol, who after giving him his La Liga debut off the bench at the end of 21/22, has done that twice more so far this season.
Because of that, he’s quickly gotten onto Canada’s radar, as they understandably want to secure his services, as they’ve also been quite excited by what they’ve seen from him so far.
“There was no doubt that he was going to come back,” Herdman said of Koleosho. “And this window we’re looking to get him minutes, so if he continues to push in training, and show what I’ve seen from him in his preseason with Espanyol, and in the last game he got minutes, where, yeah, he’s starting to grow into a tier one player, and that’s exciting for Canada.”
“So we’re looking forward to seeing him and testing him.”
As I said Monday, my understanding is when the Canada squad is announced for the window, Luca Koleosho (Espanyol) will be included. The 18-year old was with Canada in June and will be with #canMNT for the upcoming games against Qatar and Uruguay.— Gareth Wheeler (@GarethWheeler) September 15, 2022
Of course, Koleosho cannot be cap-tied this camp in any form, meaning that this is purely about giving him a chance to both experience being with Canada and see the field, but having now called him into the fold twice now, Canada will hope that gives them the edge when it comes down to him making a final decision.
Especially if he continues to impress, making him an option for Qatar, you have to imagine that Canada will not hesitate to try and call him should that happen.
Given that Herdman has often noted that teams need tier-one players to do well at a World Cup, the more of those the merrier, making his comments on Koné and Koleosho’s tier-one potential quite intriguing.
Herdman provides dual-national update:
Lastly, for all of the chatter about who is in this squad, there was also some talk about who wasn’t, and more specifically, the absence of Daniel Jebbison and Tom Holmes, as many were wondering if the two Championship players would get a call in from Herdman.
But as Herdman noted, that didn’t appear to be feasible at this stage, as he noted that Holmes is actually not eligible for a call-up, as was speculated, due to regulations set out by the Canadian government regarding citizenship eligibility, while Jebbison still has his heart on the England set-up - for now.
Herdman says that Reading defender Tom Holmes is not eligible to represent Canada. In terms of Daniel Jebbison, Herdman says that those conversations are still ongoing -- and that Jebbison does one day want to play for Canada.— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) September 16, 2022
"It might be something we see for the World Cup."
“Holmes was similar to (Sondre Solholm) up in Motherwell who everyone was getting excited about,” Herdman explained. “(Canada) changed its rules around grandparents, so you no longer automatically qualify for (Canada) through your grandparents, so we can get that straight today.”
“As for Daniel Jebbison, those are ongoing conversations. He’s a young man in England who seems to be very committed to the English set-up, but in every conversation I have with him, he’s proud of his Canadian heritage, he sees himself as Canadian, he identifies as Canadian, and at some point wants to play for Canada, but we’re in a football industry, gone are the days where you sing your anthem and that’s the country you’re going to play for. Those days are gone.”
“We have agents involved, we have commercial influences, and I wish that wasn’t the game, but that’s the nature of the industry, so we’ll work on it, it’ll be an ongoing conversation, and it might be something to see for the World Cup, if he earns a spot, or it might be something we see further in the future.”
So while the news might not be positive now, Herdman is continuing to work the phones in that regard, and will be keeping a close eye out for things, much as he did with Koné, Koleosho and the whole other host of dual-nationals he’s brought in or negotiated with, as he looks to continue and grow his player pool in every way possible.