Friday, December 07, 2007

Debutants ball

Canada's national team had a fairly successful year in 2007, with a good Gold Cup run and some reasonable friendly results (South Africa notwithstanding). This year also saw a fairly consistent group being called into the squad for the first time in a while. We don't think this is a coincidence.

As such, there weren't a lot of new faces in 2007. I crunched the numbers, and these were the only players to earn their first caps this year:

Player Debut against Total caps Minutes
Kevin Harmse Bermuda 5 86
Antonio Ribeiro Venezuela 1 45
Nik Ledgerwood Iceland 1 30
Marcel de Jong South Africa 1 17

A closer look . . .

Kevin Harmse
(23 years old / LA Galaxy, MLS)

The 23-year old midfielder saw action mostly as a 2nd half substitute for Martin Nash in the Gold Cup tournament, and debuted in the year's first friendly against Bermuda. He hasn't done a lot to stand out for Canada, but has earned a reputation for a nasty streak playing the Dave Semenko role for Beckham.

Don't expect him to become a midfield regular for Canada, with a group that features talents like Julian De Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson, and Dwayne De Rosario, but he does provide some depth, and could well be called up for North American games.

Antonio Ribeiro (27 years old / Montreal Impact, USL-1)

This call-up came as a bit of a surprise, but equally surprising was the reasonable performance he put in during his 45 minutes in Maracaibo. He was involved in the game-tying goal (from Gerba, if I'm not mistaken) and made himself useful in offensive situations.

Unless Ribeiro moves up a level or two professionally, we won't be seeing much of him for Canada. He's an important player for a good team in North America's second division, but that's no longer enough. Ribeiro is a bit old to be talking about a bright future.

Nik Ledgerwood (22 years old / 1860 Munich)

Ledgerwood may have been excited to earn his first cap for Canada in the Iceland friendly, but his season since then has surely been disappointing with the major injury he suffered.

He is a young player, and is playing at the same level as MNT teammates Rob Friend, Patrice Bernier, Josh Simpson and Kevin McKenna, so he clearly is a good option for the future. Canada has depth at his position, but he will be around for a while.

Marcel de Jong (21 years old / Roda JC Kerkade)

While Jonathan De Guzman hasn't settled on an international side yet, Marcel de Jong opted for Canada when he joined the squad against South Africa. He clearly has quality, and showed as much for Dale Mitchell's U-20s in 2005. Once again, the left back position is one of depth for Canada (Klukowski, Jazic and Brennan are all options) but Marcel is young enough to be considered a long term solution.

His appearance against South Africa was only 17 minutes long, but we hope to see more of him in 2008, if only to see how strong his commitment is to his adopted country.

None of Dale Mitchell's U-20s have suited up yet for the senior side except for Will Johnson, who was first called up by interim head man Stephen Hart, and Jaime Peters, who debuted for Frank Yallop at far too young an age. Given the team's performance at the WYC, there are no real strong candidates for the near future, but expect David Edgar to get a shot soon, and Asmir Begovic to get called up in a backup role.

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