Monday, December 29, 2008

NT debuts in 2008

Last year I tracked which Canadians had made their full national team debut in the calendar year 2007. Before we look at the crew that popped their senior side cherries in '08, let's play a little game of National Team Where Are They Now.

2007 débutants
  • Kevin Harmse: Of the players to make a splash in 2007, Kevin was the one to get the most action on the field (off the field, who knows, although the Seth Rogen look certainly will never reach a higher apex of popularity). His stats in 2008: 4 matches (4 starts), 342 minutes, including the full 90 in each of the final 3 qualifying matches. He had a nice little run with TFC at the end of year that leads one to believe he may have a little talent to go along with an impressive resume of thuggery.
  • Antonio Ribeiro: I wrote off Antonio last year as a guy who didn't have much of a future with the national team because he was only playing at the USL level. I stand by my assessment of his play, although I would no longer use that argument as USL represents a decent standard of play at times. His stats in 2008: 1 match (0 starts), 5 minutes
  • Nik Ledgerwood: Ledgerwood is a young player that likely will work his way into the core of the team in the next few years. He struggled with injuries in '08, and didn't play in any 'meaningful' matches. His stats in 2008: 2 matches (1 start), 108 minutes
  • Marcel de Jong: Marcel is another guy who will have to take his game to the next level to be a big contributor for Canada. He played in the last few no-hope qualifiers, and got a bit of friendly time. His stats in 2008: 6 matches (3 starts), 274 minutes
In other words, none of the players to debut in 2007 were key contributors to the team in 2008 (at the level of a Klukowski or Hutchinson, for instance). Harmse and de Jong got some time, especially when some of the bigger names were not made available for a variety of reasons, but in total these 4 only amassed about 730 minutes, or just over 8 full matches between them.

That may not sound like much, but just wait until you see how down I am on the 5 players to get their first cap in 2008!

The fantastic 5:

Player Debut against Caps Mins
Adrian Cann Martinique 4 315
Charles Gbeke Martinique 3 181
Dave Simpson Martinique 1 32
Dejan Jakovic Martinique 1 22
Tyler Rosenlund Martinique 1 18

A closer look . . .

Adrian Cann
(28 years old / Esbjerg fB, Denmark)

Of the players to debut in 2008, Adrian saw the most action for Dale Mitchell. He didn't play in the most important matches (Martinique, Panama, St. Vincent and the second Jamaica match), and only the St. Vincent game in Montreal was televised, so it's hard to say how he performed. But it doesn't bode well for a guy who is nearly 30, but is languishing in the reserve side of a mid-table team in Denmark. I don't think he has much of a future with Canada, although that future is somewhat enhanced by the fact that Dale Mitchell is still in charge.

Charles Gbeke (30 years old / Vancouver Whitecaps, USL)

2008 was a good year for Charles. He was transferred out of Montreal, where he wasn't seeing much playing time, and worked himself into shape in time to be the hero in the Whitecaps' USL-1 triumph. He played the Martinique match basically because he was available, got a 2 minute cameo against Mexico as a sort of tribute, and was in the roster for the Jamaica loss because the rest of the forwards had said no. He too likely won't feature in future MNT plans.

Dave Simpson (26 years old / Dunaújváros FC, Hungary)

The remaining trio of players only saw action in the Martinique friendly that was part of January's training camp of mostly marginal players. His professional life in 2nd division Hungary likely won't gain Dave any further invitations, subsequent C-team camps excepted.

Dejan Jakovic
(23 years old / Red Star Belgrade, Serbia)

Jakovic made only a brief appearance against Martinique, but was called to several squads throughout the year. Apparently things aren't going well for him in Belgrade, so he could probably use a change of scenery. He did feature for the U23 side in Olympic qualifying as a centre back and showed promise, so I wouldn't write him off just yet.

Tyler Rosenlund (22 years old / Toronto FC, MLS)

Rosenlund is still young enough that I have hope for his future. He didn't play much for TFC this season, but performed impressively in his U23 matches. He's the kind of guy who should be called to B- and C-team camps until he takes another step or two professionally, which may be difficult in Toronto.

In summary, it's rather disheartening that the two players to see the most action, and the only to play in even remotely meaningful matches, are past the age when players make significant improvements. Jakovic and Rosenlund may have a future with the MNT, but I don't picture either as a key contributor 4 years down the road. In other words, the next coach, or Mitchell if he sticks around, needs to spend the next friendlies, and even legit tournaments like the Gold Cup, giving the future of the squad a chance to take shape. Players I'd like to see blooded in 2009 include David Edgar, Asmir Begovic, and Simeon Jackson.

ADDENDUM: I would be remiss if I didn't clarify the following point: The same training camp last winter that included the Martinique friendly also resulted in a closed-door match against Vejle BK of Denmark, who were training in the same area in Florida. Usually these matches aren't given much attention, but since the CSA has a match report of the affair, I should mention that Cann, Gbeke, Jakovic, and Rosenlund all played in the match. In addition, Josh Wagenaar and Paris Nakajima-Farran, still technically MNT virgins, also participated.

2008.12.30 addition: Honourable mention goes to Andrew/Andrzej Ornoch. He played 2 minutes against Hungary back in '06 back when he was called into the team because he was the nearest live body when someone else pulled out for injury reasons. 2008 was the year he got his first real look, even if it was only 25 minutes against Jamaica in November. He is playing at the same level on the same team as Cann (although seeing a few more first team minutes) but is on the upward arc of his career. I thought he was excellent for the U23s in spring and none other than Julian de Guzman once went on record saying Ornoch was a player to watch.

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